Indications emerged on Friday that chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, seeking the disqualification of the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Prince Abubakar Audu, from contesting the November 21 governorship election in the state.
Audu, a former governor of Kogi State, won the primary election of the APC on August 30 amidst calls by some Nigerians that fielding a candidate currently standing trial for corruption was a mockery of the governing party’s much touted war against graft.
In a letter dated September 21, 2015, with reference number EFCC/EC/SGF/03/59, and titled “F.R.N Vs Abubakar Audu & 1 other Charge No: FCT/CR/115/ 2013”, the EFCC chairman wrote to the SGF reminding him that Mr. Audu was standing trial for corruption.
“The candidate was arraigned by the Commission for abuse of office, theft of public funds and money laundering during his tenure as Executive Governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003 at both Kogi High Court, Lokoja in 2006 and the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo Abuja in 2013”, Mr. Lamorde wrote.
“The Lokoja case was stalled for six years on the account of frivolous interlocutory applications by the accused person, which has taken us twice to the Supreme Court and eventually decided in the commission’s favour on 23rd November 2012.
“The trial effectively continued in 2013 with the filing of fresh charges in Abuja. Eight prosecution witnesses have so far given evidence and 166 exhibits tendered at the proceedings, while the case adjourned till 14th October 2015 for continuation of trial.
“We are genuinely concerned that the trial will be suspended for another four years if Prince Audu emerges as Kogi State Governor, similar to the situation of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.
“While not being unmindful of the constitutional presumption of innocence of all accused persons until proven guilty, we are nevertheless greatly concerned that swearing in of another accused person as Executive Governor in Nigeria may not be in consonance with the current anti-corruption policy of the new administration”.
In concluding his letter to Mr. Babachir, the EFCC boss cautioned that allowing Mr. Audu to contest on the ruling APC’s ticket might undermine the administration’s fight against corruption, especially in the eyes of the world.
“This may negatively impact our perception by the international community and give rise to scepticism and even cynicism”, Lamorde wrote.
Mr. Lamorde’s letter brought to mind former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu’s advisory letter to political parties in 2007, seeking the disqualification of some political office seekers for their involvement in corruption.
But upon receipt of Mr. Lamorde’s advisory letter, the SGF immediately wrote to the national secretariat of the APC the following day, urging it to take “necessary action”.
In a letter dated September 22, 2015, referenced SGF.30/S.11/T, the SGF said “I wish to forward the attached document from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on the above subject matter for your information and action”.