EFCC insists it has power to prosecute ex-minister Agunloye over alleged $6 billion fraud

ABUJA- The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has asserted that it has powers based on judicial precedents to prosecute former Minister of Power and Steel, Olu Agunloye over an alleged $6 billion Mambilla hydroelectric power plant.

EFCC is prosecuting Mr Agunloye, who served as a minister in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on infractions regarding the Mambilla power plant.

The suit, marked FCT/HC/CR/617/22, is before Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie of the Mapo Division of the FCT High Court, Abuja.

The former minister was charged with a seven-count charge bordering on forgery, disobedience of presidential order and corruption.

He was alleged to have, among others, on May 22, 2003, awarded a contract titled “Construction of 3,960-megawatt Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on build, operate and transfer basis to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.”

EFCC also alleged that it traced some suspicious payments from Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited to the former minister’s accounts.

Mr Agunloye, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him.

The former minister had filed a preliminary motion on notice, with the number M/3736/2024, filed on February 8, 2024.

His counsel, Adeola Adedipe SAN, in the motion, argued that the anti-corruption commission lacks both investigative and prosecutorial powers to prosecute him on the current charge before the court.

He further argued that the alleged offences he (Mr Agunloye) committed were based on his activities as a public officer, among other allegations, which did not constitute financial crimes.

Responding in its counter-affidavit, EFCC insisted that despite the former minister’s submission, it has such powers to investigate and prosecute him.

The commission averred that the law donates the power to investigate and prosecute the former minister to it.

Furthermore, EFCC argued that Mr Agunloye is charged with offences bordering on conspiracy to forge, forgery and disobedience to a presidential directive, contrary to provisions of Penal Code Law.

The EFCC further argues that Mr Agunloye is also charged before the court with bribery and corruption, contrary to the ICPC Act.

It also argued that the Court of Appeal has decided that it (EFCC) can prosecute offences under the ICPC Act, while section 7 of the EFCC Act also empowers the commission to prosecute crimes under the Criminal Code and Penal Code, among others.

In another development, Mr Agunloye has alleged that EFCC is intimidating and harassing the two persons who stood as sureties for him after being granted bail by the court on January 11, 2024.

The allegation is contained in his motion on notice, marked M/3797/2024, seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the commission from further inviting, intimidating and harassing the current sureties currently standing for him, pending hearing and determination of the charge before the court.

The former minister also sought an order varying the bail conditions granted to him by substituting “each surety must furnish evidence of ownership of a property with C of O worth N300 million within Maitama District, FCT” to “any person who has property within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja or on a more liberal term”.

In his affidavit supporting the motion, Mr Agunloye avers that after much effort to meet his bail conditions, two of his long-time associates, Muritala Ajaka and Isaac Egharuwa, stood for him.

He averred that EFCC invited Mr Ajaka on January 25, 2024, for owning a property worth N300 million at Maitama, Abuja, which enabled him (Mr Ajaka) to stand as a surety for him (Mr Agunloye) and detained him (surety) unjustly in its office till close of work before he was released.

The defendant further averred that his sureties did not stand for him at the EFCC office but before the court.

He added that any issue regarding their competence and credibility is not within the commission’s power but that of the court.

Mr Agunloye then stated that his sureties are now fearful and are contemplating withdrawing their suretyship for him.

He added that if they do so, he does not know where else he may be to get sureties who can meet up with the bail conditions.

The court adjourned the case until March 21.


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