The immediate-past governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions of searching his houses in the Ikoyi and Epe areas of the state without contacting him.
Operatives of the anti-graft agency raided Ambode’s residences on Tuesday.
Its spokesman, Mr Tony Orilade, told The PUNCH that the visit was in furtherance of EFCC’s investigations.
He insisted that the visit was “not a raid, we are there for ongoing investigation.”
The EFCC had in a recent statement by Orilade announced the freezing of three banks accounts allegedly linked to Ambode, which were allegedly used in the diversion of N9.9bn from the coffers of Lagos State Government in September 2018.
But Ambode denied any wrongdoing, saying he was ready to answer questions whenever called upon by the EFCC.
In a statement on Tuesday by his media aide, Habib Aruna, the former governor said till date the anti-graft agency had yet to communicate with him.
Ambode, who is out of the country, added the EFCC operatives’ visit to his houses on Tuesday was without any prior notice.
A video clip circulating online showed that the EFCC operatives who went to Ambode’s house in Epe were challenged by a large crowd of Epe residents. Epe is Ambode’s stronghold.
In the statement by his media aide, the former governor appealed to his supporters to be law-abiding, saying there was no cause for alarm.
The statement read partly, “This morning, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission visited the Epe country home and Parkview, Ikoyi residence of Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, a former governor of Lagos State, with warrants to conduct a search. These searches were carried out extensively and the operatives left without any incident.
“The former governor reiterates that the EFCC has till date not had any direct communication with him on any subject matter whatsoever and if or when it occurs he is ready and willing to respond.”
Meanwhile, three lawyers, who witnessed the search of Ambode’s Epe residence, claimed that they stopped the anti-graft officials from planting evidence in the house.
The lawyers – Fatai Adebanjo, Busari Olanrewaju and Samson Okuneye – in a joint statement on Tuesday said the EFCC team wanted to stop them from being part of the search.
According to them, after some arguments, the operatives succumbed and allowed them into the house as well.
The counsel said the officials seized their phones before the process began.
“Before they entered, we searched all the officials of the EFCC who intended to go in for the search. There was a blue bag which they were holding with them. We requested to see the content of the bag before they could take it in. They got angry and said we could not see the content.
“We strongly resisted them from taking it in since they could not allow us to see it; they later agreed. We later got to know that the bag contained foreign currency which they brought to plant in the house of the ex-governor to incriminate him,” the lawyers claimed.
They claimed that at the end of the search, the EFCC operatives found nothing incriminating, “except some documents, including the State Executive Exco Meetings Vol 1 – 16.”
The lawyers said they, however, refused to let the EFCC investigators take the documents away because they refused to take records of the items.
“To our greatest consternation, the officials of the EFCC, led by Rotimi Oyedepo, held onto our phones and told us to follow them to their office in Ikoyi to get them.
“Thus, almost six phones were forcefully taken away, iPhones inclusive,” the statement added.
Oyedepo, when contacted by one of our correspondents, said the commission would “resolve the matter” and issue a formal statement on the allegation.
“But I want to assure you that nothing like that happened,” he added.
On Tuesday, a video clip emerged on the Internet, capturing EFCC’s operation at Ambode’s house in Epe.
The 35-second video showed scores of presumably Epe residents surrounding a minibus and a white pick-up van, with at least two armed personnel, parked in front of Ambode’s residence.
Amid chaos, some of the residents attempted to open the vehicles without success. Moments later, one of the residents was heard shouting in Yoruba language, “Burst their tyres.”
As the commotion continued, the vehicles were forced to drive away with the armed officers shooting intermittently into the air. The back windscreen appeared broken.
But the EFCC in a late statement by its new spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said three operatives of the commission were allegedly injured during the operation.
The commission said the officers were injured by “hoodlums loyal to the ex-governor who also vandalised a white bus.”
Uwujaren said, “The commission’s operatives were attacked and prevented from executing the search warrant in Epe by irate youths who injured three officers and damaged EFCC official vehicle.”