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Confusion over alleged EFCC raid on Ambode’s residence

By Gbenga Salau, Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos) and Matthew Ogune (Abuja)
21 August 2019   |   4:30 am
There was confusion yesterday over an alleged raid on the residence of former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

There was confusion yesterday over an alleged raid on the residence of former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

News had earlier filtered in that the EFCC was searching the Epe home of the former governor, with many online news platforms claiming the acting public relations officer of the commission, Tony Orilade, confirmed the development.

But hours later, Orilade issued a statement saying: “The EFCC has since early hours of today been inundated with calls that operatives of the commission raided the residence of the former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode.

“We need to state for the records that the EFCC did not raid Ambode’s house. It is instructive that his administration, like other former governors, is under investigation since they no longer constitutionally enjoy immunity against prosecution.

“The commission hereby states with a high sense of responsibility that the operatives did not raid Ambode’s residence. Whatever the commission is presently doing with regard to the investigation is in line with its mandate and the rule of law.”

Two weeks ago, a court in Lagos froze bank accounts linked to Ambode over an alleged N9.9 billion fraud. The former governor, however, denied any connection with the accounts.

Orilade added: “We wish to inform the social media to be circumspect in the reportage of any news with regard to investigation activities of the commission. As a tradition, the commission does not carry out investigation on the pages of the newspapers or through the media. Our operations are always covert until at a time when we file charges in court.

Legacy format detected for design:

“Therefore, the attempt to cast the commission in a bad light is unacceptable as the EFCC will never engage in an illegal act. We remain committed to the war against corruption.”

But in a statement, Ambode urged his supporters and the general public to remain calm and law-abiding, saying there is no cause for alarm. Signed by his media aide, Habib Aruna, the statement reads in part: “This morning, operatives of the EFCC visited the Epe country home and Parkview Ikoyi residence of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of Lagos State, with warrants to conduct a search. These searches were carried out extensively and at the end of the exercise the operatives left without any incident.

“The former governor reiterates that the EFCC has till date not had any direct communication with him on any subject matter whatsoever and if or when it occurs he is ready and willing to respond.”

A new twist was later introduced when the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, ‘clarified’ that operatives of the commission had actually visited the premises of Olukunle Ojo, Ambode’s erstwhile Chief of Staff.

But in a swift reaction, Ojo issued a statement saying the house involved wasn’t his, urging members of the public to ignore online reports to that effect.

The puzzle became even more intricate when some lawyers claimed they foiled an attempt by the EFCC personnel to incriminate the former governor.

In a statement, Fatai Adebanjo, Busari Olanrewaju, and Samson Okuneye alleged that the EFCC team, led by one Rotimi Oyedepo, entered the former governor’s apartment with a blue bag stacked with foreign currency.

The statement reads: “At early hours of today, we were duly briefed that some officers of the EFCC invaded the apartment of the former governor with the intention to search the premises.

“Having confirmed the search warrant, the EFCC officials told us that nobody would follow them in. We resisted and stated expressly that the principle of search is that the owner of the premises or his representatives must be present to observe the search.

Legacy format detected for design:

“They succumbed to our superior argument and allowed us and the people who had the key to the former governor’s house into the apartment with them. Before they entered, we searched all the officials.

“There was a blue bag, which they held. We requested to see the content before they could take it in. They got angry and said we couldn’t. We strongly resisted it. They later agreed. We later found that the bag contained foreign currency, which they brought to plant in the house of the former governor to incriminate him.

“It is important to inform the public that before they entered the house, we all submitted our phones to them as they requested that the only person required to go in with a phone was one of them who would record the entire process.

“They searched the nooks and crannies of the former governor’s house and they couldn’t find any incriminating documents or materials. We authoritatively assert that they didn’t find anything in the house and they didn’t leave the house with anything.”

The statement continued: “We followed them as they entered from one place to the other. When our presence became intimidating, they said we should sit down while they do the search. We resisted.

“To our greatest consternation, the officials, led by Rotimi Oyedepo, held on to our phones and told us to follow them to their office in Ikoyi to get them back. All the effort to get them was abortive. The officials rushed into their white Hiace Bus with our phones and instructed that since we resisted their efforts to take the bag into the main premises of the former governor, they will hold on to the phones. Thus, almost six phones were forcefully taken away, iPhones inclusive.

“It is our happiness as young lawyers in Epe to be part of the process to legally and successfully resist the EFCC from incriminating the former governor with the blue bag they brought with them from an unknown destination, and we also compelled them to conduct the search within the ambit of the law. Hence, success.”

But the commission’s head of media, Wilson Uwujaren, described the lawyers’ claim as “untrue.”

He also said: “The commission had obtained a valid warrant to conduct a search on Ambode’s residences in Park View, Ikoyi, and a country home in Epe as part of an ongoing investigation of alleged malfeasance.

“The commission’s operatives were attacked and prevented from executing the search warrant in Epe by irate youths who injured three officers and damaged EFCC official vehicle. The attack was totally unprovoked as the commission’s operatives were civic and did not molest anybody.”

Videos have emerged online following the incident. In one clip, some residents were seen chasing the operatives amid sounds of gunshots.

Uwujaren said the EFCC condemned attempts to manipulate the video of the search to create an impression that officers of the agency molested residents at the home of the governor.