A former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom, 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 with journalists 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 its 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. “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 never happened before in the country, that I’m the only person that came to do it. 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 left the 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 N1.3bn 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 N65 million to my account. As at the time N1.3 billion was paid to Paul Usoro, SAN, we were equally running 37 election tribunal matters, running four tribunals that were 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.”