EFCC traces seven billion naira cash to religious group

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said it has traced N7bn loot to a religious group.

The discovery was made in the course of investigating N30 billion looted from the treasury.

EFCC Chairman Ola Olukoyede broke this news yesterday in Abuja.

He claims that, the religious group went to court and obtained an injunction preventing the anti-graft agency from proceeding with the fraud investigation.

The injunction further ordered that the EFCC should not invite, arrest or prosecute its leader, Olukoyede added.

He spoke at a public engagement on “Youth, religion and the fight against corruption” and the launch of the “Inter-faith manual and fraud risk assessment project for ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government” at the Yar’Adua Centre.

The EFCC chair, who said the agency had uncovered a religious sect laundering money for terrorists, warned traditional rulers, religious groups, institutions and sects against money laundering.

He noted that 60 per cent of the 747 convictions secured by the anti-graft body within three months of his assumption of duties bordered on cybercrime.

He said: “We will not give up on recovering the stolen funds. It is so sad that as I stand before the eminent audience today, that our experience in fighting corruption has to do with the religious leaders and even traditional rulers.

“As I stand before you, there is a matter we are handling of over N30 billion fleeced from Nigeria, and we were able to trace N7 billion to a particular religious body.

“As we wrote a letter to the leader, the next thing we saw was a restraining order stopping us from inviting them, stopping us from recovering the money.

“Of course, we have appealed. Sometimes ago, we investigated the issue of money laundering somewhere in this country.

” There is a particular religious sect that launders money for terrorists; these are the problems we are battling with.”

He added: “To our faith leaders, my appeal is that those who lead our society from churches and mosques should develop messages that glorify industry, hard work, probity and contentment over riches, irrespective of how it was made.

“We all must stand up and be counted in the efforts to reset the mentality of our youths that the fast lane to affluence is fraud.

“Aside from our commitment to using faith to tackle corruption in various levels of society, we have also developed a remarkable tool which we intend to deploy to prevent corruption in our Ministries, Department and Agencies.”

Explaining that Fraud Risk Assessment Project will help government agencies to address systemic vulnerabilities at the personal, institutional and environmental levels,

Olukoyode said: “When fully deployed, it will save the nation billions of naira in stolen wealth, time and resources spent in investigating grand corruption cases.

“The project is intended to commence, in the first instance, with 20 extremely vulnerable agencies of government.

“We believe that with the support of the government and the cooperation of the leadership of the selected agencies, we will be able to drastically close the space for brazen graft in the public sector.”

Olukoyede said although much ground has been covered by the EFCC on convictions and recoveries, the unabating trend of corrupt practices called for serious concerns.

To address the situation, he said there should be emphasis on prevention of crimes through well-thought-out and coordinated efforts of the commission.

He said: “Indeed, proactive implementation of effective and coordinated policies against corruption remains the best guarantee for public security, economic development, and the effective functioning of public and private institutions.

“The recalibration of the commission’s prevention strategy seeks to promote proactive deterrence and greater inclusivity in terms of participation of all stakeholders.

” Our motivation is to see how corruption, whether in ministries and agencies of government, in the ivory towers, or the private sector, could be prevented before it occurs.”

The EFCC boss said the commission was prioritising two areas of concern: the involvement of youth in cybercrimes and the susceptibility of ministries, departments and agencies to grand corruption.

He expressed concern about the disconcerting allure of computer-related fraud for youths in tertiary institutions.

He said: “The danger of having a tribe of future leaders whose outlook in life is that fraud and corruption are the stairways to fame and fortune, is however, too dire to treat with kid gloves.”

Olukoyede, therefore, called on managers of academic institutions to rise to the challenge of mentoring youths on the right p life.

“It is our view that the academia can contribute more in the anti-corruption fight through mentorship as youths in today’s fast-paced world need close supervision to navigate their path to success and purposeful living.”

The EFCC’s boss unfolded the Fraud Risk Assessment Project to assist government agencies to address systemic vulnerabilities at the personnel, institutional and environmental levels and take preemptive measures.

He assured that the project “will save the nation billions in stolen wealth, time and resources spent in investigating grand corruption cases.”

Lauding President Tinubu for his unflinching support for the fight against corruption, Olukoyede said: “With the political will of the administration, I believe that we have a golden opportunity to rewrite the story of our nation’s quest for improved transparency and accountability in public affairs.”

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, urged the EFCC to intensify its preventive approach, noting that “prevention is cheaper and easier to curb crimes’.

He said: “I believe that concerted efforts should be channeled towards the preventive aspect of the commission’s mandate as it is cheaper and easier to prevent crimes.

“The commission’s mandate is beyond investigation and prosecution of financial crimes which it had over the years pursued vigorously.

“The cost of investigating and prosecuting all species of financial crimes will significantly reduce with adequate preventive measures in place.”

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The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, identified corruption as a major challenge.

“Corruption remains one of the major challenges that we have in our country, the albatross that hampers development and stifles the potential of the youths.

“It undermines the principles of justice, fairness and equality, eroding the very fabrics of the society.

“It is a cancer that eats away the trust and integrity of institutions, hindering progress and development.

“It discourages hard work, dignity of labour, honesty, respect for one another and creates a wicked generation that destroys the future of their nation.”

The Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar, promised to support the EFCC in its fight.

Saying that the fight against corruption is a fight for all, the Sultan said: “We want to assure you that we will support you 100 per cent in this fight because it is a fight for our lives.

“If we really want Nigeria to be Nigeria we can proudly call our country, we must fight this corruption to the last level.

“We want to assure the EFCC chairman, as religious leaders, we will invite you for a close door interaction about what we should do as religious leaders.”

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, called for devolution of powers. He said local government areas should be empowered and greatly encouraged to bring development closer to the people.

He said: “If we don’t look inward and change the structure, nothing tangible would be achieved. Go and make the local government powerful. It is the root of our heritage and customs; make them powerful.”

John Momoh, who was Guest Speaker, counselled youths on the consequences of cybercrimes.

The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Channels Media Group explained that the digital age has brought with it opportunities and threats in equal measures.

He said cybercrime such as identity theft and financial fraud that are not just illegal, but also erode the very fabric of trust that holds society together.

Momoh said the immediate gratification and illusion of ‘easy money’ that activities of internet crime promises is nothing but a mirage.

He warned the consequences of engaging in cybercrime are severe, ranging from legal repercussions to a loss of reputation, trust, and future opportunities.

The guest speaker said: “A momentary lapse in judgment can lead to a lifetime of regret.

“It’s crucial to understand that the skills used in these crimes, if channeled positively, have the power to revolutionise industries, create jobs, and contribute to the economy in meaningful ways.”

He called for corporate reflection on the issue of internet crime to ensure that youths are directed to more useful engagements on the internet.

“As we gather here, let us reflect on the power of our collective action and the promise held by our younger generations.

“The fight against corruption is not just a battle for today but a foundation for a prosperous future.

“In an era where technology has become as essential as the air we breathe, it’s no surprise that our youth are more connected and tech-savvy than any generation before them.”

Reminding the youths of their role in upholding ethical standards and combating corruption cannot be overstated, Momoh said: “The influence of religion, in its essence, teaches us about morality, ethics, and the virtues of honesty and integrity.

“Across different faiths and beliefs, these principles remain constant. The moral compass provided by religious teachings can be a formidable force against corruption.”

The event was attended by various political, religious, traditional leaders, including youth groups, academia, civil society organisations, anti-corruption agencies, among others.

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