The family of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, has faulted Etteh’s arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The family also blamed the EFCC for arresting the ex-lawmaker in a statement signed by its representative, Femi Alabi, titled, ‘Mrs Patricia Etteh’s detention: Putting the record straight’.
EFCC had on Tuesday arrested Etteh over a shady contract worth N240m awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The former speaker was said to have received N130m through her personal account from Phil Jin Project Limited, a firm which was awarded a N240m contract by the NDDC in 2011.
The statement read, “We, the family of Mrs Patricia Etteh, hereby condemn in strong terms the illegal detention of our matriarch by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday.
“We want to put it on record that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, went to the Commission’s office to honour its invitation through an SMS inviting her to make some clarification on the issue of the contract involving Philjin Projects Ltd.
“Putting the record straight, Mrs Ibiene Wille-Harry, the Chief Executive Officer of Philjin Projects Ltd, a company under investigation is a longtime friend of Mrs Etteh as far as we know.
“Their bond of friendship is so deep to the extent that Mrs Etteh’s daughter lived in Mrs Wille-Harry’s house till she graduated from the university.
“This degree of closeness, therefore, encompassed constant financial assistance in form of soft loans from Mrs Etteh to Mrs Wille-Harry for the latter to execute several projects.
“It is crystal clear that the basis of every transaction between Mrs Etteh and Mrs Wille-Harry within the period mentioned by the EFCC was evidence of repayment of the said loans.
“Obviously, Mrs Etteh, by her inalienable right reserves the liberty to instruct her debtor to make payment in any manner she considered desirable in line with her financial circumstances at that point in time, hence, the directive to make payment into her personal account and that of her company.
“Logically, therefore, there wouldn’t have been a directive to make payment into her personal account in case of any predetermined notion of fraud.
“Secondly, Mrs Patricia Etteh, from all indications had nothing to do with any business transaction with Mrs Wille-Harry except generous assistance on the ground of friendship.
“However, the speed at which the EFCC coined the said mutual transaction a ‘fraud’ is nothing but a fallacy of hasty assumption and encroachment of her fundamental rights.
“To this end, we want to emphatically state that we are really disturbed and worried by this development as a family because we are people of respected pedigree and we have an important family name to protect.
“We can say without any doubt that Mrs Patricia Etteh has nothing to do with any contract as the commission itself clearly established that she is neither a director in the company nor a contractor.
“Etteh, in line with our family’s guiding philosophy, is contented and would never involve in any shady deals. Even in office as an elected official, she never solicited any contract.
“The purity of her personality had been established in the past by appropriate authorities after she was wrongly accused as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and her innocence was later proclaimed without blemish.
“We, therefore, strongly implore the Commission to further beam its searchlight on the investigation of Philjin Projects Ltd, to ascertain the veracity of Mrs Etteh’s part as explained therein, as we demand her immediate and unconditional release on the strength of her innocence and fundamental human rights.”