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NBA President, Usoro cautions EFCC against distortion of facts

By Eno-Abasi Sunday (Lagos) and Matthew Ogune (Abuja)
09 December 2018   |   4:14 am
President of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Paul Usoro, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission...

Paul Usoro (SAN) . PHOTO Lawyard

President of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA) Paul Usoro, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of distorting information that he gave during his interrogation by the commission, over alleged financial impropriety involving the sum of N1.4b.

Spokesman of the commission, Tony Orilade, in a statement he issued in Abuja said the EFCC had invited Usoro in June this year, to explain his role regarding the inflow of N300m from the Akwa Ibom State government’s account into the account of Paul Usoro Chambers (PUC).

Usoro was also questioned on the aggregate inflow of N1.1b from the state government’s account into his chamber’s bank account over a period of about one year.

Orilade in the statement said Usoro had claimed that the various sums of money received from the state government, under the administration of Gov. Udom Emmanuel, were payments for “legal fees” to him and other “eminent members of the Inner Bar and a host of other members of the Outer Bar that I had engaged to work with me in respect of the Election Petition matter” involving the governor.

In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, Usoro who said the EFCC grossly quoted him out of context as far as the issue was concerned, stressed that the N1.1b paid to his chambers was for professional services for non-exhaustive legal matters that were in no way related to election petition, while the sum of N300m was for lawyers who handled Governor Emmanuel’s election matters up to the Supreme Court.

Usoro said during the interrogation, “I was questioned in respect of a N300m cash inflow that came into PUC’s Zenith Bank Account on 14 March 2016 and the subsequent outflows from the account to various Senior Counsel between 22-23 March 2016. I explained that the inflow was payment by Governor Udom Emmanuel in respect of an Election Petition Appeal that was determined by the Supreme Court and that I served as the coordinating Counsel in respect of the matter and had engaged various Senior Counsel therefore on his behalf.

The subsequent outflows which were made through bank transfers were the professional fees which I made on his behalf to those Counsel based on the N300m inflow. They wanted to know how the cash lodgment was made into the PUC account and I informed them that the lodgment was made at the instance of Governor Emmanuel (albeit, not necessarily by him) and definitely not by me, or any PUC personnel and that I had no further information, clue or knowledge beyond that.”

On the N1.1b Inflows into PUC’s account he said: “EFCC also wished to know the basis for the aggregate inflow of N1. 110,000,000.00 paid in four tranches, into the PUC Access Bank Account from AKSG between 24 August 2015 and 18 September 2016. I provided an explanation in writing to them showing that these were payments-on-account by the state in respect of several dispute resolution matters that we were and, in some cases, are still handling for the State Government. I backed the explanation up with (a) copies of the PUC Notes of Charges in respect of 3 of the 4 payment tranches, pursuant to which the payments were made and which clearly showed that these were payments-on-account in respect of various matters that we were handling for the State; and (b) a non-exhaustive List of 19 matters, none of which was election-related, which we were handling for the state at all times material to their enquiry and the payments…”

The commission, however, maintained that that no amount of intimidation and razzmatazz will stop it from carrying out its legitimate assignment of investigating and prosecuting Usoro.