ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Festus Keyamo, on Tuesday stunned the Senate when he told its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions that it lacked the powers to summon the immediate past Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to appear before it to answer questions on his alleged complicity in the diversion of funds amounting to N1 trillion.
The Committee had invited Larmode in August to appear before it over allegation that the EFCC fraudulently diverted over N1 trillion proceeds of corruption that were recovered by the anti-graft agency.
The fraud allegedly committed by the leadership of the EFCC dated back to Lamoorde’s days as the Director of Operations of the EFCC between 2003 and 2007, and as acting chairman of the commission between the period of June 2007 to May 2008, when the then chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, was away on a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos.
But the EFCC’s counsel, who argued that the Senate did not have the powers to summon his client, further explained that Lamoorde could only be invited as a witness.
“We will take advice (on whether Lamorde is to appear, as requested by the Committee next Tuesday, November 24). We will look at it, and take appropriate decision; but I can tell you that the Senate itself is not a place that their decision is not subject to review.
“The section quoted (Section 88, 89 of the 1999 Constitution as amended) says: anybody can be summoned as a witness, not as a person to be investigated. It says in the course of that investigation, anybody can be summoned as a witness to give evidence.
“What they (Senate) did was to send a letter of investigation. The Senate also has no powers to send letters of invitation. They have (no) powers to issue summons to people to appear. Can the court, for example, write a letter of invitation to anybody. The powers of this Committee is the same powers a court of law exercises. If the court of law wants someone to appear before it, it issues summons. A court of law cannot write an invitation letter.
“So, this Senate has no powers to write letter of invitation. They should correct it. Do not forget, and I want all of you to remember, that it is this same Senate that, for many years, did not know their powers regarding service chiefs. I was the one that went to court to correct all of them. I wrote to them over and over regarding their powers, and they did not listen to me, and I went to court and corrected them.
“I am prepared to go to court at any time to correct this Senate. They don’t know their powers, I insist. You should know that I have done research on the powers of the Senate,” Keyamo insisted.
Keyamo also refuted allegation that Lamorde, who did not appear before the Committee, was on exile.
“He is still a policeman. He has no reason to go on exile. Larmode has served this country very (well). And let me tell you this: if you don’t know; the only way to succeed as the Chairman of EFCC is for you not to succeed at all,” he added.
In his remarks, the chairman of the committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, explained that the Senate does not accept representation when it invites anybody to appear before it.
Anyanwu, however, said that the person so invited, if he or she so wishes, could come with his lawyers.
In his contribution, Senator Dino Melaye said that the 8th Senate is a very responsible one, and would make sure by all legal means possible to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“No Nigerian is above the law. We have invited the former Chairman of EFCC on several occasions. First was on the 26th of August, 2015. We have sent several others since then, inviting him. To my dismay, he is not here again this afternoon, and this is not a court of law, where a lawyer can go and defend his client.
“By convention and practice, once you get the summons of the National Assembly, it is imperative, mandatory and obligatory that you must appear. This is contained in Section 89 of the Constitution. He said the Senate would have invoked its constitutional powers by summoning Lamorde, but for the fact that he was represented by Festus Keyamo, a respected lawyer,” he noted.
Senator Obinna Ogba wondered why Lamorde failed to live by example being a man, who was a former boss of the anti-graft agency that usually invites people to appear before it.
“The non-appearance of Lamorde at the probe is an insult and a disrespect to the Senate. At the last adjournment, Lamorde wrote a letter to the Committee that he was outside the country; but behold, we saw him in Abuja here. What does that portray? I think enough is enough,” he warned.
Senator Tayo Alasoadura expressed disappointment that Lamorde could not live by the standard he had set for others when he was the EFCC boss.
“We are in a situation whereby people are showing their shamelessness. I recall when the EFCC, under Lamorde, invited me as the Commissioner for Finance in Ondo State, and I had to honour the invitation. Now, he has an invitation from a Senate committee, and for about three months, he has been dodging. If we issue a warrant now, people will say (that) we are maltreating him because he has an issue with the Senate leadership. This is a fact finding panel; nobody is interested in persecuting anybody,” he explained.