Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services has been removing all incriminating files relating to President Bola Tinubu and his close aides from the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, SaharaReporters has learnt.
On Tuesday, June 27, 2023, SaharaReporters exclusively reported that the DSS had told the anti-corruption body Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to steer clear of political cases for now.
Sources told SaharaReporters at the time that the recent raids on EFCC offices – first in Ikoyi, Lagos and later in Abuja – were more political than they were made to look.
SaharaReporters had reported that during the raids, DSS operatives carted away files and flash drives containing sensitive information about former governors, ministers and senators under investigation.
It was learnt on Friday that the cleaning-up exercise had been extended to other anti-corruption bodies – CCB and ICPC.
“DSS closure of EFCC Lagos office was instigated by Tinubu,” a security source told SaharaReporters.
“The DSS is currently removing all incriminating files from the Code of Conduct Bureau and ICPC relating to Tinubu and his close aides and associates.”
Tinubu was arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in September 2011 for allegedly operating foreign bank accounts, contrary to the constitution.
Tinubu was accused of operating 10 foreign accounts during his tenure as governor between 1999 and 2007 in the charges filed against him by CCB at the tribunal.
The former governor was specifically accused of violating Section 7 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 LFN, 2004 as amended, by operating the said accounts, an offence punishable under Section 23(2) thereof as incorporated under paragraph 18, part 1, fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
However, the three-man panel of the tribunal later dismissed the case, saying there was no significant basis to proceed against Tinubu as the charges were “defective and shoddy.”
The tribunal held that the charges did not disclose a prima facie case and that there was no proof of evidence attached to the charge.
It also noted that the charges failed to show that the accounts were held by the accused person.
But in March 2016, Rotimi Jacobs, a senior advocate of Nigeria and the Federal Government prosecuting counsel said the CCT was misled to discharge Tinubu when he was arraigned before it in 2011.
According to Jacobs, Tinubu was freed in error.
On Sunday, June 18, 2023, SaharaReporters exclusively reported that the DSS raided the headquarters of its sister agency, EFCC on Friday night, June 16.
It was reported that the raid lasted till early Saturday morning.
The action was undertaken under the cover of the night to prevent the public from knowing about it, it was learnt.
EFCC personnel were also instructed not to mention anything concerning the raid to members of the public.
An insider had told SaharaReporters at the time that the DSS was working in the interest of someone “very important” to President Bola Tinubu.
However, another source said it might be linked to the recent closure of the EFCC office in Ikoyi, Lagos by the DSS.
“I heard the raid and partisanship of the DSS was the reason why they raised an alarm yesterday (Saturday) that some of their disgruntled officers are planning to shame the agency and embarrass the leadership,” the source said.
Some of the investigators handling the case of former Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle were to be summoned by the DSS for interrogation, it was further learnt.
“That is actually intimidation, symptomatic of what former Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami did during Ibrahim Magu’s time as EFCC chairman to get several suspects off the hook,” one of the sources had said.
It was revealed that Matawalle was being investigated by the EFCC in two separate cases.
One of them is a case involving his private company which got money from the National Security Adviser’s office without executing the contract, which was investigated under the chairmanship of Magu. The other case involves the alleged fraud committed by Matawalle while in office.
Someone close to President Bola Tinubu also informed our reporter that the president was aware of the moves being made by the former governor to stop the anti-corruption body from probing him, which included obtaining court orders to restrain the commission and other agencies from carrying out their investigations.
It must be noted that President Tinubu recently suspended the EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa from office indefinitely.
In the June 18 report, SaharaReporters noted that it was not clear what the agenda of Tinubu and the DSS were regarding the detention of Bawa and the carting away of sensitive documents relating to the commission’s investigations.
But revelations made by sources later showed the raids were political with the carting away of files and flash drives related to the probe of former governors, senators and ministers.
In May, operatives of the DSS stormed the Lagos office of the EFCC, preventing officials of the anti-graft agency from gaining access to their office in Ikoyi.
SaharaReporters learnt from top sources in both agencies that hundreds of EFCC personnel were locked out of office due to what was widely believed to be centred on office ownership disagreements.
“The EFCC officers are shocked; they have been using the building for more than 20 years. Several suspects are there and there are fears that some might have been illegally released,” a top source had said.
President Tinubu later ordered the DSS to vacate the EFCC office immediately, saying if there were issues between the “two important agencies of government”, they should be resolved amicably.
Reacting to the incident, the EFCC in a statement on its official Facebook page described the siege as shocking, saying it had wider implications for Nigeria’s fight against economic and financial crimes.
“This development is strange to the Commission given that we have cohabited with the DSS in that facility for 20 years without incident.
“By denying operatives access to their offices, the Commission’s operations at its largest hub with over 500 personnel, hundreds of exhibits, and many suspects in detention have been disrupted.
“Cases scheduled for court hearing today have been aborted, while many suspects who had been invited for questioning are left unattended.
“Even more alarming is that suspects in detention are left without care with grave implications for their rights as inmates.
“All of these have wider implications for the nation’s fight against economic and financial crimes,” the statement read.
But the DSS in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Peter Afunanya, said, “It is not correct that the DSS barricaded EFCC from entering its office. No. It is not true. The Service is only occupying its own facility where it is carrying out its official and statutory responsibility.
“By the way, there is no controversy over No 15A Awolowo Road as being insinuated by the Media. Did the EFCC tell you it is contesting the ownership of the building? I will be surprised if it is contesting the ownership.
“Awolowo Road was NSO headquarters. SSS/DSS started from there. It is a common knowledge. It is a historical fact. Check it out.”