• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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EFCC versus Yahaya Bello: Why the EFCC must stick to due process

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Since the creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003, the commission has taken steps to fulfil its mandate of tackling economic crimes in Nigeria.

While I commend their efforts in trying to remain relevant by a bunch of convictions amidst a mountain of disastrous legal defeats in court, it is glaring that the consistent resort of operatives of the commission to unprofessionalism is derailing it and increasingly making it clear to Nigerians that the commission may not be more than a tool of witch-hunt as it is no longer news that the commission has an infamous record of indulging in executive rascality, which often manifests in sheer bullying and intimidation of perceived opponents of the ruling government.

Read also: Kogi Senator to EFCC: No Nigerian is above the law, see Yahaya Bello’s case through to the end

A memorable reference point is the ordeal of former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, wherein unruly agents of the commission were caught on camera removing the roof of the residence of the serving senator, all in a bid to effect his arrest.

Glaringly, it was an infringement on his rights, and even the current Senate president, Godswill Akpabio, lamented on the need for the commission to be reformed.

Amongst several others, this particular episode was the hallmark of the disregard the commission has for the laws of Nigeria, and it further raised questions about whether the EFCC is actually an anti-graft commission or just another political tool aimed against certain Nigerians, especially those from the high class who hold opposite political interests from those in power.

The event of May 24, 2022, as captured on video at the home of the serving senator and former governor of Imo State, Okorocha, was an eyesore that testifies to the gross misconduct of EFCC officials, their disrespect for fundamental human rights, and their tendency to leverage the instruments of force against citizens.

It was nothing short of harassment; it was intended to bring the victim into disrepute, and eventually, on July 14, 2023, the case for which the commission went all out to pursue was dismissed by Justice Yusuf Halilu in the Federal High Court.

Court, FCT, who called it an abuse of the judicial process on grounds that the agency filed a similar charge against the same defendant at another court within the same jurisdiction.”

Unfortunately, the EFCC does not appear to have the capacity to learn from past failures, and this time, its prey is the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Adoza Bello, and this time, the contention is still the exact abuse of judicial process and executive powers for which the commission is notorious.

As much as this writer does not hold a brief for the former governor, it is absurd that the EFCC would rather, in the case of former governor Yahaya Bello, resort to a media trial than a proper investigation, and the big question that begs for answers is built on the substance of the charges the commission is suing the former governor for.

According to the EFCC, former governor Yahaya Bello stands (illogically and insultingly) accused of looting over eighty billion Naira of state funds. According to the same EFCC, this event occurred at a time when he was barely four weeks into taking the oath of office.

How on earth is this possible, considering that Kogi State at the point of handover was bedevilled by a lot of realities that made the existence of such funds outright impossible and within the reach of the state?

Perhaps this sort of allegation, emerging from the almighty EFCC, is the reason many Nigerians think that there is more to the matter than meets the eye. It further explains why associates of the former governor also think that the EFCC is merely acting its usual script that starts with manufacturing charges, rushing to the media to host press conferences, bullying the accused into submission, and employing the tools of arrest and detention to damage the psychology of the accused, after which the commission now takes all the time on earth to engage in amending charges again and again and seeking adjournments in court after successfully depriving the accused of liberty and stripping him or her of dignity.

While it is not the intent of this article to shield former governor Yahaya Bello from answering questions about his stewardship, it is only imperative that the rules are not bent to his disadvantage, as the EFCC is attempting to do. More like giving him a bad name before the media executes its agenda towards his person.

For a man who is a national figure and who stopped at nothing in bringing significant development to Kogi State and prestige to Kogi State, the EFCC must observe all the rules in its own book by first understanding that he is a bona fide citizen of Nigeria who also has rights and privileges conferred on him by the laws of Nigeria.

This is in clear consideration of the fact of the fact that former governor Bello has always stated and restated his willingness and readiness to provide answers to the questions the EFCC is asking about his stewardship but insists on not giving up his rights to liberty and dignity, which the EFCC is desperate to strip him of.

Whoever comes to equity must do so with clean hands. The EFCC has a moral burden to prove that it has no extra-ordinary interest in former governor Yahaya Bello because it appears that certain elements are teleguiding the actions of the commission as it relates to the former governor. According to the EFCC chairman, during a telephone conversation, the former governor expressed reservations as to why the EFCC will extend an invitation to him to be at its headquarters for an interview and share details of the said invitation with his political opponents.

Surprisingly, the EFCC chairman did not deny this, and its resultant effect was that it became even more glaring that in the case involving Yahaya Bello, the EFCC is acting on a predetermined script.

Another major pointer to this lies in the truth that chairman of the EFCC, Ola Olukayode, voluntarily disclosed on national TV that former governor Yahaya Bello actually disclosed his location to him during another phone call and expressed readiness to be interviewed by detectives from the commission.

Can a man who was this open suddenly become an invasive of the EFCC? If this is the current situation, then the commission should explain why suddenly it can no longer be trusted.

The EFCC must reform itself, and at this point, it is crucial for the commission to purge itself of its excesses and prove to Nigerians that it is independent, can be trusted to be objective, and will never function according to the whims of external forces.

The first step to achieving this is to admit the mistakes it made in resorting to media trials. The next step should be to immediately pledge to adhere strictly to the rule of law and subject itself to the provisions of the law by not resorting to the filing of frivolous cases before the courts.

With these in place, it may now suffice for a proper investigation to commence on whatever the gaps were during the administration of former governor Yahaya Bello.

There is no other way to earn the confidence of Nigerians who still vividly recall how former DG of the NBC, Emeka Mba, was harassed, intimidated, and eventually arrested by the EFCC in 2016 and thrown into a dungeon over what the commission called the mismanagement of the sum of N15B, only for it to be discovered that during his tenure, not a penny was missing.

In my view, Yahaya Bello is not evading the EFCC. He is only refusing to be subject to a different set of rules that are inconsistent with the provisions of the laws of Nigeria.

Hakeem Raji wrote from the University of Bradford, United Kingdom.