EditorialTHEWILL Editorial: Lamentations of EFCC

THEWILL Editorial: Lamentations of EFCC

June 16, (THEWILL)- The recent lamentation by an official of the Economic and Crimes Commision, EFCC, that the ex-Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello has ridiculed the judiciary by failing to present himself for trial over an alleged N80.2 billion fraud leaves much to be desired.

Obviously frustrated by the high-wired drama surrounding the arraignment of the former governor, the anti-graft agency’s official, Acting Zonal Director, Benin Zonal Command, Mr Effa Okim, blamed the dodgy system of due process and transparency prevailing in the country for the debacle.

But last Thursday, the case came up at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, when the Judges rose to the occasion. It quashed a previous ruling made by the Kogi State High Court against the Commission and its Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, in a case of contempt and restraining order filed by Bello.

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Delivering the lead judgement, Justice O.K Oyewole, held that, “a court of law cannot preclude the EFCC or any law enforcement agency from investigating and prosecuting crime. This is a fundamental jurisdictional point that cannot be shoved aside as it borders on the doctrine of separation of powers.”

The Court noted that it should not be drawn into the well of technicalities and granted the Commission the authority to continue its prosecution of Bello.

Recall that the EFCC’ s running legal battle with Mr Bello started while the former Kogi governor was still in office before the well- publicised but failed attempt to arrest him in his Abuja residence, forcing the agency to declare him wanted while the Nigerian Immigration placed him on a watch list.

In addition, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, pleaded with negligible success with the former governor to obey EFCC’s summons. Even so, the pointed conclusion drawn by an irate Okim, though a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the country, is like holding a mirror to the managers of the country’s affairs. He said, “It’s not me, it is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Indeed.

At any rate, the point at issue is that it is high time the rule of law becomes the cornerstone of official and public engagements in the country.

Institutions and organisations are rule based and they cannot deliver on their mandates if they are allowed or compelled by circumstances to act in the breach of due process. More so for agencies like the EFCC, and its sister agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences, ICCP which, by their core mandate on anti-corruption should be given every assistance to constantly keep the gaze on economic and financial crimes and government and public services related corruption that has reduced Nigeria to a laughing stock globally.

EFCC may have been circumscribed in the execution of its mandate by reason of its structural set up, as some have often argued. It may have been barking more than biting as yet some others say when it comes to prosecution of high profile cases of corruption.

But that is no reason by any suspect, high or low, to deliberately flout its rules and undermine its capacity.

It is on this note that we urge the Commission and its Chairman not to be distracted by the shenanigans of the governing elite, many of whom are in the habit of gaming the system through their connections and trying to make mockery of the fight against corruption.

They should instead continue to match their often high-profile suspects in their game by exploring the legal and constitutional instruments at their disposal.

In this light, the recent Appeal Court judgement that restored the Commission’s right to prosecute ex-Governor Yahaya Bello, should be seen by the Commission as a victory of sorts, however which way the case may eventually go.

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