• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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EFCC and the brigandage that won’t stop

EFCC nabs five for possessing illegally-mined minerals in Kwara

By Lere Olayinka

Nigerians have always been sentimental about issues concerning politically exposed persons, and it is understandable.

I still remember what many Nigerians said about Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) then. What has happened to Dasuki and all the arms money they claimed he stole? Has anyone been convicted on the basis of what was then referred to as Dasuki Gate?

Even Dasuki, whom they claimed had weapons “capable of disrupting the peace of any city in Nigeria for a while,” is now in his house, enjoying life.

I remember what many Nigerians said about Ayo Fayose then, too. Some people even said that Fayose would go to jail the moment he was out of power as Ekiti governor.

While still in office as governor, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives were everywhere, invading properties perceived as his. A petrol station in Akute, Ogun State, was shut down by EFCC operatives. The news was that Fayose owned the petrol station, but a few days after shutting down the station, it was reopened by the same EFCC operatives, who found out that they acted wrongly. Many buildings in Ekiti were marked with the usual EFCC Investigation Keep Off! The marks were later to be cleaned when they realised that the houses were not owned by Fayose.

Then, when Fayose said he would report to the EFCC office in Abuja at 1 p.m. on October 16, 2018, many Nigerians said he was only using that as a decoy to run away from Nigeria. But as he promised, Fayose reported to the EFCC office in Abuja, wearing a T-shirt with the inscription, “EFCC, I’m Here.”

Today is April 19, 2024. Fayose’s trial, which started on October 22, 2018, is still ongoing, close to six years after it started.

Early last year, EFCC was bragging about how the then Zamfara State Governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, would be arrested and prosecuted after his tenure for alleged N70 billion in fraud.

Today, Bello Matawalle is a serving minister. In fact, he is in charge of defence!

Also, in June last year, the Federal High Court in Abuja restrained the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) from detaining former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari.

Up until today, the EFCC has not invaded the residences of Matawalle and Yari to arrest them. They have not been declared wanted and placed on the watchlist either.

Now, it is about Yahaya Bello, the immediate past governor of Kogi State.

As usual, the EFCC is presenting Yahaya Bello as one who is running from investigation and prosecution. His residence has been invaded. He has been declared wanted. He has been placed on the watch list.

But in all these EFCC usual dramas, the public has not been told whether or not Yahaya Bello was at any time invited by the EFCC.

I think the EFCC should oblige Nigerians with its invitation letter to Yahaya Bello, including the date it was received and who received it.

Furthermore, on March 14, 2024, the EFCC charged Yahaya Bello before Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja, for alleged N84 billion in money laundering offences, alongside his nephew Ali Bello, Dauda Sulaiman, and Abdulsalam Hudu.

Now, the question is, if someone has been charged in court, of what essence are arrest and interrogation?

When charges are filed by the investigating authorities against the accused person and such person is arraigned in court, it presumes the conclusion of investigations, meaning that such an accused only has business with the court and not the investigating authority any longer.

Therefore, in the case of Yahaya Bello, he only needs to appear in court on the next adjustment date or when he is served with the court processes.

Meanwhile, there is a court order barring the arrest and prosecution of Yahaya Bello, and the EFCC is at the Court of Appeal, challenging the order. So why not wait for the Appeal Court to determine the appeal?

Also, a Federal High Court in Abuja is scheduled to rule on the application by the EFCC, seeking a substituted service of the charge on Yahayo Bello, on April 23, 2024.

Justice Emeka Nwite fixed the date after counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), and the ex-governor’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), presented their arguments for and against the oral application.

Mohammed, who announced his appearance for Yahaya Bello, challenged the validity of the charge on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the one hand and to have issued the arrest warrant against his client on the other hand.

He informed the court that a preliminary objection had already been filed before the court.

The lawyer urged the court to vacate the arrest warrant order, pointing out that a High Court in Kogi State had on February 9, 2024, restrained the anti-graft agency from arresting, detaining, or prosecuting the former governor.

He said the ruling was based on a fundamental rights suit filed by Yahaya Bello and that the EFCC was a party in the matter.

So, why should the EFCC declare someone it is already prosecuting in court? Isn’t it the duty of the court to issue a warrant of arrest against an accused it is trying?

I think once an accused is charged in court, the prosecutor no longer has any right to him or her.

In this case, having charged Yahaya Bello to court and his lawyers were in court to represent him, should the EFCC still declare him wanted? Isn’t that the duty of the court? Is it right for an agency of government to act in a way to suggest that it is overreaching the court?

The court adjourned till Tuesday, April 23, 2024, to rule on EFCC’s application for substituted service on Yahaya Bello. Why should EFCC act like it was seeking self-help?

These are questions lovers of democracy and the rule of law should ask, not falling for the usual drama of the EFCC, which in most cases has led to shoddy prosecution of cases.

Let me say this again: I am in support of the investigation and trial of anyone for corruption in this country.

After all, when the police in Ekiti State invited me for alleged stealing of N13 million while serving as head of the State Broadcasting Service, I reported to the Police Headquarters in Ado Ekiti almost immediately.

I was charged to court and granted bail, and I was going from Abuja to Ado Ekiti to attend court from March 2020 until May 2022, when the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution.

For more than three years that I was going to court, the Ekiti State Government that took me to court for corruption did not show up. They simply abandoned the case and left me to waste my time and resources coming to court.

After the usual drama of the EFCC, the same situation I faced for more than three years is what many Nigerians being prosecuted by the commission are facing. In some cases, it will be the EFCC that raises issues about the integrity of judges, resulting in the transfer of cases to other judges and the matter starting afresh.

Like I have maintained, corruption cases are not prosecuted and won by public drama, as is done by the EFCC. They are won through diligent investigation and prosecution. The ICPC has been more successful in prosecuting corruption cases than the EFCC.

I hope that soon, Nigerians will begin to ask questions as to why the ICPC does not make noise but has achieved more convictions in corruption cases than the EFCC, the Alárwo (noisemaker) of Nigeria.

It is Yahaya Bello today or tomorrow; who knows whether it will be you or someone very close to you? The EFCC must be told to stop being dramatic and do its jobs in accordance with the laws of the country.

I am still Lere Olayinka. I am here with the Irunmales of Oke Agbonna in Okemesi Ekiti, doing a night vigil.