The Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Ibarhim Lamorde has promised to build a robust relationship with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, (NLRC), in fighting the menace of lottery scam and other unwholesome practices in the lottery sector.
Lamorde gave the assurance on Tuesday, while signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the NLRC on ways to effectively combat fraud in the lottery sector in Nigeria.
The EFCC boss assured that, the Commission would spare no effort towards cleaning up the industry of cheats and illegal lottery operators. “We will do our best to bring violators of laws to justice”, Lamorde said.
According to him, under the new agreement, “the Commission will make available its operatives with respect to enforcement of the National Lottery Act, in the area of training, investigation and prosecution, so as to have a joint team to clean up the system for the good of the country”.
Lamorde opined that, there was a need to appoint focal persons to ease collaboration between the two agencies.
In his remark, NLRC Director General, Adolphus Joe Ekpe, noted that, the essence of the MoU was to fashion out areas of cooperation and collaboration between EFCC and NLRC with a view to tackling financial crimes in relation to lottery activities.
He expressed concern over the increasing rate of illegal operators of lottery saying, “some people have turned Lottery to gambling, fraud and economic crime platforms. For those of us in Lottery Commission, we have been given several names like chacha and all sorts. We are not deterred. In fact, this is why this collaboration with EFCC becomes imperative”.
According to Ekpe, “lottery business is a tool for job creation, wealth redistribution and national development”.
In a related development, the Federal High Court in Apo, Abuja has been told how Head, Capital Accounts Unit, Nigeria Prison Service, Imaobong Akon Esu-Nte, awarded multi-million naira contracts to her companies.
In the trial of the Esu-Nte which commenced Tuesday before Justice Adegbola Adeniyi , the first prosecution witness Sini Omar John, a Superintendent of Police with the EFCC, while being led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Aso Larrys Peters, told the court that Esu-Nte, during investigation, was found to be a civil servant on Grade Level 14 in the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation before she was seconded to the Nigeria Prisons Service and put in charge of contract payments, among others.
He further disclosed that Esun-Nte incorporated five companies- Abasiaga Global Resources, Abasiono Nigeria Limited, Ememima Global Ventures Limited, ID Integrated Petroleum Product Limited and Darima Properties- between 2008 and 2011.
According to John, the accused, in November 2011, awarded Abasiaga Global Resources Limited a contract to the tune of N14,000,000( Fourteen Million Naira).
He added: “She also awarded ID Integrated a contract worth N55 million and many more. After the investigation, the accused was invited and was showed the facts of the case. She then explained her own side of the story. She admitted to all the facts thereafter and wrote a statement with the word of caution written on it.’’
Upon this submission, the prosecuting counsel tendered in evidence the document containing the contracts as awarded by the Nigeria Prisons.
However, the defence counsel, Titus O. Ashaolu, SAN, questioned the admissibility of the documents, citing Section 104 (1) of the Evidence Act. ‘‘My Lord, these documents are not certified. For a public document to be admissible, it must have the following: date, signature, designation of the person issuing it and a prescribed fee as stated in Section 104 of the Evidence Act’’.
But EFCC counsel Larrys Peters urged the court to discountenance Ashaolu’s argument, maintaining that ‘‘the documents are duly certified.’’
After listening to counsel, Justice Adeniyi ruled that the document should be admitted in evidence, and marked P1a-P1q.
Although EFCC counsel also prayed the court to admit the accused person’s written statement in evidence, the move was opposed by Ashaolu, SAN who told the court that his client allegedly wrote it under duress. He pleaded that the court should order a trial within trial.
Justice Adeniyi granted his prayers. Esu-Nte, who was arraigned on November 14, 2014, is alleged to have abused her office by stealing over N83million of Prisons funds with which she acquired exotic cars and property across the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
She had pleaded not guilty to the charge and was admitted to bail.
However, it will be recalled that in the bid to forestall her trial, the accused, through her counsel, filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge and as well as the competence of the charge.
Justice Adeniyi, on February 10, 2015, however, dismissed the application on the grounds that it lacked merit.
But Ashaolu today informed the court that he had filed a motion dated 20th February, 2015 seeking leave of court to appeal the ruling of February 10, 2015.
The matter has been adjourned to April 30, 2015.