EFCC Denies Torturing Suspects

EFCC

By Samuel Malik

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has denied allegations of torture levelled against it by two suspects in its custody and said the accusations were intended to mislead President Muhammadu Buhari and the public. The Commission said it “adheres to best international practices in the treatment of suspects,” which make suspects prefer to remain in its custody than be remanded in prison.

The EFCC was reacting to a publication in a national daily where that was addressed to the President on behalf of Suleiman Yerima and Uwen Antia, two suspects held by the commission for fraud. The letter claimed the two were tortured and mistreated by the EFCC.

In a statement issued by Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC’s spokesman, Yerima and Antia were accused of stealing $2.25 million from Gladys Aginwa and Ale Dennis, two bankers they approached and “offered to sell foreign exchange to the tune of $10,000,000 USD to them.”

“After agreeing on the exchange rate, a sum of N672, 750, 000 (Six Hundred and Seventy Two Million, Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) was transferred from BlueBeam Capital Investment Limited and Capital Field Investment and Trust Limited into the account of one of the bankers: Smiles and Light Limited. It was from the banker’s account that the entire sum was moved into Antia’s account: Kafisto Oil and Gas Limited,” the EFCC said.

With the money in his account, the commission said, Antia approached a Bureau de Change operator to change the money into its dollar equivalent and transferred N666.250 million into his account, which the Bureau de Change operator calculated as $3.127 million.

However, the operator could only pay Antia $3.124 million, with a promise to pay the balance of $3, 000 the next day.

“Immediately Antia collected the foreign exchange, he reportedly headed for No. 17A, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the two bankers and his accomplice, Suleiman were waiting for him. However, rather than handing over the entire foreign exchange to the bankers, he only gave them $1,000,000 (One Million Dollars), claiming that he could not source the entire amount. He allegedly promised to give them a balance of $2,250,000 (Two Million, Two Hundred and Twenty- Five Thousand Dollar) the next day,” the EFCC statement added.

All efforts by the bankers to get their balance proved futile, so they decided to petition the anti-fraud agency.

“The fraudsters, upon their arrest, claimed that they had given one of the bankers, Dennis,the balance of the money at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, but investigations by the commission, showed that no such transaction took place between them.”

The commission said the two suspects were granted administrative bail but because they could not meet the bail conditions, they were detained but only after a magistrate granted a warrant for such detention. “The EFCC is a civil agency which is mindful of the rights of citizens and could not have consciously violated the rights of any suspects,” the agency said.

Yerima and Antia sued the EFCC at a Federal High Court in Lagos to force their release, claiming they were being tortured. “As part of his reliefs in the suit, Uwen alleged that he was tortured, beaten and shot in the leg,” allegations the EFCC said the court found to be false and subsequently denied the suspects’ application.






     

     

    However, the EFCC said it released the suspects following a request by the Zone 2 Headquarters of the Nigeria Police in Lagos to aid in its investigation of cases of “conspiracy and obtaining under false pretence” involving the two, and absolved itself of any treatment the police might have meted out. “The Commission is not liable to account for the treatment of the suspects while in the custody of a sister agency,” it said.

    “The EFCC does not torture suspects. The Commission adheres to best international practices in the treatment of suspects. In deed suspects taken to court by the Commission are known to prefer being remanded in the Commission’s custody rather go to prison. Were the Commission’s cell a dungeon, no suspect would prefer it to prison custody.”

    Yerima and Antia are regarded by the EFCC as “high-profile serial fraudsters” involved in different illicit dealings.

    “Two sections in EFCC, Lagos are investigating Yerima for fraudulent dealings with some members of the public. Besides, he is standing trial at a Federal High Court sitting in Jos on another case of fraud,” the agency added.

     

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