A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom state, Uwemedimo Nwoko (SAN) has said that his current travails with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) may not be unconnected with his role against the anti graft agency probing the government of former Governor Godswill Akpabio.
Nwoko who was quizzed by the EFCC recently over his role in various financial transactions of both the former and current administrations in the state spoke on a live radio programme in Uyo yesterday
The former AG who praised the EFCC for being civil, respectful and professional throughout the five days period of interrogation however expressed suspicion that the claims made against him by the agency could just be cover for the intention of punishing him for being the first lawyer to challenge the right of a federal agency to probe the activities of a state government in a federal state.
“Let me say this. When I came into office, EFCC was harassing the former governor, His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio and trying to probe into the activities of the state government in the past, (before Udom Emmanuel).
“So, as a constitutional lawyer, I demanded to know the basis the EFCC as a federal agency was drawing it’s powers from to come and query the way the state government was spending money from, in a federal republic like Nigeria. And I wasn’t satisfied with the answer they gave me so I went to court.
“I filed a suit. We filed the very first suit of that nature in the whole country. I filed that suit in February 2017 and we were doing that matter all along. So because of that matter, we got an injunction stopping the EFCC from interfering with the transactions of the Akwa Ibom State government. Not the transactions of the days of governor Udom Emmanuel, transactions that happened before he came into government.
“When we got the injunction, the EFCC wasn’t happy with me because they said such a thing has not happened before in the country, that I’m the only person that came to do it and I told them that I swore to uphold the constitution and what I’m taking to court for interpretation is the same constitution I swore to uphold.
“What you need to do is to send your lawyers to court to come and argue that matter. If they win, they win, if I win, I win. So because of the injunction, they couldn’t access Akwa Ibom State. They couldn’t make any serious incursion into the state. I think that was one of the reasons they were waiting for me. So, I also knew that when I leave government, that they would come for me. That’s why I said I was expecting them and kept all my records very straight.” He explained.
He explained that the N65 million out of N1.3B transferred to his account by a former NBA chairman, Mr Paul Usoro(SAN) that the EFCC said was a kickback was meant to pay lawyers of Akwa Ibom State extraction which he was under obligation to coordinate as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice adding that they were e-transfers and were verifiable.
“EFCC should have asked the circumstances under which Paul Usoro, SAN transferred 65 million naira to my account. As at the time 1.3 billion naira was paid to Paul Usoro, SAN, we were equally running a 37 election tribunal matters, running four tribunals that was relocated from Uyo to Abuja.
“Paul Usoro was coordinating the entire legal team. Amongst the legal team were local lawyers, local lawyers in the sense of Akwa Ibom based lawyers and Paul Usoro was handling the Senior Advocates and the other lawyers from outside the state.
“He mandated me as Attorney General to coordinate the home based lawyers. So the N65M was for the lawyers I coordinated. Good enough, it was not something that was hidden.
“The statement of account which they already had in their file from Zenith Bank reflected that the money was transferred to my account on the 27th, August 2015, on the 28th, I started paying out the monies and good enough, they were all transfers, so they have it in their own record.” He explained.
Nwoko dismissed the second allegation that he used funds from the Akwa Ibom State government through the Ministry of Justice to pay for the the legal fees of Governor Emmanuel during the post election litigation challenging the victory of the PDP in the 2019 elections.
“It couldn’t have been because the legal fees of His Excellency, the governor was paid totally from the party (PDP) coordinated arrangement. No one naira of Akwa Ibom State money was used to pay the legal bills of the governor. Not one naira and I told the EFCC that,” the former AG said.
He added that he expected his arrest long before it came because, “it was one of the things I expected. I expected that when I leave office, that I will be taken to anywhere in Nigeria, that I will be questioned, that I will be asked to make statements and clarifications”.
“You couldn’t have been in the kind of office that I occupied, did the things I did, stepped on the toes I stepped on and you didn’t anticipate that when you come out, that this kind of thing will happen. Possibly, it may not be the last time. Those things are expected”.
“But I am ready for anything. If I’m going to be charged to court, I’ve made my statement. My belief is that when they read through my statement and they need any further documents which are already available to them.
“They have a team of lawyers to look at the documents and determine whether given what I have said, there is a valid case in court to pursue. If they don’t have a case, they will also advice themselves properly.”