The chairman of the Independent Corrupt practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Ekpo Nta, has denied media reports that the case files of some former governors being investigated by the agency were missing.
Speaking to our reporters at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday, Nta said that the case files of former governors being referred to were handed over by the pioneer chairman of the anti-graft agency, retired Justice Mustapha Akanbi, to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, in 2004.
The ICPC chairman said that there could not have been any investigation by the commission as the law setting it up does not allow it to investigate or prosecute persons who occupy the positions of President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor.
According to him, the law mandates the ICPC to refer allegations of corruption against such high profile officeholders to the CJN who would then appoint a counsel to investigate the matter and make recommendations to the National Assembly on what to do.
“There are no cases of missing files in the ICPC. Those cases date back to Justice (Mustapha) Akanbi when the petitions were received,” he stated.
“If you read the ICPC Act, when there is an allegation against a serving governor, President, Vice President or Deputy Governor, the Act required that the commission should pass that petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria who will set up a special counsel to do the investigation. That is the extent the commission is given a role by the law,” he said further.
The ICPC chairman added, however, that the commission was trying to convince the National Assembly to amend the law in order to allow the agency to investigate allegations of corruption against these categories of public officials before handing the case over to the CJN.
“Our thinking is that even if you appoint a special counsel to investigate the allegations, he would need investigations. So why don’t you allow the commission to do the investigation? So what we are telling the National Assembly is to let us do full scale investigation and we can hand the result over to the CJN.”
Nta said that all 27 case files involving former governors were handed over to the office of the CJN in 2004 by the then chairman of the ICPC.
The ICPC chairman also dismissed allegations that he was sitting on a case file involving allegations of corruption received by the commission against Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom State and the Senate Minority Leader.
Media reports had insinuated that Nta was protecting Akpabio from being investigated and prosecuted because of a special relationship he had with the former governor, who hails from the same state as him.
In fact, Akpabio was said to have nominated the ICPC chairman to his position. The former governor was also reported to have sent emissaries to Nta ostensibly to convince him to hands off any corruption case against him.
Nta however denied having any relationship with the former governor of his state, adding that he also did not receive any emissaries from him.
“I am not sure the gentleman would say that he nominated me to this position. I am sure he would have been surprised himself to read that. I do not have that kind of relationship with him. And the person who made the appointment, the former President (Goodluck Jonathan) is alive…”
Regarding the petition before the ICPC against Akpabio, the agency’s boss said that the case file had been handed over to the EFCC because that agency also received similar petitions and had started investigations on them.
“The petitioner publicised it that he was going to send petitions to ICPC, EFCC and others. So when we received the petition, I did a letter to the EFCC and handed over to them to continue the investigation,” Nta said.
The ICPC chairman also spoke about the controversy surrounding his tenure, stating that his five years in office would end in 2017.
There had been controversy over when Nta was appointed as chairman of the commission, with some reports indication that having first been appointed in 2011, his tenure should end in 2016.
“We were sworn in as members of the board on November 29, 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan, who refused to swear-in the then chairman for certain reasons. And he turned around and said ‘Mr Nta Ekpo you will act as chairman until I sort this out’. That was when I started acting.
“When my name was forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, I had to go through screening a second time and I appeared before the Senate and after clearance I was asked to come to the presidency for a fresh swearing in and I was issued a new letter as the substantive chairman on October 17, 2012.”
The ICPC chairman confirmed the receipt of a petition by former chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin, against principal officers of the chamber, but refused to give any details.
Nta said that Jibrin came and personally submitted a petition to him but declined to speak further, arguing that the ICPC Act forbids him to speak on any allegation being investigated by the commission.
Section 64 (1) of the ICPC Act 2000 says: “Subject to Section (2), where any complaint made by any officer of the commission states that the complaint is made in consequence of information received by the officer making the complaint, the information referred to in the complaint and the identity of the person from whom the information is received shall be secret between the officer who made the complaint and the person who gave the information, and everything contained in such information, identity of the person who gave the information and all other circumstances relating to the information, including the place where it was given, shall not be disclosed or be ordered or required to be disclosed in public but only to the trial judge and defence lawyer in attendance in any civil, criminal or other proceedings in any court or tribunal.”