It was gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arrested a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr Clement Illoh Onubuogo, for alleged N10 billion Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) fraud. The agency’s operatives picked him up at the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
He was alleged to have shunned an invitation to clear the air over an alleged diversion of N606million SURE-P fund under his watch. EFCC said Onubuogo converted the funds from the N10billion released by the Federal Government during his supervision of the SURE-P.
Onubogo was in court for his trial in a separate charge filed against him by the commission. He was earlier arraigned for alleged not declaring some of his hidden cash assets. EFCC said he failed to declare N97, 300,613.44, $139,575.50 and £10,121.52 found in three of his bank accounts.
Onubuogo pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned before Justice Babs Kuewumi. When the case was called yesterday, no EFCC counsel was present. Onubuogo’s lawyers, A. Dada and T. S. Awhana, said the defendant was very ill and asked for an adjournment to enable him get treatment.
The defendant also appeared restless while in the dock. He laid his head by the side of the dock in apparent discomfort. The judge noted that he adjourned several cases so that more time could be spent on the trial.
He agreed to adjourn the case as no prosecution was present and in view of the defendant’s health condition. As the case was being adjourned, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, walked in.
The defence counsel, who were already on their way out, also returned to the courtroom to complain to the judge that Onubuogo had just been arrested. Dada faulted EFCC for arresting his client, who he said was already on bail, and denied that his client shunned invitation.
But, Oyedepo said no law stops anyone undergoing trial from being re-arrested for another criminal matter. “The money belongs to all of us and we should all support efforts towards recovering it,” Oyedepo said.
The judge said having already adjourned the case, there was nothing he could do about the permanent secretary being re-arrested in court.
Onubuogo had on September 8, 2017, objected to EFCC’s application seeking the final forfeiture of N664, 475,246.6 and $137,680.11 allegedly recovered from him. The court had earlier ordered the interim forfeiture of the money following an August 15, 2017, motion ex-parte application by the EFCC.
Justice Abdulazeez Anka, who ordered the interim forfeiture, also authorised the EFCC to seize a property described as “Clement Illoh’s Mansion” at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba in Delta State and a hotel on 19, Madue Nwafor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State.
Awhana, while acknowledging the receipt of the motion for final forfeiture, said he had already filed a counter-affidavit against it. The lawyer added that he filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to make the interim order.
The court had directed the EFCC to notify the permanent secretary, in whose possession the properties were found, to appear before the court and show cause within 14 days why the properties should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.
The judge also directed the publication of the interim orders in any national newspaper for any interested person to appear before the judge to show cause within 14 days why the order should not be made permanent.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned until November 30, 2017, for trial. A date is yet to be fixed for the forfeiture hearing.