Ex-Kwara Commissioner faults EFCC for declaring him wanted, denies N411m fraud

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A former Commissioner of Finance in Kwara State, Ademola Banu, has stated that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lied over its claims that he jumped bail and that he was involved in a N411m fraud case.

He also faulted the commission for declaring him wanted, saying the declaration was unwarranted, unlawful and devoid of due process, insisting he was not on the run.

Recall that the Ilorin Zonal Command of the EFCC had arraigned the immediate past Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, on a 12-count charge bordering on alleged mismanagement of public funds of N10billion, before Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin.

EFCC’s lead counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had informed the court that Banu jumped an administrative bail granted him by the EFCC and efforts to arrest him had proved abortive.

He urged the court to rely on Section 83 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to issue a summon against his surety, Salami Bashiru Ola and/or warrant of arrest against the second defendant (Banu).

Justice Anyadike in a ruling issued a bench warrant against Banu.

But Banu faulted the claim that he jumped bail in an affidavit he filed before the court on Friday last week which was made available to our correspondent.

He stated that on 26th January, 2021, the Nigerian Immigration Service had written that he has been cleared by the EFCC while referencing the complainant/respondent’s letter tagged “ref: CR:3000/EFCC/ILR/BF/Vol 1/055 dated 13th January, 2021.

The affidavit was sworn on his behalf by Aisha Mahmud in the suit with charge no: FHC/Il/18C/2024 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria (complainant/respondent/) and Abdulfatah Ahmed and Ademola Banu (second defendant).

Banu also argued that he had no authority over the funds of Kwara State Government as a Commissioner of Finance and that he was subject to the directive/approvals of the first defendant, Ahmed.

He maintained that he did not abscond in the United Kingdom as EFCC told the court. According to him, he only travelled to United States of America on the 21st of December 2023 to see his family and follow up on a medical procedure and that he returned to Nigeria on the 6th of February 2024.

He added since that time, all his telephone lines were open and he did not receive any invitation from the EFCC.

He insisted that there was no time he jumped bail as claimed by the commission, saying there was no new investigation and invitation by the EFCC after he was declared an acquitted defendant on 18th November, 2020, by the court in the previous suit with case No. FHC/IL/24C/2019.

The ex-commissioner also said the previous charges preferred against him, Travel Messenger, and one Mr. Adeyemi in Suit Number FH/IL/24C/2019, which were withdrawn by EFCC leading to his acquittal by the court are similar to the current/extant charges contained in the case No: FHC/IL/18/2024 against Ahmed and himself.

He stated that he was never admitted to any administrative bail by EFCC since his discharge in Charge No: FHC/IL/24C/2019 and that there is no record with the complainant that anyone ever stood as surety for him before EFCC between the period of 18 November 2020 till date.

Our correspondent reports that in the counter-affidavit, the EFCC claimed that the previous charges in the suit with case Number FHC/IL/24C/2019 were withdrawn as a result of its inability to join Ahmed as a co-defendant because, according to it, Ahmed then enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

But Banu in the affidavit filed to respond to the lines of arguments presented by the EFCC, submitted that the excuses given by EFCC for withdrawing the previous charges were a misrepresentation of facts because Ahmed had left office and no longer enjoyed immunity from prosecution as of the time the first charges in case Number FHC/IL/24C/2019 were filed on the 19th of October, 2019.

He noted that Ahmed left office on the 29th of May 2019.

He also recalled that after the review, the immediate past management team of the EFCC had according to investigations discovered that the previous charges contained in Case No. FHC/IL/24C/3019 were baseless without any merit and had consequently granted the request made through the petition and directed that the charges in the suit with Case No. FHC/IL/24C/ 2019 be withdrawn from court; and that the lien on the bank account of Travel Messenger Ltd alleged to have warehoused the alleged laundered funds should be lifted and that the beneficiary should be allowed to utilize the fund.

Banu filed an application/motion asking the court to vacate the bench warrant for his arrest arguing that the facts presented to the court by the EFCC were untrue and misleading.

The date for the hearing of the motion to vacate the bench warrant has not been fixed while the substantive case was adjourned until 29th and 30th of April 2024.

Meanwhile it was gathered that the Ilorin zonal command of the EFCC has submitted its counter-affidavit before the Federal High Court, Ilorin, Kwara State, and the anti-graft agency is seeking to dismiss the complaints filed by Mr. Ademola Banu against the bench warrant issued for his arrest by the court in question.

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