By Ebenezer Ishola
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it visited Dangote Group Headquarters with a search warrant for some vital documents on forex allocations to the company from 2014 to 2023 during the tenure of former Governor of Cental Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
It said it decided to search the head office of Dangote Group because the company was not forthcoming with the documents it was requested to provide.
The commission said the visit was justified because its operatives were “able to get the vital documents they wanted.”
It said it would not join issues with the company but asked Nigerians to wait for the outcome of the investigation.
But Dangote Group in a statement, said no accusations of wrongdoing have been made against any company within its group.
It said the visit of the EFCC to its office was “designed to cause us unwarranted embarrassment.”
Following alleged foot dragging on its request for the details of foreign exchange allocation to Dangote Group since 2014, EFCC sent a team of detectives to the head office of the firm last Thursday.
Although Dangote Group and 51 other companies were asked to submit forex allocation details, a top source in EFCC said the Thursday search was compelling.
The source, who spoke with our correspondent last night, said: “We demanded for some vital documents but Dangote Group was not forthcoming.”
The source said after obtaining a search warrant, the commission sent its operatives to the head office of Dangote Group.
“We did not storm or raid the office because we allowed staff, customers and visitors to go in and out of the place. The search was justifiable because our operatives got the vital documents they wanted on foreign exchange allocations to Dangote Group, “he said.
Responding to a question, he declared: “As an anti-graft agency, EFCC will not join issues with Dangote Group but Nigerians should wait for the outcome of the ongoing investigation.
“No one or group can impede or delay investigation. We cannot be deterred, we will get to the roots of the forex allocations in 10 years.”
On its part, the management of Dangote Group clarified that it delivered the first batch of documents to the EFCC and was “actively working to compile and submit the remaining documents, in good time, to aid their investigation.”
The company said: “Following the widely reported recent visit of the officials of the EFCC to our headquarters in Lagos on 4 January 2024, we understand the concern and interest this has generated among our valued partners, stakeholders, and the public, and consider it necessary to provide a factual account of the events.
“On 6 December 2023, we received a letter requesting for details of all the foreign exchange allocated to our company by the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2014 to the present.
“We understand similar letters were sent to 51 other Groups of companies requesting for same information spanning same period.
“We responded to the EFCC to acknowledge receipt of the letter whilst seeking clarification on the subsidiaries or companies within the Group that they required information on.
“We also requested for additional time to compile and properly present the extensive documentation spanning ten years.
“However, the EFCC did not provide the clarification sought and also did not honour our request for an extension and insisted on receiving the complete set of documents within the limited timeframe.
“Despite this constraint, we assured the EFCC of our commitment to providing the information and pledged to share documents in batches as we complete the compilation.
“On 4 January 2024, our team delivered the first batch of documents to the EFCC. However, officers of the EFCC did not accept the documents, insisting on visiting our offices to collect the same set of documents directly.
“Whilst our representatives were still at the EFCC’s office to deliver the documents, a team of their officers proceeded to visit our offices to demand for the same documents in a manner that appeared designed to cause us unwarranted embarrassment.
“Worthy of note is the fact that the officials did not take any documents or files from our Head office during their visit as these were already in their office.
“We must emphasize that, to our knowledge, no accusations of wrongdoing have been made against any company within our Group.” At present, we are only responding to a request for information to assist the EFCC with their ongoing investigation.”
Dangote Group assured that it was prepared to cooperate with the EFCC.
The company added: “As a law-abiding and ethical corporate citizen, we remain committed to providing the EFCC with all necessary information and cooperation.
“We have already delivered the first batch of documents and are actively working to compile and submit the remaining documents, in good time, to aid their investigation.
“Our Group is a key contributor to the national GDP, the largest employer in the private sector, one of the largest groups listed on the Nigerian Exchange and one of the highest taxpayers in the country.
” We remain steadfast in our belief in Nigeria’s commitment to the rule of law and its dedication to fostering an environment conducive for investment and value creation for both local and foreign investors.
“We therefore call for the understanding and patience of our stakeholders. We will keep our stakeholders informed of any further developments.”
The EFCC probe of foreign exchange allocations made during the Emefiele reign in the CBN is a fallout of the findings of the Special Investigator probing the apex bank, Jim Obazee.
Obazee, in his findings and recommendations submitted to President Bola Tinubu on December 9, 2023, had accused Emefiele and his team of serious mismanagement.
Chief among the allegations against him was manipulation of the foreign exchange rate.
He was also indicted for fraudulent use of the Ways and Means to the tune of N26.6tn, inappropriate intervention programmes and questionable expenditures on COVID-19.
The findings are said to have spurred the EFCC into digging deeper into the foreign exchange deals.
Its investigation took operatives of the agency to the Lagos headquarters of the Dangote Group on Thursday.