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OPINION: “EFCC And The Demon Of Corruption”, By Lere Olayinka 

“It was former Presidential Spokesperson, Dr Reuben Abati that wrote an article about demons in Aso Rock Villa, and this has remained a reference.

“Demons are spirits which are not visible and cannot be felt by anyone. They are in our midst at all times either as our friends, brethren, blood relatives or our very close associates. In other words, a demon is a complex being.

“Just like the demon, corruption is in our midst all the time. It is a complex being too.

“Perhaps, it was in his realization of the existence and potency of this corruption demon in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that its Chairman, Mr Ola Olukoyede, lamented publicly about what he called “the craze for gratification, and quest for bribes by some of the commission’s investigators.”

“Olukoyede alluded to the fact that EFCC investigators were corrupt and he could not hide it. He said “Public opinions about the conduct of some of our investigators are adverse. The craze and quest for gratification, bribes and other compromises by some of our investigators are becoming too embarrassing and this must not continue.”

“He went on to sound a note of warning, saying that he will not hesitate to wield the big stick against any form of infraction by any staff of the Commission, adding that “the image of the Commission is too important to be placed on the line by any corrupt officer.

“That was in January this year, three months after he assumed office. We are in May now, no big stick has been wielded against anyone in the EFCC. It is still business as usual.

“Apart from labeling EFCC investigators as corrupt, Olukoyede also harped on the need for the anti-corruption agency to conform with international best practices in law enforcement, saying, “We are a civilised anti-graft agency. Arrest and bail would henceforth be done in line with the rule of law.”

“Olukoyede, a former Executive Secretary of EFCC cannot be said to be oblivious of happenings in the Commission. He worked with Ibrahim Magu and saw how Magu was arrested in a Gestapo-like manner at the entrance of the Wuse II, Abuja office of the anti-graft agency.

“After he was removed from office as EFCC secretary, Olukoyede saw how Magu’s successor, Abdulrasheed Bawa, was arrested and detained for over 100 days. He also knew how previous EFCC Chairmen before Magu, were humiliated out of office.

“Therefore, Olukoyede wanted the EFCC under him to function in accordance with the rule of law. He even ordered in November last year, that sting operations at night be stopped in all the commission’s commands. He gave the directive in reaction to the raid of off-campus hostels of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife by operatives of the agency in which 69 students were arrested.

“But it appears that the demon of corruption in the EFCC have made Chairman Olukoyede to forget all that he said few months ago. If he has not, he will not be the one to mount the podium and stand in front of television cameras to defend the April 17 invasion of the Abuja residence of the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, despite the pendency of a Court Order restraining the anti-graft agency from arresting him.

“If not for those demons of corruption in the EFCC, I am sure that as a lawyer, he will know that once a court gives an order, it must be obeyed until set aside by a higher court. He will also be mindful that after appealing against a decision of the court, anything that will amount to overreaching the court must not be done by all parties.

“He will also know that once an accused person is charged to court, he or she 7can no longer be arrested or declared wanted by the prosecuting authority except the court so directed.

“Most importantly, someone who was sermonising about the EFCC operating in line with the rule of law will not stand before the press to discuss charges already filed in court against an accused person, thereby acting like he was inciting the public against the accused person and indirectly passing judgement on him.

“On Yahaya Bello, it is on record that no formal invitation was made by the EFCC. Rather, the Chairman only called the former governor on phone and offered to bend the rules for him by allowing him into the Chairman’s office as a VIP.

“Also, in seeking to protect his reputation and fundamental rights, Yahaya Bello filed Fundamental Rights Enforcement in Kogi State High Court on February 8, 2024 and on February 12, 2024, the Court granted an order restraining the EFCC from inviting, arresting, or prosecuting Yahaya Bello pending the determination of the Originating Motion.

“Despite this order, the EFCC filed Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/98/2024 against Yahaya Bello on March 6, 2024 and went ahead to obtain a warrant of arrest on April 17, 2024.

“As at today, EFCC is at the appeal court, challenging the April 17, 2024, judgement of Justice I.A Jamil, in suit no HCL/68/M/2020, restraining EFCC from arresting, detaining and prosecuting Yahaya Bello except as authorised by the Court.

“Also, application to vacate the warrant of arrest issued against Yahaya Bello, will be determined by the Federal High Court in Abuja on May 10, 2024.

“Methinks if the EFCC will follow the position of its Chairman on the rule of law, no further action will be taking on the matter until the court decides otherwise.

“There will also be no need for the Commission to be at the defensive as it is now, defending why it had to disperse pro-Yahaya Bello protesters while according those who protested in its support a red carpet reception.

“This is more so that emotion and sentiment apart, Yahaya Bello cannot be said to be running from investigation and prosecution. He is only using provisions of our laws to protect himself, and no one can blame him for that.

“Perhaps, Yahaya Bello is acting like an antelope that was fleeing when he saw the Central Police of the Animal Kingdom pursuing a goat. When the antelope was asked why it was scared since it is not a goat, the antelope said; “With the way our law enforcement agents operate, by the time I am arrested, humiliated and detained for two weeks, I will look like a goat in the eyes of the public when paraded.”

“It is therefore the EFCC that needs to focus on proving its allegations against Yahaya Bello in court and in doing this, the anti-corruption agency must operate within the ambit of the laws and stop engaging in campaign of intimidation and harassment against Nigerians. After all, an accused is presumed as innocent until convicted by the court.

“But will the demon of corruption in the EFCC allow common sense and the rule of law to prevail, at least for once?”

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Dominic Ojielo
Dominic Ojielohttps://joliba.com.ng
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