The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC) attention has been drawn to a publication credited to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and signed by Kunle Edun, its National Publicity Secretary. In view of the publication, it has become pertinent to put the records straight in response to the said publication by the NBA with respect to the fraudulent activities of F. Baba Isa. Contrary to the position fed NBA by F. Baba Isa, there is no record indicating that ICPC was aware of the out of court settlement moves between F. Baba Isa and Nsikak Udoh, counsel to Guaranty Trust Bank, leading to the purported Consent Judgment. This is a deliberate misinformation to cover up the fraud. To put the matter straight the Commission wishes to state that Egbuha Roseline Uche represented by F. Baba Isa Esq. sued Guaranty Trust Bank and ICPC when her account containing N550million was frozen based on intelligence received by ICPC.
The said Egbuha Roseline Uche, a primary school teacher, could not explain the source of the money and during the pendency of the suit ICPC was served with a notice of discontinuance which ICPC did not oppose, but urged the court to dismiss the suit. The application for dismissal of the suit by ICPC was overruled. This process ended a particular proceeding. A new proceeding commenced between the Applicant and GTB wherein ICPC was no longer a party. At this point the terms of settlement which were never brought to the notice of ICPC was moved and adopted.
In moving the application on the terms of settlement the duo of F. Baba Isa and Nsikak Udoh appeared for Egbuha and GTB respectively. ICPC not being a party to the said terms of settlement was not given any right of audience during the second proceeding. These facts are clear from the records of proceedings of 3rd June 2020. It is trite that counsel cannot raise objection in a suit he is not a party to and in which the process in the suit was not served on him having had the matter discontinued against him as in this case. It was a clearly mapped out plan by F. Baba Isa Esq. and Nsikak E. Udoh for the GTB to fraudulently bypass the restrictions placed by ICPC on the account of the said Egbuha with GTB and dissipate the money under investigation without the knowledge of ICPC.
It is erroneous for the NBA to equate the invitation served on F. Baba Isa to appear for interview with the order of a court required in section 39 of the ICPC Act, 2000, to mandate a legal practitioner to disclose information with regards to his client. In this particular instance, F. Baba Isa is the suspect and he is not being invited as a legal practitioner to disclose information available to him.
It is unfortunate for the NBA to assert without basis that ICPC is harassing lawyers for performing their duties. No doubt, the NBA knows that money laundering is an offence in Nigeria and a lawyer engaging in money laundering cannot be said to be performing professional duties for a client. The NBA should also note that an invitation for interview cannot amount to threat to arrest and prosecute or to compel a lawyer to divulge privileged information.
ICPC cannot fathom why a person who is convinced that he has not done anything unlawful, rather than oblige an invitation to state his position on an alleged crime, elects to put himself on the run, issuing press releases and using NBA as a shield from investigation. ICPC has always provided unfettered access to lawyers for the cause of their clients and it is baffling that NBA in this case, rather than encourage F. Baba Isa to appear and state his position before a statutory agency is encouraging him to breach the law.
ICPC further asserts that by virtue of the provisions of section 45 (1) of the ICPC Act, it does not require a court order like other law enforcement agencies to place restrictions on any bank account. The section gives the Chairman of the Commission sui generis powers to direct any bank or financial institution to place restrictions on any account under investigation. The exercise of the Chairman’s powers under section 45 (1) does not conflict with the provisions of section 44 (2) (k) of the Constitution which permits temporary seizure of property for the purpose of investigation amongst others.
The Commission further wishes to state that upon the unilateral lifting of the freezing order on the account by a mere agreement between Egbuha Roseline Uche and Guaranty Trust Bank without recourse to ICPC, the sum of N550 million representing all the money in the account was immediately transferred by Egbuha Roseline Uche to FBI Legal bank account controlled by F. Baba Isa from where he immediately transferred the entire sum into seven (7) different bank accounts, some of which were bureaus de change provided by his client.
Finally, the Commission wishes to state that it has not in any way engaged in any abuse of power as alleged by the NBA in its release and would implore the NBA to properly advise F. Baba Isa to report himself to ICPC without further delay.