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  • Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

EFCC freezes 300 p-to-p forex accounts to avert further naira crash — Olukoyede

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said on Tuesday that it has frozen about 300 suspected illegal forex accounts trading on a peer-to-peer platform.

Ola Olukoyede, EFCC Chairman, who announced this at an interactive session with journalists in Abuja revealed that the accounts were suspended yesterday (Monday) following a court order.

Termed the “P to P” (peer-to-peer) financial trading scheme, this illicit operation has thrived beyond the purview of official banking channels, posing a severe threat to the stability of the naira.

Olukayode further disclosed that over $15bn passed through one of the forex platforms just in the last one year, and outside of financial regulations.

According to him, the EFCC took the action to safeguard the foreign exchange market and protect the economy, and that recent efforts have helped strengthen the weak naira.

“Over 300 accounts, in illicit forex trading that would have led to another crash in the next one week if we hadn’t moved in quickly,” Olukoyede said.

“We got an order to freeze those accounts. Somebody would come and asked us ‘what is your business with forex transactions? Some people are happy; they take pleasure in seeing this country boiling and I’ve come to realise that in the course of this work, some people want to see things go bad! From bad to worse.”

Says Yahaya Bello used $720, 000 state Money to pay child’s school fees

At the press meeting Olukoyede also promised to ensure that Yahaya Bello, the embattled former Kogi State Governor is prosecuted and vowed resign his position if this does not happen.

He also committed to ensuring that all those who obstructed his arrest also face the law, no matter the attack and campaign against the EFCC.

Bello who evaded arrest by the anti-graft agency faces arraignment on a 19-count bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

The EFCC chair noted that he was accorded due respect as a former governor when he was being invited by the agency to clear allegations against him, which he turned down.

According to him, there are clear evidence in court that the former governor moved as much as $720,000 out of Kogi State government coffers to pay his child’s school fees priori to his exit from government.

Narrating the incident, Olukoyede insisted that the EFCC has adequately obeyed the law in trying to bring to answer to the allegations. He cited the judgment by Isah Jamil Abdullahi, who granted to EFCC the powers to bring Bello to Court for arraignment.

He said: “..The particulars of offence are there (before the court). Go and check it, he moved money directly from government to Bureau de Change. He used it to pay the child’s school fees in advance; dollars.

“He moved $720, 000, in advance, in anticipation that he was going to leave government house, in a poor state like Kogi and you want me to close my eyes to that, under the guise that I’m being used. Used by who? At this stage of my life? By who, for crying out loud?

“I didn’t initiate the case. I inherited the case file. I called for the report and I said ‘there are issues here,” he responded to one of the questions asked at the meeting.

“Do you know that on my own honour, I put a call across to Yahaya Bello, which ordinarily I was not supposed to, but I did, to honour him as a former governor. I told him: ‘sir, there are issues. I’ve seen this case file. Can you just come. Let’s clarify these issues.

“He said he couldn’t come because there’s a senator, a female senator who had positioned over 100 journalists around EFCC to embarrass him and all kinds of stuff.

“I told him ‘if that’s your fear, I’m going to pass you through the chairman’s gate. You will come to my floor and we will accord you that respect, I will invite my operatives to interview you in my own office.

“What could be more honourable than that? I offered that he would be interrogated in my office, to allay his fears. You know what he said; ‘can’t they come to my village?’ He later went out to say we are hounding him.

“When we went to arrest him, we met over 20 armed policemen, armed to the teeth. We would have exchanged fire but if we had done that, there would have been casualties. If one or two people had been killed in the crossfire, Nigerians would have condemned us…Exchanging fire with other service men was not expedient on that day and nobody would have asked me to do it.”

Humanitarian affairs ministry stinks of corruption — Olukayode

On the ongoing investigation of alleged corruption at the humanitarian affairs ministry, the EFCC chair noted the issue of funds mismanagement at that agency as deeply rooted and that no particular regime there should be singled out or even exonerated.

According to him, “N14 billion, under one hour, was moved,” he told journalists and “You call that a system?

“I told people that if we had replaced the people that have been suspended by now, even if you had brought saints into that ministry, in 24 hours, that saint would be contaminated.

“So, it’s not about Betta Edu, neither is it about Halima. Let’s not personalise the matter; let’s not single out an individual. It’s about the system and that is what we are investigating. So, whosoever is found culpable, along the line would be held.”

He said ongoing investigations spans several administrations even before that ministry was established, noting, “every single kobo that was allocated to that ministry is under investigation.

“We are talking of trillions. If we keep talking about Betta Edu, we won’t get anywhere. We will take our time, we are investigating over 50 accounts. You must understand some of these processes. For each account, we write letters to banks and the bank replies, from there, we get other leads, we follow those leads again and we start writing letters.

“Sometimes it takes two, three weeks before they reply. We bring people, we interview them. We run after those ones. Investigation takes time.

“So I’ve not come out to say I’ve indicted at person, what I said was that we have recovered so and so amount,” he clarified.

He urged Nigerians to support the anti-graft fight because according to him, if the EFCC fails, the country fails.

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