• Friday, April 12, 2024
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CSOs, human rights lawyers warn EFCC boss over corruption allegation against Yahaya Bello

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A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights lawyers have issued a warning to Ola Olukoyede, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), regarding the handling of corruption allegations against Yahaya Bello, the former governor of Kogi State.

The group, operating under the Committee for The Defence of Democracy and Rule of Law, has advised the EFCC to adhere to the anti-corruption policies set forth by President Bola Tinubu’s administration and avoid engaging in political battles that could tarnish Nigeria’s image.

During a press conference held in Abuja on Sunday, Kayode Mogbojuri, representing the coalition of over 100 CSOs, addressed the media. 

He emphasised the importance of the EFCC maintaining its integrity and not becoming a pawn in the hands of politicians seeking to settle scores.

The case against Bello, according to Mogbojuri, is marred by contradictions and a lack of due diligence, as it involves charges for crimes allegedly committed before his tenure as governor.

For instance, the way it (the EFCC) is handling the current corruption allegations against the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, is becoming a case of clear political witchunt by his political opponents for whom the EFCC seems to be a ready tool to be manipulated into fighting their proxy wars.

“In every country that the fight against corruption has been politicized, corruption has not only thrived but also imploded. Politics and law enforcement should be water and oil that cannot mix,” he stated. 

The group also highlighted the legal implications of the EFCC’s approach, pointing out that there is a standing court order from the High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division, which currently prevents the EFCC from taking any prosecutorial action against Bello or his former appointees. 

This order is part of an ongoing process to address Bello’s fundamental human rights. The CSOs argue that the EFCC’s disregard for this order, without having it vacated by a counter court order, is a clear violation of the rule of law.

“First, the EFCC is attempting to stand the rule of law on its head by violating a clear Court order that it is yet to vacate by a counter Court order. The High Court of Justice, Lokoja Division has given a restraining order on the EFCC to stay any action either to arrest, prosecute or persecute the former Governor or any of his appointees pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights,” they said. 

The activists expressed their dismay at the EFCC’s claim that Bello was at large, considering there had been no prior notice of an invitation extended to him. This, coupled with public statements from a legal counsel associated with a political rival, adds a layer of political intrigue to the allegations.

The CSOs have called on Olukoyede, the head of the EFCC, to focus the agency’s efforts on genuine corruption cases and to distance itself from political machinations. 

They stress that the fight against corruption should be free from political influence to ensure its effectiveness and credibility. 

“However, the agencies constitutionally charged with fighting corruption must have to avoid fighting corruption with corrupt means of political compromises and means that are against it as this will surely run counterproductive to the robust anti corruption policy of the Tinubu administration.” 

“We advise the Commission to leave politicking to politicians and concentrate on professionalism and delivery of its constitutional anti-corruption mandate without political pollution which has the potential to make it lose local and international support,” the activists concluded.