EFCC Denies Torturing Suleiman Yerima and Uwen Antia
The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to a public letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, by the law firm of Salawu, Akingbolu & Co, captioned, Torture and Abuse of Office, By Director of Operations, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Lagos, AIG Zone 2 Lagos, which appeared in the Vanguard Newspaper of Wednesday June 10, 2015, and which contained allegations of torture and mistreatment of two suspects, Alhaji Suleiman Yerima and Mr. Uwen Antia, in a case of fraud and obtaining under false pretence being investigated by the Commission.
Facts of the Case
Alhaji Suleiman Yerima and Mr. Uwen Antia were on March 6th, 2015 arrested by operatives of the EFCC for allegedly stealing the sum of $2,250,000 (Two Million, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand United States Dollars) from two bankers. Their arrest followed a petition by Aginwa Gladys and Ale Dennis on February 17th, 2015
The suspects allegedly approached the bankers: Gladys Aginwa and Ale Dennis in February, 2015, offering to sell foreign exchange to the tune of $10,000,000 USD to them.
After agreeing on the exchange rate, a sum of N672, 750, 000 (Six Hundred and Seventy Two Million, Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) was transferred from BlueBeam Capital Investment Limited and Capital Field Investment and Trust Limited into the account of one of the bankers: Smiles and Light Limited. It was from the banker’s account that the entire sum was moved into Antia’s account: Kafisto Oil and Gas Limited.
Findings showed that the entire sum of N672, 750,000 actually hit Antia’s account. A Bureau de Change operator who changed the money into its dollar equivalent, told EFCC’s investigators that he went with Antia to his bank along Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the transaction was confirmed. The Bureau de Change operator further said that, Antia subsequently transferred the sum of N666, 250,000(Six Hundred and Sixty- Six Million, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only) into his own account. He said he worked out the dollar equivalent of the money, which was $3,127,000 (Three Million, One Hundred and Twenty- Seven Thousand United States Dollar). He said he could only give $3,124,000(Three Million, One Hundred and Twenty-Four Thousand Dollar) to Antia, leaving a balance of $3,000(Three Thousand Dollar), which he promised to give him the next day.
Immediately Antia collected the foreign exchange, he reportedly headed for No. 17A, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the two bankers and his accomplice, Suleiman were waiting for him. However, rather than handing over the entire foreign exchange to the bankers, he only gave them $1,000,000(One Million Dollars), claiming that he could not source the entire amount.
He allegedly promised to give them a balance of $2,250,000 (Two Million, Two Hundred and Twenty- Five Thousand Dollar) the next day. This balance would be the dollar equivalent of the entire sum of the transaction (N672, 750,000). The bankers said that, since the day Antia and Suleiman gave them the initial $1,000,000, all efforts to reach them had proved abortive. “Their cell phones were turned off”, they said. However, they lodged a complaint with the EFCC and operatives of the Commission eventually arrested the two fraudsters.
The fraudsters, upon their arrest, claimed that they had given one of the bankers, Dennis the balance of the money at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, but investigations by the Commission, showed that no such transaction took place between them.
Claims by the suspects that they were unlawfully detained by the EFCC are false, and intended to mislead the President and the general public. The EFCC is a civil agency which is mindful of the rights of citizens and could not have consciously violated the rights of any suspects.
Upon the arrest of the suspects, they were offered administrative bail same day. However, when they could not meet the bail conditions, the EFCC sought and obtained a Remand Warrant from the Igbosere Magistrate Court of Lagos State, in order to be able to legally detain the suspects.
However, the suspects, claiming a breach of their fundamental rights approached a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos for an injunction to compel the EFCC to release them, even when they had not fulfilled their administrative bail conditions. They sued the Commission in suit No FHC/ L/ CS/ 274/15 & FHC/ L/ CS/ 268/15 before Justice Okon Abang. As part of his reliefs in the suit, Uwen alleged that he was tortured, beaten and shot in the leg; allegations which were found to be completely false by the court and the court consequently threw out the application of Suleiman Yerima on April 14th, 2015 and also declined the application of Antia on May 8th, 2015.
So, there is no truth that they were detained illegally, beaten or tortured.
The EFCC does not torture suspects. The Commission adheres to best international practices in the treatment of suspects. In deed suspects taken to court by the Commission are known to prefer being remanded in the Commission’s custody rather go to prison. Were the Commission’s cell a dungeon, no suspect would prefer it to prison custody.
Following the arrest of the suspects, the Commission received a request from the Zone 2 Headquarters of the Nigeria Police, Onikan, Lagos seeking their release to answer cases of conspiracy and obtaining under false pretence. They were handed over to the Police to assist them in their investigations and were later returned to the EFCC.
The Commission is not liable to account for the treatment of the suspects while in the custody of a sister agency.
Nothing of such transpired between the suspects and the named officials. If the suspects have any proof or evidence of this, they can come forward with them.
The investigation carried out by the EFCC had no bearing to the person of the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. Rather, the transaction in which the suspects fraudulently obtained $2,250,000(equivalent to N467,750,000) at the material time of the transaction, involved Aginwa Gladyls and Dennis Ales.
Arrangements have been made at a High Court in Lagos for the arraignment of the suspects.
The suspects are high- profile serial fraudsters. Two sections in EFCC, Lagos are investigating Yerima for fraudulent dealings with some members of the public. Besides, he is standing trial at a Federal High Court sitting in Jos on another case of fraud.