Harassment Of Anti-corruption Lawyer: COHRD Blasts EFCC, Police, Demands Sack Of Lamorde

The Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD) has strongly condemned what it termed as the harassment of anti-corruption lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Leo Ekpenyong, by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigeria Police Force.

Mr. Ekpenyong who has written series of petitions against the former governor of Akwa Ibom State and Minority Leader of the Senate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, passed a vote of no confidence on the EFCC Chairman in a letter he sent to President Buhari and also granted interview on the African Independent Television (AIT) in which he accused Mr. Lamorde of shielding Akpabio from investigation and prosecution.

In a statement issued on Friday, 6th November, 2015 by the Convener of COHRD and legal practitioner, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, the group condemned the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase for “playing the ungodly script of Sen. Godswill Akpabio by subjecting the lawyer to harassment and persecution in a desperate attempt to divert attention from the graves allegations of corruption contained in the series of petition written against Akpabio to the EFCC by Mr. Ekpenyong.”

“On Thursday, 5th November, 2015 Mr. Leo Ekpenyong was arraigned by the Nigeria Police Force before an Upper Area Court, Gudu District, in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja based on a First Information Report by the Police on a two count charge of “defamation” and “false information” sequel to a petition written to the Police at the instance of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was admitted to bail by the Court after which the case was adjourned to 14th January, 2016.”

“The substance of the charges against Mr. Ekpenyong originates from his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari dated 19th October, 2015 and his subsequent interview on the African Independent Television (AIT). Apparently dissatisfied with how the EFCC has treated his petitions against Akpabio with kid gloves, Ekpenyong in his letter to the President passed a vote of no confidence on Lamorde and also granted interview to AIT in which he further criticised the EFCC Chairman. In the said interview, Mr. Ekpenyong had said, among others, that Akpabio had called him and begged him to withdraw his petitions and that Lamorde is shielding Akpabio from investigation and prosecution.”

“It is important to let Nigerians know that Mr. Ekpenyong was earlier summoned by the EFCC on Monday, 26th October, 2015 and asked to issue a statement retracting his letter to the President and interview with AIT but he bluntly refused. In a two pages statement Mr. Ekpenyong insisted that he stands by his letter and interview. Angered by Ekpenyong’s refusal to renege on his position, Lamorde caused a petition to be written against him to his main employer – the Nigeria Police Force. We also wish to state that the Police acting on the Lamorde’s petition invited Ekpenyong severally which occasioned hardship on his work as a practicing lawyer which impelled him to inform the Police to either charge him to court or desist from distracting him.”

“Interestingly, the current Inspector General of Police Mr. Solomon Arase had served as the Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom State Command between August 2011 and March 2012 during the tenure of Godswill Akpabio as the Governor of the State. Therefore, the fact that Arase has a relationship with Akpabio is not in doubt. Lamorde himself is an Assistant Commissioner of Police. This reference is significant because the arraignment of Ekpenyong appears to be a well-cooked conspiracy between the trio of Akpabio, Arase and Lamorde. It is an ostensible case of mutual support and solidarity.”

“If Lamorde truly believes that he has been defamed by a man whose only transgression is his determined efforts to get accountability on how the resources of his State was expended by his former governor whose profligacy and financial recklessly while in office is beyond debate why did he not institute a civil action in Court against him? Why is he using his employer – the Police, to persecute this courageous and patriotic whistle blower? What is really false in the petitions written against Akpabio?.”

“Is it not true that CASH withdrawals amounting to a whooping sum of N22 billion from Akwa Ibom State Government Account No. 1010375881 with Zenith Bank Plc were made between January to December 2014 and another N18 billion was withdrawn, also in CASH, from Akwa Ibom State Government Account with the United Bank of Africa (UBA) for the same period in tranches of N10 million on the orders of Godswill Akpabio as stated in the petitions written by Leo Ekpenyong? If Akpabio is saying that all the landed properties linked to him in the petitions are only leased/rented to him Nigerians will like to know how many houses he has under “lease”? Who is really fooling who?.”

“Other governors against whom petitions were written have been charged to Court by the EFCC? Why is the Lamorde-led EFCC giving the impression that Akpabio is above the law even under the present administration of President Buhari? Which governor in the history of Nigeria had access to higher federal allocations than Godswill Akpabio? Which governor in Nigeria in the history of Nigeria made a name in wasteful expenditure of public funds more than Godswill Akpabio? So why should the EFCC even require a petition before investigating Akpabio’s regime?.”

The group asked President Buhari to sanitise the EFCC and sack Lamorde to enhance the administration’s fight against corruption. “Once again, we are calling on President Buhari to carry-out a surgical operation on the EFCC in line with the anti-corruption mantra of his government. The remnants of the corrupt regime of Goodluck Jonathan cannot be the ones to champion the anti-corruption war of the present administration as corruption cannot fight corruption.”

“It a tragic irony that the same Lamorde who is yet to exonerate himself from the graves allegations of embezzlement and non-remittance of 2 trillion naira recovered from corrupt Nigerians levelled against him by Dr. George Uboh will have the effrontery to direct the Police prosecute Ekpenyong for “defamation”. A man enmeshed in these sort of scandals and needless controversies has no business being the Chairman of the EFCC.”

“We therefore appeal to the President to save the nation from this embarrassments by replacing Lamorde as the Chairman of the EFCC with a decent, responsible and charismatic person as a prelude to the commencement of the anti-corruption campaign of his administration. A stitch in time saves nine.”

SIGNED

Inibehe Effiong, ESQ.
Convener, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD)
6/11/2015
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