By Soni Daniel, Henry Umoru & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Abuja—Security sources yesterday condemned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for its desperate and belated bid to rope in the immediate past Director General of the Department of State Services, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, into the $2.1 billion arms scam, almost three years after leaving office.
Sources close to Ekpenyong, who spoke in reaction to the failed move by EFCC operatives to arrest him on Tuesday morning in Abuja, described the move as strange, despicable and an afterthought since Ekpenyong was never invited or questioned in relation to the arms probe.
The DSS itself was said to be miffed at EFCC’s disregard for its autonomy and expressed shock over the unholy attempt by the anti-graft agency to drag its former DG into the arms scandal in 2017 when the Presidential Panel on the Arms probe, which started work in 2015, neither questioned him nor the DSS because they had nothing to do with the military procurement.
He also pointed out: “EFCC had never before now invited or questioned the former DG on any criminal breach, only for its operatives to barge into his home, with a view to arresting him as a common criminal.
“Ekpenyong had made it clear that the DSS under his watch had no role whatsoever to play in the arms purchase since it was not within its remit to acquire arms for the military.
“The DSS played no role at all in the arms purchase and that is the truth. The DG served this country faithfully and transparently and since leaving office in 2015, nobody has had any reason to accuse him of taking anything that does not belong to him.
“As a tradition, the DSS makes returns to the Presidency on March 1 every year on its operations and nothing done by the agency can, therefore, be hidden from the government.
“Even assuming that there are issues with DSS management, which the EFCC needed to investigate, the current DSS DG is there to answer to such matters without storming Ekpeyong,s home with guns in the wee hours of the day.
‘’The equipment that were procured to secure this country during his tenure are there with their papers and the vendors are known. So, nothing is hidden.
“It is apparent that the EFCC is either actuated by ulterior motives to intimidate and blackmail the DSS through orchestrated media trial or simply trying to dent the image of the Service and its personnel for reasons best known to them.
It will be recalled that but for the timely intervention of the men of the DSS, the EFCC would have whisked Ekpenyong away from his Asokoro home on Tuesday morning, citing his alleged involvement in arms deal, as reason for the dawn raid on his property.
After the failed bid by its operatives to arrest Ekpenyong, the EFCC issued a statement complaining of being blocked by the DSS from carrying out its assignment.
Meanwhile, the Senate has begun a probe into the alleged security threat engendered by the face-off among the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; Directorate of State Security, DSS and the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, over attempt by the anti-graft agency to arrest former Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong and his counterpart in NIA, Mr. Ayo Oke, on Tuesday in Abuja.
Consequently, the Senate resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to carry out a holistic investigation into the face-off and described the issue as an embarrassment to the country because of the wide publicity it attracted in national dailies and social media..
Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, who disclosed that the adhoc committee would be set up, however, failed to name members that would discharge the assignment and report back within two weeks.
Resolutions of the Senate yesterday were sequel to a motion of urgent national importance raised under Order 42 of the Senate Standing Rule by Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West.
In his presentation, Senator Melaye, said: “Nigeria is embarrassed before the international community because EFCC operatives were stopped from arresting the former heads of DSS and NIA by their officers.”
Melaye, who stressed the urgent need for the Senate to wade into the matter, in view of its threat to national security, said: “Our responsibility as a Senate is to ensure respect for the rule of law. The media have been awash with a disastrous situation that happened yesterday (Tuesday).
“The EFCC went to the residence of former DG of the DSS, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, to effect his arrest and the men of the DSS stopped the EFCC from arresting him.
“The development created gridlock in the area as people living there were either not allowed to gain entrance to their houses or to move out. Same yesterday, (Tuesday), the EFCC was stopped from arresting the former DG of NIA, Mr. Oke, and the officers of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency stopped that arrest.
“We will recall that the same DG, DSS, had written this Senate before now on the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. We are not here to lay blame on anyone but to say Nigeria has been embarrassed before the international community for two sister agencies to be involved in fisticuff.”
The Senate, however, upheld Melaye’s prayer when it decided to set up an Ad-hoc Committee to probe the matter, but refused to consider a second prayer asking President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, urged the lawmakers to remain calm while the ad-hoc committee probed the development.
“Anything we say now will be based on assumptions and not facts,’’ Saraki said.
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, however, said yesterday that his agency would not relent in its efforts to arrest and prosecute the former Director General of the Department of State Security, DSS, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong and the sacked Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the inauguration of the Audit Committee on the Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets within and outside Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the First Lady’s Conference room, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Magu said he was not in any way deterred by the prevention of arrest of the two former heads of government agencies by armed men from DSS and NIA.
He said both Ekpenyong and Oke must be made to face the law, claiming that the EFCC had concrete evidence against them.
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