By Tony Momoh
People ask me if what we, as columnists, say is ever read by those they affect. My answer has always been that, in a division of labour setting, ours is to show the way and leave the decision to follow the way to those who so choose. We can’t force anyone, but whenever things later go bad, in spite of our shouting and yelling, we go back in time and point to what we said that may have been ignored.
This is what I am going to do today because our iron lady at the EFCC, Mrs Farida Waziri, is either being misled or misdirected when, as alleged, she distributes a list to political parties pointing to those who by the act may be prevented from contesting elections.
The only evidence is that they are facing charges the EFCC is authorised to prosecute under the Act. I am for roasting corrupt people and throwing their carcases into the ocean, but only after a court of competent jurisdiction had found them guilty. And if EFCC is assuming the powers of a court, then Mrs Waziri is being lured into the trap that heavily dented the image of Nuhu Ribadu.
On these pages on March 4, 2007, that is before the elections of April. 2007 (See Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary Vol. 2 pages 287 – 291), I pleaded that what Nuhu Ribadu did by sending the outcome of EFCC investigations to President Obasanjo was a wrong step to take because the EFCC Act did not provide for such routing. I revisit my argument then here so that the EFCC boss will tell whoever is derailing her to go to hell and let her do the job the Act clearly and unambiguously details.
The EFCC is a child that was born through due process. The father is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act No 5 of 2002. It was born to run with effect from December 14, 2002 and all the powers the Commission has are located nowhere else than the Act. If anything is done outside the clear provisions of the Act, then that act is done without authority and will, in due time and through due process, be declared null and void and of no effect.
The 15 powers of the Commission are very clearly detailed in part 2 of the Act, that is section 5(1) (a-o) and section 6. Section 6 gives special powers to the commission to enforce the provisions of specified laws relating to economic and financial crimes. It is eye-opening to know that the EFCC is structured in such a way that no one will be in doubt about where it should be heading with what it discovers that should ground any action it may wish to take against those affected.
Section 11 of the Act identifies five such special units, the most important for our purpose being the legal and prosecution unit which is responsible for prosecuting offences under the Act. The offences are clearly defined and the body, being the only and authorized body, that pronounces the guilt of any one accused of committing any of the listed offences is the Federal High Court or High Court of a state. Mrs Waziri, please read that sentence one hundred thousand times.
In March 2007, Nuhu Ribadu, outside the clear brief of his commission, sent 137 names they had investigated to President Olusegun Obasanjo, not to the High Court as clearly provided by the Act that empowered him to prosecute them. A team handpicked by the president waded through the tonnes of material taken to the Villa and produced 73 pages of judgment!
The president accepted the report and set up a white paper committee headed by the minister of education. With two other members, the minister of the federal capital territory and the minister of aviation, the three close disciples of the president “vetted” the report, made changes as they deemed fit and presented it to the Federal Executive Council which endorsed it. Then INEC was confronted with a list of defamatory matter with which it justified the disqualification of people seeking the vote under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and the Electoral Act of 2006.
Trouble sleep, yanga go wake am was the most apt description of the most despicable rape of due process ever visited on Nigeria by what the chairman of EFCC and the president did. Under section 32 (4) of the 2006 Electoral Act, we were told that “any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit (he has sworn to) is false may file a suit at the High Court of a State or Federal High Court against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.” Subsection 5 said that if the court determined that any of the information contained in the affidavit was false, the court should issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.
The most which EFCC could do, I said then, was to table before INEC the outcome of its indictments. This would be an order of court disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election. Any publication based on any other ground, I told them but they would not listen, was defamatory and would lead to consequences no one in their little scheming might be able to anticipate. Well they did not let trouble sleep.
Every one knows what happened after the list submitted by Ribadu was declared unavailing in determining the competence or otherwise of people seeking political office. Now, those who want to package road blocks on our walk on the democracy highway are trying to mislead Farida Waziri. The precedents of 2007 are there for her to consult. Trouble sleep, yanga wan wake am.