Alleged $6 bn fraud: EFCC replies ex minister Agunloye on powers to prosecute

EFCC logo and Former Minister of Power, Olu Aguloye

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

EFCC is prosecuting 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 an FCT high court Apo, 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 made by Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited to the former minister’s accounts.

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 (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 in spite of 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.

According to the commission, the case of Nwobike vs FRN relied on by the defence to claim that it (EFCC) has no such power ro prosecute him was quite different from the present case involving the former minister.

It added that the Nwobike’s case was filed before the Lagos State High Court for attempt to pervert cause of justice, an offence under the criminal law of Lagos State, while the Agunloye’s case borders on offences under the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and Penal Code.

Furthermore, the commission argues that Agunloye is charged with offences bordering on conspiracy to forge, forgery and disobedience to presidential directive, contrary to provisions of Penal Code Law.

The EFCC further argues that Agunloye is also charged before the court with bribery and corruption, contrary to ICPC Act and therefore allegations of economic and financial crime in nature unlike what was decided in Nwobike vs FRN.

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

In another development, 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 gearing 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 in support of the motion, Agunloye avers that after much efforts to meet his bail conditions, two of his long-time associates, Mr Muritala Ajaka and Mr Isaac Egharuwa stood for him.

He further avers that EFCC invited Ajaka on January 25, 2024 for owning a property worth N300milluon at Maitama, Abuja, which enabled him (Ajaka) to stand as a surety for him (Agunloye) and detained him (surety) unjustly in its office till close of work before he was released.

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

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

Agunloye then stated that his sureties are now fearful and are beginning to contemplate 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.