Ten months after resisting arrest, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday arrested a former Director-General of the Department of State Services, Mr Ita Ekpenyong, who led the agency from 2010 to 2015.
Operatives of the DSS had on November 21, 2017 prevented men of the EFCC from arresting Ekpenyong and a former boss of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke.
One of our correspondents, who witnessed the arrest of Ekpenyong at his residence at 46 Mamman Nasir Street, Asokoro District, Abuja, reported that EFCC operatives, accompanied by over 20 armed policemen, searched the white mansion for about two hours.
It was, however, learnt that no money was found in the building.
It could not be established if any incriminating document was found in the house.
Around 3.20pm, however, Ekpenyong was taken away in a black Toyota Land Cruiser and driven to the head office of the EFCC in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja.
A source at the EFCC said, “The search was not as fruitful as we had expected it to be because the man had 10 months to dispose of all evidences. We are, however, questioning him and we will get more information.”
When contacted on the telephone, the spokesman for the EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed Ekpenyong’s arrest. He, however, declined to provide more information.
“The former DSS boss was brought in this afternoon. He is currently in our custody,” Uwujaren said.
Ekpenyong was, however, released a few hours later to return on Friday for another round of questioning.
Ekpenyong, it was learnt, was under investigation as part of a larger probe into how billions of naira was transferred from the Central Bank of Nigeria to the DSS and the National Intelligence Agency in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
While $289,202,382 (N57.8bn at the time) was given to the NIA, about N20bn was handed to the Department of State Services.
The funds were approved by the embattled former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), reportedly under the instruction of then President, Goodluck Jonathan, according to memos.
“We want to know how the money given to the DSS was spent and how much Ekpenyong left for his successor (Lawal Daura),” an EFCC source said.
The EFCC is working on the theory that Daura allegedly diverted the funds left behind by Ekpenyong.
“When we tried to investigate the matter, the DSS, under the leadership of Daura, refused to cooperate with us and even threatened to shoot our men when we attempted to execute a search warrant last year. We believe he was trying to cover his tracks,” the source said.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the EFCC would invite more officials of the DSS as part of investigations into the $2.1bn arms scam.
Recall that the EFCC had, in a statement, last year said several DSS officials had been summoned for their alleged role in the scam but that Daura refused to cooperate.
“In the course of investigating the arms procurement scandal, the office of the commission has had cause to request the release of officers of other security agencies, including the Nigerian army, the Nigerian Air Force, the Nigerian Navy and now the DSS, for questioning. All, but the DSS, have acceded to this request,” the EFCC had lamented.
The DSS had been refusing to cooperate on the grounds that the Act establishing the agency states that the agency shall only be answerable to the Presidency and, therefore, only the Presidency can investigate it.
It was learnt that the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had given the acting EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, the power to investigate the DSS.
A source added, “By the DSS Instrument 1 of 1999, no person or agency is empowered to investigate the spending or operational matter of the DSS except the President and that is what Daura had been taking advantage of.
“However, following the meeting between the acting President and the new acting head of the DSS, Osinbajo asked the DSS to give the EFCC full cooperation and that was why we were able to search Ekpenyong’s house today without hindrance.
“In the coming days, we will invite more DSS officials for questioning.”
Meanwhile, the dismissed Director-General of the DSS, Daura, who is currently on house arrest, has got his passport seized by security officials.
This was just as investigations continued into his role in the siege to the National Assembly complex on Tuesday.
While some police sources said the house arrest of Daura began on Wednesday evening, others said he regained his freedom from security operatives and was asked to go home on Thursday.
Reliable sources said on Thursday that while Daura regained his freedom, his passport was seized.
A source said, “On Thursday, Daura was asked to leave the custody, but his passport was taken from him. This is to ensure that he does not leave the country until all investigations about him are concluded.
“Immediately after leaving the Aso Rock on Tuesday, he was taken to the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad facility in the Guzape area of Abuja for interrogation. He was then taken to a facility in Gwarinpa where he had been under a house arrest.”
The police authorities which are investigating Daura have yet to provide any information officially on the matter.
The Force Public Relations Officer, acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Jimoh Moshood, had yet to answer calls made to his line on the matter or reply to a text message sent on inquiries about Daura.
Daura’s successor and acting Director General of the DSS, Mr Mathew Seiyefa, on Thursday, promised to review past activities of the agency, which he said must have affected its perception by the public.
He also said he had yet to be briefed on the detention of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd,).
Seiyefa spoke at a media briefing at the national headquarters of the agency in Abuja on Thursday.
Seiyefa resumed as the boss of the secret service on Tuesday when his predecessor, Daura, was relieved of his position because of the role he played in deploying masked operatives in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Probably sensing the anger of the public against the agency over such actions, Seiyefa said that the agency would review all actions that the public perceived to be an adversary.
He said, “We are reviewing all issues that have brought about the negative perception of the service. Such issues like detention, arrest and others.
“The perceived to be human rights abuses will be reviewed. Some of our recent actions would be reviewed in order to learn where we have taken actions that are perceived to be adversarial.”