A South Africa-based pastor has accused officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of extortion and intimidation. The pastor, Obinna Ikenna Ezenwanne, said he and members of his family were being harassed by some officials of the anti-graft agency. Speaking through a group, Paths of Peace Initiatives, a non-governmental organization based in Lagos State, the pastor said he committed no crime.

While attempting to arrest the pastor, the EFCC officials, from the commission’s Ikoyi office, 2016_09_02_27047Lagos, allegedly teamed up with some policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), to storm Ezenwanne’s Onitsha, Anambra State home, where they carted away a vehicle and other property. They also arrested his brother, ThankGod Afamefuna.

Trouble for the pastor started after he purchased a N12million Range Rover sports utility vehicle from a dealer in Lagos. Acting on behalf of Ezenwanne, Paths of Peace Initiatives petitioned the EFCC’s chairman, Ibrahim Magu. It was gathered that Magu has since ordered an investigation into the alleged confiscation of property, unlawful detention and extortion of Ezenwanne and his family.

A source said: “The EFCC chairman has also asked EFCC detectives to look into the involvement of two officials of the Commission’s Procurement Fraud Section, in its Ikoyi, Lagos office, concerning the alleged ill-treatment and extortion of the pastor and his brother.” Magu’s directive that an investigation be launched into the alleged involvement of the two EFCC officials and their friends into the matter followed a petition submitted to the office of the anti-graft agency’s boss in Abuja by Paths of Peace Initiatives.

A copy of the petition, signed by one John Thompson and entitled, “Re: Petition against Unlawful Harassment, Detention and Flagrant Abuse of Office by EFCC Officials,” was presented to our correspondent. The two-page petition, addressed to the EFCC chairman, states in part, “we wish to bring to your notice, for urgent action, the gross abuse of power, intimidation, unlawful arrest, detention and illegal confiscation of vehicle and other property belonging to Ezenwanne, by the EFCC, Ikoyi, Lagos office.

“We understand that EFCC officials stormed the Enugu home of Ezenwanne, at an unholy hour with men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, shouting and harassing anybody on sight for hours, before arresting Mr. ThankGod Afamefuna, a brother to Ezenwanne. The operatives impounded a black Range Rover (Sports Utility Vehicle), which is still in possession of the EFCC in Lagos.”

According to the petitioner, Afamefuna, who was severely beaten after his arrest for committing no offence, was in the EFCC custody for several days. Stating the fact of the case, Thompson said that sometime in August, 2014, Ezenwanne, who visited Nigeria for a pastoral assignment, approached his regular auto dealer, SOJ Autos, with office located at No: 39 Marine Road, First Badagry Bus stop, Liverpool, Apapa, Lagos, for the purchase of a Range Rover at the rate of N12 million.

Thompson states: “When Mr. Soji, the Managing Director of SOJ Autos, brought the Land Rover Jeep to Ezenwanne for inspection, discovered that the vehicle had a warning light, which could mean that the vehicle was having some mechanical faults. Ezenwanne immediately expressed his displeasure at the condition of the vehicle, noting that he could not pay N12, 000, 000, 00 for such a vehicle. The Land Rover was immediately rejected.”

He further said that two months later, Mr. Soji of SOJ Autos called Ezenwanne. He said that he had another Range Rover SUV, black in colour, to replace the one Ezenwanne rejected. Ezenwanne inspected and found it to be in good condition. On December 16, 2014, Mr. Soji arranged for his personal assistant, known simply as MC, to assist Ezenwanne to drive the vehicle to Onitsha, where it would be in use after the registration formalities. MC was paid $400 and N30, 000.00 for his services.

Thompson states: “The vehicle, which was registered as JJJ741 DG, has been in use, especially whenever Ezenwanne was in Nigeria. It’s disheartening and shocking when EFCC operatives, with SARS men invaded Onitsha, where the vehicle was kept in the custody of ThankGod, impounded it and arrested ThankGod on the excuse that Mr. Soji of SOJ Autos did not remit the purchase money to one Mr. Marcus. Mr. Marcus is the person who gave the vehicle to Soji to sell.

This harassment is happening now, two years after the vehicle was duly paid for in a legal transaction.” The human right activist said that more worrisome was the threat allegedly being issued to Ezenwanne on phone by the EFCC team led by one Mrs. Deborah Oni. “It’s important to let you know that the said Mr. Marcus, whom we suspected got Ezenwanne’s number from the EFCC, has also been calling Ezenwanne from Nigeria, telling him to pay N6m into his account.

He said that once Ezenwanne pays the money, he, Marcus, would direct EFCC to release the vehicle,” said Thompson. The petition continues: “In the same vein, one Mr. Ademola Osiyemi, who claimed to be a friend of Mr. Marcus, has been pestering Ezenwanne on phone, requesting for money to enable him prevail on the EFCC to release the vehicle.

This blackmail, with EFCC’s cooperation, culminated in the payment of the sum of N80, 000.00 into Ademola’s ECO Bank account No: 3151006728 on September 23, 2016, after much pressure that he needed the money to pay for his child’s school fees. Mr. Chairman, this is appalling and definitely not the EFCC you worked very hard to put on a solid footing. “For a Nigerian, who engaged in a legitimate transaction to be going through all this with members of his family, leaves much to be desired.

“Mr. Ademola Osiyemi, Marcus’s friend, in one of the telephone conversations with Ezenwanne, confessed that money actually exchanged hands between Marcus and Mrs. Deborah Oni, the EFCC official. We, therefore, implore you to use your highly esteemed office to investigate this matter and order the release of the vehicle and stop further blackmail and intimidation of Ezenwanne.” When the EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren was contacted over the allegations and petition against officials of the Commission, he said, he could not speak on the matter. According to him, he was yet to locate the petition.

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