by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
EFCC, having been created as a special purpose vehicle to fight corruption, especially financial/ economic crimes, due to pressure from the International Community, with Nigeria blacklisted back then, as un-cooperative in the fight against money laundering; has come under intense scrutiny over the years, as a special purpose vehicle for the persecution of a select few, especially in political seasons, as against a blanket drive towards the prosecution of financial and economic crimes. The EFCC Act 2004 has thus faced heavy critique and X-ray, over its scope and powers. It has been heavily debated, whether the commission is limted to Federal offenses, or has a wider scope of prosecuting offenses at the State level; especially with regards to the Federal structure of the country and the surrounding legal issues. Seemingly, EFCC has operated outside its ambit and this has caused the Supreme Court to suggest a whittling down of the operations of the EFCC vis-a-vis the Act establishing it. In fact, an amendment is sought on the EFCC Act, as the Supreme Court asks for a more definitive role for the EFCC.
The back and forth between Kogi State Government and the EFCC is one of such endeavors of the EFCC that has brought to question, its purpose, operations and perhaps the integrity of its actors and their activities. A 20 billion Naira bailout fund, has been the subject of friction and litigation between the EFCC and Kogi State Government, and it seems the EFCC is over-reaching, in its efforts to finger officials of the State Government in a purported financial impropriety over the money. The courts had granted an injunction on the 3rd of December, 2021; restraining the EFCC from any further action relating to the matter, pending the determination of the motion on notice, after the Kogi State Government had sued the EFCC. The EFCC failed to get the order set aside, as its application was denied. This decision was further appealed by the EFCC for a stay of prpceedings on the matter.
Kogi State Government has now come public to say that the EFCC has tried to arrest one of the State’s officials over the same matter it has failed to file a defence in, while its appeal at the appeal court has not been determined. All court orders are to be obeyed and complied with until set aside by the court that grants it or by an appellate court. Officials of the EFCC are said to have claimed not to be in the know, of the subsisting court order. The new EFCC boss on assumption of office had promised to convert the commission’s energy from fighting people to fighting corruption. The idea of EFCC as being used to prosecute political agenda or persecute persons believed to be on the wrong side of the Government of the day is still very much in the front burner of political discourse. There are quite a number of cases that the public remains eager about having the EFCC prosecute. Some include the trillions of undeclared funds lying in money deposit banks that have neither been moved to the TSA, or declared by their depositors. Some even call it orphaned money!
Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; has lent his voice to the raging storm between Kogi State Government and the EFCC. He described the commission as a one man Robin Hood Riot Gang. The former NBA Chair had warned that the commission was perhaps operating beyond the realm of the EFCC Act, section 46; which doesn’t translate into an all powerful, all encompassing agency, that usurps the powers of many other government agencies including the Police, the courts and other agencies like the NDLEA and so on. If the case or matter is already in court, what is the EFCC still promising with actions that are either unlawful or over-reaching?
Now there is a fresh arraignment by the EFCC over the said bail out funds, this time, persecuting the Governor’s nephew. Civil society groups and other Kogi State citizens have come forward to send strong messages to the Presidency, over the commission’s activities of intimidation and persecution in Kogi. Some believe it is not unconnected to the Governor’s ambition that saw him contest the Presidency and his insistence not to back down for other interests that were deemed establishment interests. This has further heightened calls by people, for the amendment of the EFCC Act, that would trim down their gestapo style modus operandi, and the scope and powers they wield. Some have even called for the unbundling of the functions of the commission, to specific agencies, so as to cut down on the tendencies of certain EFCC officials. These officials are thought to abuse the provisions of the commission; especially where investigation, prosecution, and even the disposal of seized assets, are all carried out by the agency. Absolute power corrupts they say.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.