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- Published on Sunday, 20 September 2009 09:15
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The London Metropolitan Police has written the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seeking the anti-graft agency’s cooperation to bring to trial two former governors, James Ibori (Delta) and Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom).
The letter is likely to set off the ticking time bomb in the frosty relationship between the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice’s office.
The EFCC is said to be ready to cooperate with the MET police but Sunday Sun investigation revealed that the AGF, Mr Michael Aondoakaa, might block the request.
We gathered that the letter, which was addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri, was received on Wednesday and was signed for and collected by someone in her office.
Waziri, who is currently performing the lesser Hajj (Umrah) in Saudi Arabia, was promptly informed.
A copy of the letter was also sent to Aondoakaa.
A reliable source in the Presidency told Sunday Sun that the new development has thrown a section of the seat of power into a state of confusion.
The AGF was said to have been shocked by the turn of events, which has further worsened an already bad situation following the contradicting statements issued by both the EFCC and his office last week.
As at press time, our source informed that Aondoakaa had jetted out of the country to the United Kingdom to protest the invitation of the ex-governors.
The Metropolitan Police, in the letter, are asking the EFCC to produce 25 witnesses from the Commission as well as the five persons listed on the charge sheet to assist it in the trial that will commence tomorrow (September 21) in London.
Sunday Sun reliably learnt also that the British police now have conclusive evidence against the persons named in the letter.
The MET request ordinarily looked straightforward enough but Sunday Sun was informed that the EFCC cannot on its own accede to the British police’s request without the express permission of the Attorney-General, according to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
There was however fear at the weekend that the AGF would not allow Waziri to cooperate with the Metropolitan Police.
Our source in the UK, who confirmed the letter despatched to the EFCC, said the Metropolitan Police was also aware that the Attorney-General may sit on the letter and refuse to act on it.
“Chief Aondoakaa is the country’s chief legal officer and if he decides to sit on the permission EFCC needs to do its job, what can we do? We are stuck with him; he can frustrate Waziri. He can protect anybody and that exactly is what we heard he intends to do,” a source in Abuja confided in our reporter.
“He has got his own copy of the MET letter and the people are expected in court on Monday (tomorrow) but he most likely won’t let EFCC cooperate with the London Police.
“We are not unaware that Nigeria’s Attorney General only has the authority to execute the details of the Metropolitan Police’s request. We have also followed with interest the underpinning political intrigues that have accompanied this case, after all the AGF said it openly that he would not cooperate with London in respect of the Ibori and co (case). But we are curious why the nation’s chief lawmaker would want to shield people wanted in a law court.
If the Press Bureau of the Metropolitan Police has through Simon Fisher confirmed that Mr David Edevbie, for instance, is on the indictment list along with others, why would the Justice Minister shield them? We are shocked,” our source wondered.
Meanwhile, Aondoakaa is said to be swimming against the tide considering the deafening silence of the Presidency on the cold war.
The President has refused to issue a statement in his defence or one to castigate Waziri.
A Presidency source said: “?ou know Mr President is not given to frivolities. But I can tell you he does not miss a thing. He is watching this unfolding tragicomedy keenly and he will shock Nigerians with his decision.”
Unconfirmed reports said Aondoakaa’s days in the Justice Ministry may be numbered and that Labour and Productivity Minister, Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN), has been pencilled to replace him.
Aondoakaa’s nightmare climaxed after he made a curious statement saying the EFCC had cleared three former governors and President Yar’Adua’s Principal Private Secretary, David Edevbie, of allegations that they misappropriated $38million from the investments of three states in one of Nigeria’s leading mobile phone companies, V-Mobile (now Zain).
Aondoakaa’s statement followed an online report that British authorities had indicted former Governors James Onanefe Ibori and Victor Attah as well as Edevbie in the $38 million deal.
Aondoakaa, had promptly jumped to the defence of the three former governors, including Bola Tinubu, who was however not indicted in the UK. The A-G had confidently thumped his chest at a press conference that the case in the UK was without merit because the EFCC had concluded its investigation and declared that the three governors were clean-smelling roses who did not tamper with the assets of their respective states after divesting from V-Mobile.
But Aondoakaa got a humiliating shocker 24 hours later when the EFCC issued a statement contradicting his claim. The agency’s chairman, Waziri, denied it had exonerated any of the suspects and insisted that the investigation was ongoing.
Tired of playing the fool and the AGF’s fall guy, she announced that only the law courts could make a pronouncement on the innocence of the suspects.
The EFCC further emphasised the point that Ibori was still facing trial at the Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State. The EFCC’s statement was signed by its spokesperson, Femi Babafemi.
Aondoakaa was said to have been stung by the refutation.
“Chief Aondoakaa had never been so humiliated since he assumed office as minister,” said the source.
Sunday Sun had also reported in its September 13 edition that Mrs Waziri authorised the statement before travelling out of Nigeria, making herself unavailable to the AGF.
Aondoakaa was even said to have reported the EFCC chairperson to some political elders in Benue State, where they both hail from. But when he could not reach her, Aondoakaa had to issue a tepid statement that he had no disagreements with the EFCC over the former governors.
SUN NEWS ONLINE