The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission says the new Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ali Modu Sheriff, is still under investigation for alleged corruption.
Sheriff was arrested by the commission in June last year for alleged embezzlement of public funds during his eight years as governor of Borno State but was granted bail.
His government was said to have received over N300bn from the Federation Account between 2003 and 2011, an amount alleged to have been mismanaged by Sheriff.
The ex-governor of Borno State was subsequently detained from June 3 to June 4, 2015 and released on administrative bail without being charged to court.
The EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, had said at the time, “We can ask him to come back anytime we need him.”
Speaking with our correspondent on Monday during a telephone interview, Uwujaren said, “Sheriff is still under investigation.”
When asked to explain how far the commission had gone in the probe, Uwujaren said, “I cannot disclose the details of the investigations for now but the matter is already in the public domain.”
A reliable source within the anti-graft agency told one of our correspondents that Sheriff’s probe was not a witch-hunt but a normal criminal investigation.
He said, “Criminal matters do not have statutes of limitation. If a crime took place 30 years ago, we can re-open it at any point in time and that is what is happening.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC has arraigned one Valentine Orji, the Managing Director of Naxpro Energy & Shipping Company Limited before Justice A. A. Onojovwo of the Delta State High Court, sitting in Warri, on six counts bordering on issuance of dud cheque to the tune of N60m.
According to a statement by the commission on Monday, the petitioner, ARC Marine & Civil Construction Company Limited, alleged that sometime in September, 2013, Orji approached it along with one Mr. Bimbo, requesting to buy a vessel, MV DOLA, marked IMO H. 6826793.
After the negotiations, the parties agreed on the sum of N140m.
The two parties reportedly agreed that the vessel would be handed over to Orji’s company after the sum of N80m was deposited for the vessel and issuance of post-dated cheque, covering the balance sum of N60m.
Upon the payment of the initial amount, the vessel was handed over to the defendant’s company and it was agreed that if by April 1, 2014, he failed to pay the balance, the vessel should be returned.
However, on presentation of Orji’s cheque at the bank, it was dishonoured on the grounds of insufficient funds.
Efforts made to recover the vessel or money, the commission stated, proved abortive.
However, when the charges were read to him, Orji pleaded not guilty.
Prosecuting counsel, M. T. Iko, urged the court to fix a date to commence trial.
The defence counsel, Erikefe, prayed the court to grant the accused person bail.
Justice Onojovwo granted the accused person bail in the sum of N5m and two sureties in like sum.
The judge said the sureties must be resident in the Warri or Effurun jurisdiction with a landed property to be verified by the court bailiff.
The judge ordered Orji to be remanded in prison pending the perfection of his bail.
The matter was adjourned till March 22, 2016, for the commencement of trial.
Meanwhile, Sheriff, on Monday, dared his opponents, who had called for his resignation, to perish the thought as he was not ready to vacate office or step down.
The former governor of Borno State, who spoke with journalists shortly after taking over from the Acting National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, said those calling for his resignation were not as popular as himself.
He specifically mentioned a former Governor of the old Gongola State, Mr. Wilberforce Juta, who asked him to resign from office immediately.
Juta was the arrowhead of a group known as the PDP Rescue Group, who had asked him to leave.
Some prominent members of this group include a former President of the Senate, Adolphus Wabara, and a former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Muktar Shagari.
Sheriff said Juta presented himself for the selection process and wondered why someone, he said he defeated, would turn to the media and demand his resignation.
He said, “I saw the person who was reading the press statement, Amb. Wilberforce Juta. He submitted himself to the National Working Committee of this party, aspiring to be the chairman.
“Mohammed Wakil that you saw on the television also submitted himself to the working committee, to be appointed chairman.
“And votes had been cast. The man that was reading the press statement got one vote and he’s asking me to resign. Therefore, I will not resign.”
He said he would only tender his resignation letter if he was asked to leave by members of the National Executive Committee of the party.
Sheriff said, “The leadership of this party, in their wisdom, asked me to lead. If the NEC of this party collectively asks me to leave, I will leave; but not somebody who contested an election and got one vote. I think if there is morality, he should not even go to the television.
“In the midst of everybody, you got one vote and you go outside and asked the chairman to resign. My brother, where is the credibility? Where is the justice?
“I would have listened to him better if he did not aspire to be one. Therefore, I did not plan to resign, I will not resign, I will reposition this party and take it to election within a time frame decided by the leaders of this party to conduct a credible, effective congress that will stand the test of time.”
He nevertheless asked his traducers to forgive him and join hands with him to build the party.
On those accusing him of being a sponsor of terror group, Boko Haram, Sheriff said it was wrong to tag him as either a sponsor or the creator of the sect.
Sheriff said, “No one has ever accused me of supporting Boko Haram, no court of competent jurisdiction has ever linked me with Boko Haram.
“I will do one thing this time round. People like Femi Fani-Kayode will not go scot-free this time round. Now that I have been given the opportunity to talk, let me say that I have nothing to do with Boko Haram.
“They killed my brother, same mother and same father. They said they were going to kill me because I refused to allow them to Islamise northern Nigeria.
“Boko Haram (members) are criminals. My friends are all over the world. The real sponsors of Boko Haram will be caught and I have nothing to do with Boko Haram.”
He however said he didn’t know when his tenure would end as the national chairman of the main opposition party.
Sheriff, who was responding to questions on his tenure, some having claimed that he was asked to serve the remaining tenure of the former National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, said he was not told when his tenure would end.
By the party’s constitution, his tenure and other members of the National Working Committee ends in March.
But he said, “I am here to rebuild the party. What time we need to do this job will be determined by the leaders and owners of the party when they sit down collectively to discuss.
“For me, taking over office today, I cannot tell you when I am leaving. I will only tell you when the party leaders sit down and see what is the immediate time to do this job; if they decide, I am ready for it.”
But the Board of Trustees of the PDP on Monday joined some members of the party to demand the resignation of Sheriff, saying the new party chairman was not credible enough to lead the party.
Also, a former Minister of Transport and member of the BoT, Ojo Maduekwe, said he had never expressed opinion anywhere to leave the party.
The BoT said Sheriff was not an option to lead the party.
The Acting Chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, stated the position of the board at a press briefing after its meeting in Abuja.
Walid added, “We, as the conscience of the party, are still of the strong view that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is not an option to be the national chairman of the party.”
The BoT acting Chairman, who declined any further comment, said members of the board were still consulting amongst themselves.
Also speaking with journalists on the occasion, Maduekwe said he would not leave the PDP.
He explained that the PDP made some mistakes, and that it did not build on its success in the past.
The party, he added, also did not check impunity, which eventually led to the its downfall.
He said, “This is not the time to leave the party. This is the time to regain the trust of Nigerians. All we need to do is to reorganise the party.”