EFCC cages ex-ministers

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Former ministers who were sacked in the recent cabinet dissolution will no longer be able to travel abroad unless they get clearance from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), official sources told Daily Trust yesterday.

The travel restriction affects former ministers considered to be supportive of ailing President Umaru Yar’adua, who is still too ill to resume duties despite returning from medial trip in February.

Already the restriction caught in its web former minister of justice Michael Aondoakaa and former minister of health Babatunde Osotimehin, who were stopped from travelling abroad at the weekend pending their clearance by the anti-graft commission, sources at the Abuja airport said.

But Aondoakaa, according an aide, has already secured his pass and is due to fly today to El Salvador for the 29th session of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law.

An EFCC official confirmed the travel restriction to Daily Trust last night, saying it affects all former ministers who served in the recently dissolved cabinet. The official did not give further details.

Airport officials, who pleaded for anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the press, said Aondoakaa was scheduled to travel abroad from Abuja on Saturday onboard a Lufthansa flight but he was stopped by security agents.

The sources said Osotimehin was stopped from boarding a British Airways plane at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja yesterday, and was told to get a clearance first from the EFCC.

Attempts to get comments from Osotimehin failed last night as he was not answering his calls.

However, a source close to Aondoakaa said the former justice minister sent his protocol officer to the airport to confirm his travel arrangements and was informed that all immediate-past ministers must get clearance before they travel abroad. The source said when Aondoakaa was informed, he wrote for the clearance and got it.

The source said after the El Salvador meeting, Aondoakaa will also be attending another conference in Italy next month, in his capacity as a member representing Africa in the council of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, which was formed by the League of Nations in 1926. The former justice minister, according to the source, won a five-year tenure membership into the council in 2008.

The new travel restriction is likely to be seen as an attempt by acting President Goodluck Jonathan to hit back at so-called pro-Yar’adua ministers, who he flushed out of the cabinet last month to consolidate his hold onto power.

Aondoakaa was accused of using his position as justice minister to frustrate efforts to make Jonathan acting president, after President Yar’adua left the country on November 23 last year for medical attention in Saudi Arabia.

Osotimehin was also said to have irked Jonathan when he declared that no medical doctor can rule out any living human being from recovering from an illness or declare that person permanently incapacitated.

Jonathan is said to be scheming to make himself a substantive president by getting the members of the new cabinet to invoke Section 144 of the 1999 Constitution and declare ailing President Yar’adua incapacitated and unfit to continue in office.

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