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Saturday, April 20, 2024

UPDATED: Dickson kicks as EFCC quizzes him over N17. 5b funds


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has quizzed a former Bayelsa Governor and senator representing Bayesla West Seriake Dickson over his family assets in the United Kingdom and alleged diversion of funds of about N17. 5billion.

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But Dickson said the affected assets were acquired before he became Governor.

He said he had consistently declared the assets with the Code of Conduct Bureau(CCB).

He also described the petition by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) on diversion of funds totaling N17. 5billion as frivolous.

According to a source, Dickson presented himself to the EFCC following an invitation by the agency.

The source said the ex-Governor was grilled over allegations bordering on abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds during his eight-year administration in Bayelsa State between 2012 and 2020.

The source said: “The former governor who arrived the headquarters of the EFCC in Jabi, Abuja at about 11am was questioned by a team of operatives investigating the allegations against him.

“Though the details of the allegations against the governor were not released, by the EFCC, the allegations relate to issues of assets declaration and misapplication of intervention funds and other assets belonging to the Bayelsa State government.

The Head of Media and Publicity of EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the invitation of the former Governor.

In a statement, which he personally, Dickson described the petition against him by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) as baseless.

He said apart from being asked to account for the family assets he acquired before becoming a Governor, he was confronted with a fresh allegation of diversion of funds amounting to N17. 5billion.

He said the EFCC claimed that an NGO alleged that he used part of the cash for his re-election in 2019.

He said it was obvious that the petition was faulty because he did not seek re-election in 2019.

The statement said: “About two weeks ago I received an invitation from the EFCC to clarify some issues relating to assets declarations as alleged by an NGO.

“On account of our busy schedule at the time, I wrote to inform them and we agreed to reschedule the interview for Tuesday.

“As a law-abiding citizen and with a life long commitment to supporting Law enforcement and security agencies, I honoured the invitation as rescheduled.

“I understand that the subject matter of the inquiry relates to investments of my family trust, which I incorporated while being a member of the House of Reps to hold my family assets and investments which were made between 1996 and 2012 before I became governor.

“I understand that there is a petition from an NGO alleging that these investments (largely buildings, plots, farms, etc in my village, Orua, Yenagoa, and two buy-to-let houses in the UK) were not declared.

“I have a duty to clarify these issues with the investigating authorities who by law have the responsibility to inquire into these matters.”

Dickson explained how he acquired his assets between 1996 and 2012.

The statement added: “However, for the avoidance of doubts, let me state that my family investments, Seriake Dickson Trust Incorporated were made between 1996 and 2012 before I became Governor.

“These investments were funded by loans and advances and repaid from salaries, allowances, savings and others. One of them is still on mortgage and I have made these documents available to the EFCC.

“These investments were declared in my assets declaration form at the House of Reps in 2011; my Governorship Form in 2012, 2016, 2020 after I left office and the Senate Assets Declaration Form this year.

“I went beyond these declarations and wrote several letters to the appropriate agencies, copies of which have been made available to the EFCC.

“My trust and I subscribed to the federal government Voluntary Assets Income AND Declaration Scheme (VAIDES) and also paid the necessary taxes.

“As a result of blackmail from some quarters, the Trust and I went to the Federal High Court where there is a subsisting judgement declaring that no Nigerian law is breached by a public officer who takes loans and other verifiable avenues to make investments for his family provided these are declared.

“It should be on record that I have since resigned from the Trust Administration since 2011 before I became Governor.

“My solicitors and those of the trust have written to the EFCC to clarify these issues with the accompanying documents.”

He said he witnessed a turn of event when he got to the EFCC and he was confronted with alleged diversion of funds totaling N17. 5billion.”

Dickson narrated how he was confronted with a fresh petition by the EFCC outside of what he was invited for.

The statement said:” However on getting to the commission, the investigating team came up with a new allegation of diversion of flood funds in 2012 totaling N17.5 billion.

“The petition further alleged that the money was used for my re-election in 2019. The fact is that there was no such donation about the 2012 flood in Bayelsa.

“Curiously, there was no mention of donor or where the money came from. There was also no re-election for governorship in Bayelsa in 2019 which are clear proofs that the petition was totally frivolous.

“The commission after looking into these allegations have since asked me to return home on self recognition.

“I have authorized this statement to be released for the avoidance of any misinformation.”

Source: The Nation