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Ekiti Verdict: Clipping the Wings of Impunity

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By Michael West

Prior to the ascension of  former President Olusegun  Obasanjo to the Presidency in 1999, Nigeria was a pariah in the comity of nations due to her deplorable track records  in  human rights abuses as epitomized by the late Sani Abacha government and unassailable corruption  index.

The fact that we are still recovering Abacha loot kept in some western countries even  almost 20 years after his death  goes to show how endemic and deep-rooted sleazy lifestyle had become.

EFCC operatives

I believe EFCC is a welcome development as a veritable tool to curtail corruption in our system. Its assignments are clear. It has needed legal backing and enticing perquisites for its operatives. The fear of the EFCC has been the beginning of wisdom in some official quarters.

Thus far, it has sanitized our financial sector  to a reasonable extent. Illicit funds transfers locally and internationally have  been  reduced drastically. This is a significant achievement of the commission.

The commission, according to Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami,  had recovered over $2 trillion (Two trillion dollars) within a period of 12 years while more than N500 billions loots were recovered under Buhari administration alone. More are still  being  recovered. This is a great feat, I must say; and it is commendable.  I guess this amount  included  the “re-looted funds” alleged to have been missing in the custody of the Commission.

However, EFCC has been operating, in some instances, beyond the limits of the law.  Common  acts of  the EFCC’s assumed qualified privilege was unrestrained access to state governments’books.  And basking in the unquestionable  euphoria of  presidential nods, it had bulldozed its way into  places  that were not part of its call of duty – not just in this dispensation but even before Buhari..

It has  also  become an attacking dog for sitting Presidents to hunt   perceived political foes and critics.   Obasanjo used the Commission to intimidate his political enemies and recalcitrant associates in a show of strength.

It also used it to earn forceful submission by those who dared to have the minds of their own  or those  who would not kowtow  to  his agenda even when they belong to the same camp. The likes of Late  S. M. Afolabi and Vincent Ogbulafor are good examples.  I won’t be surprised to see some APC chieftains who won’t subscribe to Buhari’s second term   bid becoming guests of the commission  in months to come.

In recent times, interdicting Governor Ayo Fayose’s bank account was a violation of his immunity as a sitting governor. He could only be investigated and not prosecuted; therefore, placing an embargo on his account tantamount implementing the punitive measure meted out to individuals not enjoying immunity.

Let me  acknowledge that investigating suspected sleazy deals and inviting suspects for interrogations are within the norms of best practices; but disparaging people’s names in the media before diligent investigations  are concluded  leaves much to be desired.

The recent verdict  by  the Federal  High Court, Ado Ekiti  against the EFCC  is grand  and technically sound.   The judgment  was  delivered in a suit filed by Ekiti State Government against the EFCC, the Inspector General of Police, the Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, the Clerk and 13 others. Ekiti  Attorney General filed the suit after the commission sent letters of invitation to some government officials seeking details over some financial transactions of the state.  The EFCC also sent letters to the banks seeking financial books of the state in their custody.

“The assembly has the responsibilities on the management of funds by the executives. They have the responsibility to ensure fund management, cut wastages, and reject corruption.  The first defendant (EFCC) is bound to operate within the constitution and cannot operate like the lord of the manor. It is statutory duty is not a  license  to contravene the Constitution.

“I can’t by any stretch of imagination see how the statutory functions of the (EFCC) can extend to a state in a federation under any guise to the extent that the eight to 18 defendants (banks) will be directed to submit bank details.

Yes, the first defendant can investigate any person or corporate organisation, what it can’t do is to usurp the powers of the assembly.  The Federal Government cannot impose its statutory duties on a state in flagrant disobedient of the constitution. The prosecution should not ride roughshod of the constitution. It is the duty of judges to ensure they don’t listen to sentiments  of the public. I resolve all issues in favour of the plaintiff. I grant all reliefs sought by the plaintiff in view of the fact they are live issues.”

By this landmark judgment, the court  has made it clear  that the EFCC  should  not  be  a  rampaging    federal  agent that monitors state finances.  It means the commission has been operating illegally  over the years  by  scrutinizing  state governments’  accounts  and harassing banks to submit details of  the states’  financial transactions.  Henceforth, the Commission should be humble enough to employ due legal process in the discharge of its statutory duties and avoid being  accused of flagrant abuse of judicial process.

  • Michael West, a media consultant, can be reached via

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