Friday, August 10, 2018
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
ABUJA-The Presidency has ordered proper investigation into how the huge cash said to have been released to security agencies in the country for the 2015 Presidential election was managed.
As a result, three former security heads, who held strategic positions in the country, are to face questioning by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to determine their involvement or otherwise in expenditure of the cash.
Among those slated for probe are the immediate past Director-General of the DSS, Lawal Daura; his predecessor, Ita Ekpenyong, and former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ayo Oke.
The order to subject the former security heads to scrutiny followed two days of extensive meeting between Nigeria's Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, and the Acting Director General of the DSS, Matthew Seiyefa, and that of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu.
Vanguard learned that the opening of investigation into the roles played by the dismissed security head followed Tuesday's sack of Lawal Daura, who had last November blocked EFCC operatives from gaining access into the Abuja homes of Ekpenyong and Oke for search.
Daura had argued at that time that security expenditure could not be subject of any investigation by the EFCC and that doing so would expose the security agencies to ridicule.
Emboldened by that argument, Daura prevented EFCC operatives who had taken vantage positions in the premises of the two men in Asokoro from entering their homes and searching them. EFCC had broken into an apartment at Ikoyi, linked to Oke’s wife .
The Acting President, had ordered investigation into the huge cash spent after the 2015 elections.
He is also reported to have ordered Seiyefa and Magu to work together and retrieve the cash from whoever was found to have dipped their hands into the till.
Ekpenyong arrested, house searched
As a first step towards unravelling whereabouts of the cash, EFCC operatives, yesterday, swooped on the Abuja home of Ekpenyong on 46, Mamman Nasir Street in Asokoro and searched it for over two hours.
But Vanguard learned that the operatives numbering about 20, who went there in three buses, did not recover any cash or serious documents to aid them in their work.
That notwithstanding, the officers asked Ekpenyong to follow them to their headquarters in Jabi at exactly 3: 20 pm.
But as a mark of respect for the top spy, the heavily armed EFCC operatives allowed him to ride in his own car, while they followed him in their vehicles.
EFCC confirms search
EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that the operatives had gone to Ekpenyong's house to 'complete the assignment' they were prevented from carrying out in November last year.
"He has been cooperating with our operatives and we will do our work the way we should do it. We just want him to shed more light on some funds and other issues," the spokesman said but did not give further details.
When they invaded Ekpenyong's house last year, close aides raised the alarm that he was being framed for an offence he did not commit.
One of the aides said: "EFCC had never invited or questioned the former D-G on any criminal breach, only for its operatives to barge into his home, with a view to arresting him as a common criminal.''
Ekpenyong had made it clear that the DSS under his watch had no role whatsoever to play in the arms purchase since it was not within its purview to acquire arms for the military.
"The DSS played no role at all in the arms purchase and that is the truth. The D-G served this country faithfully and transparently and since leaving office in 2015, nobody has had any reason to accuse him of taking anything that does not belong to him.
"As a tradition, the DSS makes returns to the Presidency on March 1 every year on its operations and nothing done by the agency can, therefore, be hidden from the government.
"Assuming that there are issues with DSS management, which the EFCC needed to investigate, the current DSS D-G is there to answer to such matters without storming Ekpenyong's home with guns,'' the aide said.
The 2017 fracas
Operatives of the Department of State Services, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, National Intelligence Agency and the police had on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, in a face-off over moves by the EFCC to arrest a former Director-General of the DSS, Ekpenyong Ita, and a former DG of the NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, drew their guns, cocked and came close to a shoot-out.
This was more so in the case of Ita, whose 46 Mamman Nasir Street residence in Asokoro area of Abuja was almost turned into a shooting theatre.
The drama lasted over 13 hours.
The EFCC operatives who were to carry out the arrest, were said to have arrived Ita's house as early as 4am.
But on approaching the house in the morning with the warrant of arrest, the DSS operatives providing security for Ita refused to allow the EFCC operatives in.
The EFCC operatives then cordoned off all roads leading to the property with a yellow tape, with the inscription: "Crime scene, do not cross."
In fact, the DSS reportedly beefed up security in the house with over 30 more armed operatives.
An attempt by an operative of the EFCC to take photographs almost led to a shootout, with the DSS operatives cocking their guns.
The EFCC operatives, also accompanied by several policemen, equally cocked their own guns in preparation to shoot.
Daura released, passport seized
Meanwhile, sacked Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Lawal Daura has been released and his international passport confiscated.
Daura was reportedly taken into custody on Tuesday after ordering the deployment of DSS operatives to lay siege to the National Assembly.
He was said to have been released on Wednesday evening from a guest house run by the DSS in Gwarimpa area of Abuja, where he had been placed on house arrest since the Acting-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, ordered his dismissal on Tuesday.
The Presidency had described the deployment of the DSS operatives to the National Assembly as unauthorised.
Daura released from custody
Daura was asked to be remanded in custody, following the incident and was initially reportedly taken to the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squard facility in Guzape neighbourhood, Abuja, where he spent time answering questions for his highly controversial tenure at the DSS.
Vanguard learned he was later moved to one of the numerous guest houses run by the DSS around the Federal Capital Territory.
He was said to have been detained at a building in Gwarinpa, a massive residential community on the northwestern corridor of the capital.
"He was given his phones and released to go. But his international passport was taken from him,'' a source said.
It was not immediately clear where Daura is currently putting up, but security sources said he would not be able to go under the radar, given the intensity of surveillance already placed on him.
His two known telephone lines were still switched off at press time yesterday and the DSS has not had a spokesperson since September 2015 when Daura took over control of the agency.
EFCC after Daura
Specific allegations against Daura were still being tidied by law enforcement agencies, online portal, Premium Times reported yesterday.
New DG, Seiyefa's promise
Meanwhile, Acting Director-General of the Department of State Services, Mathew Seiyefa, has promised to look into the complaints of human rights abuse filed against the service.
In the last three years, the secret police had been accused of disregard for the rule of law and arbitrary arrests.
Speaking in Abuja, yesterday, Seiyefa said under him, the service would take a different approach.
He also promised to collaborate with other security agencies in security management and to promote national interest.
Seiyefa added that the service would not be intimidated in the discharge of its role in line with the rule of law.
He was appointed on Tuesday following the sack of Lawal Daura who took over from Ita Ekpeyong in 2015.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo ordered the dismissal of Daura after DSS operatives invaded the National Assembly and prevented some lawmakers from going into the chamber.
EU warns against partisan use of state resources
Reacting to the DSS' siege to the National Assembly, the European Union, yesterday, expressed serious concerns over the development, warning law enforcement agencies against partisan use of state resources.
"The EU Heads of Missions have noted with concern recent examples of interference in the democratic process by law enforcement services, the most recent case being the barring of access to the National Assembly on August 7.
"The EU is fully committed to supporting democracy in Nigeria, and it commends the Federal Government's swift action to protect the independence of the National Assembly as a critical pillar of democracy," the EU said in a statement issued in Abuja, yesterday.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo fired Lawal Daura as the director-general of the DSS on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the siege drew nationwide uproar.
The EU emphasised that security agencies must be fair and professional in their conduct, especially against the backdrop of upcoming elections.
It stated: "The EU reiterates the importance of all law enforcement services staying neutral and ensuring that independent institutions can operate in line with their constitutional mandates, free from interference and intimidation.
"The upcoming general elections in 2019 are vital in ensuring national stability, peace and prosperity for all Nigerians.
''It is for the Nigerian people to decide the outcome of the elections, and the EU calls upon all stakeholders in Nigeria to play their part so that voters can make their decision through a free, fair, credible and peaceful election process."
The British government had on Tuesday, also condemned the siege laid to the National Assembly by the DSS operatives.