A former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige, on Tuesday surrendered himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for interrogation.
A source said Ngige reported to the commission in Lagos after a week of intense search for him by the commission.
The EFCC had been on Ngige’s trail since he was removed from office by the Court of Appeal on March 15, 2006.
But the ex-governor was able to secure a court order against his arrest by the EFCC in order to contest for the governorship election on April 14, 2007.
However, shortly after the poll, Ngige left Nigeria for the United States where he engaged in a series of political activities with Nigerians in the Diaspora.
His return to the country last week for the burial of a former Federal Permanent Secretary and elderstatesman, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, led to a fresh manhunt for him.
A source in the EFCC said, ”Ngige was interrogated on Tuesday and granted bail. He came back on Wednesday morning for the second round of interrogation in respect of how he managed some funds while in office.
“The funds have to do with those of the local governments in the state and a Security Account that he maintained during his tenure in office.”
The source added, ”The funds involved run into millions of naira. We are only waiting for Ngige to respond to the charges against him.
”I can assure you that we won‘t waste time in arraigning him and some of the aides before a court.”
The source was, however, not forthcoming on whether the commission would rely on the report of an Administrative Panel of Inquiry to prosecute Ngige.
The panel had, in its report on February 13, 2007, banned Ngige and about 40 others from holding public office.
A White Paper on the ban was released after the ratification of the recommendations of the panel by an extra-ordinary meeting of the Federal Executive Council.
The EFCC source said, ”It is too early to tell you if we will use the report as part of our interrogation.
”We have made substantial progress in our investigations. Some aides of the former governor had made useful statements.”
According to the source, some former aides of Ngige and ex-local government chairmen had in the last few months appeared before the EFCC for questioning.
He listed those quizzed by the commission as Special Adviser on Local Government Matters, Dr. Peter Ogbuka; Principal Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Nwosu; and former Special Assistant, Abuja Liaison Office, Ms. Uzo Okonkwo.
The EFCC had on July 26, 2006 arrested Ogbuka and the Chairman of the Transition Committee of Idemili North Local Government Area, Dr. Uche Ezeliora.
Barely a week after Ngige‘s emergence as the governorship candidate of the Action Congress, the anti-graft agency also arrested his Commissioner for Special Duties, Chief Chris Atuegwu, and his Chief of Staff, Chief Chetanna Udoka.
Reacting to speculations that the arrest of his aides was a signal that the EFCC was closing in on him, Ngige said on December 20, 2006 that he had nothing to hide.
He said, “There is nothing to be afraid of. Afraid of what? If they have any charges, then we will go to court. They can only prosecute me; they cannot send me to jail.”
The Media Consultant to Ngige, Mr. Fred Chukwuelobe, insisted on Wednesday that his boss had nothing to hide.
He said, ”Ngige decided on his own volition to go to the EFCC‘s office. He is ready to account for his tenure.
”When the Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, told the Senate that some public officers, including Ngige, had some corruption charges against them, the ex-governor wrote a letter to the commission to avail him of evidence. There has been no response to Ngige‘s letter.
”Now that Ngige has returned from a medical management trip abroad, he decided to go to the EFCC. He was neither arrested nor charged.”
– The Punch