The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has begun probing allegations of graft levelled against two former South-south ministers who are interested in succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari next year.
According to EFCC sources,, top on the list of those under probe is the immediate past Minister of Transport, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi. Also being probed is the immediate past Minister if Niger Delta Affairs. Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Dropping the hint last night, a top Presidency official disclosed that, conscious of the EFCC probe. Amaechi has been soliciting the help of top Presidency officials to stop the agency from inviting and embarrassing him.
He, however, added that the best deal Amaechi was able to get from the numerous appeals for intervention was to be allowed to visit EFCC interrogators under the cover of darkness. This isorder to keep his interrogation away from the media.
According to one the sources, also earmarked for grilling is Amaechi’s former colleague, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the embattled Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, as well as a former presidential adviser, Kingsley Kuku.
Aside Kuku and Emefiele, the duo of Amaechi and Akpabio were governors of oil-rich Rivers and Akwà Ibom states respectively, and are currently in the race to succeed Buhari on the platform of their party All Progressives Congress (APC).
On his part, Emefiele recently caused a stir in the banking circles when he made a never-before-seen move to run for the office of the President of Nigeria.
The agency source stated that EFCC officers are hot on the heels of Amaechi. Following the intervention of top presidency officials, he stated, the EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa was able to direct his agents to “interview” Amaechi on Tuesday night.
He, however added that the top investigators of the EFCC stayed backed in their offices Tuesday night, but that the former minister failed to appear.
“Top officials of the Commission, including our chairman, stayed back up till 10 pm on Tuesday.
They left when it became clear that Amaechi wouldn’t show up. The former minister later called up his contacts to help apologize for not appearing. He promised to come on Wednesday night,” he stated .
EFCC officers, he stressed, stayed back through Wednesday night. Again. Amaechi failed to show up, he said.
An associate of the former Transport Minister later disclosed that his friend’s refusal to show up as agreed may not be unconnected with the EFCC raid on the house of another former governor and presidential aspirant, Sen. Rochas Okorocha.
“My brother, the EFCC raid on Okorochas’s house really shocked some of us. The thinking was, if EFCC could so easily embarrass Rochas who is very close to Baba, what is going to be our fate with them? ” he explained.
EFCC sources told Pointblanknews.com that the move to “interview” Amaechi came on the heels of several petitions against the former minister. Most of the petitions, it was gathered, centred on awards of contracts in the Ministry of Transport when he was Minister.
“Some of the petitions couldn’t be substantiated. Some of the petitioners simply failed to show up. The dates and figures they bandied didn’t add up. Some of the addresses they even gave in the petitions were fictitious.
“However, we had cases where the petitioners followed up diligently. They cooperated with our investigators. They supplied us facts and figures. In some cases, the figures ran into billions of Naira.
“Some were in millions of US Dollars. That was why we invited him (former minister) to hear from him,” explained the officer, adding, “unfortunately, he’s been avoiding us”
Contacted, Amaechi’s political associate dismissed insinuations that his friend was avoiding officers of the anti-graft agency. He accused the EFCC of lending itself to be a tool of witch hunt.
“With the APC and PDP presidential primaries at hand, nothing is impossible. Amaechi was appointed minister in 2015. Why are they inviting him now that it is a few days to the presidential convention? They are doing the bidding of their paymaster, but we are not perturbed,” he declared.