Putting EFCC Restructuring Under Proper Perspective | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Putting EFCC Restructuring Under Proper Perspective

Posted: Sep 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) is the 28th National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). During his recent inauguration, he called for the restructuring of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) so that it can only investigate cases and leave prosecution of offenders to a separate agency as against what we presently have.

Since the call, his statements have been generating controversies, even as the anti-graft agency has accused him of being against the war against corruption of President Muhammadu Buhari. Several Nigerians have also been commenting on his call, with many speaking on both sides of the argument.

Mahmoud Explains…
Giving further explanation of his call, Mahmoud said the EFCC’s attack against him was uncalled for because as an individual and as the NBA president, he was committed to the anti-graft war. He maintained that since the EFCC was established over 12 years ago, there is need to look at the institutions of criminal justice system generally, including the EFCC and that he only gave some ideas on what needs to be done.

He said: “The EFCC was set up in 2004. We are talking about 12 years now. So, there is absolutely no reason why Nigerians cannot discuss and scrutinise the roles of these institutions to see what is happening over the last 12 years.

If indeed the structure is working properly and the mandate is being achieved, we probably won’t have the situation we have at the moment.  So, this reaction, in which certain very unsavoury remarks were being made is clearly not necessary and it is meant probably to intimidate the Bar association. It is totally uncalled for.”

Mahmoud stressed that as the NBA’s Chief Executive Officer, what he did at his inauguration as the chief spokesman, was to set the direction for the Bar and that anti-graft agency should have waited to see what the detailed recommendations would be.

According to him, “if you look at the law establishing the EFCC, and you also look at the composition of the commission, you see that there is a commission that acts as a Board that superintends over the activities of the EFCC. If you look at the board, with other organisations like the NCC, SEC, NDDC and others and you also look at the general functions of the commission, you will clearly see that one of the major focus is intelligence and investigation.

“Admittedly, there is a unit that is supposed to be in charge of prosecution which is spelt out in the body of the law. But the main thrust of the law itself is intelligence and investigation. In my speech, what we said was that we need to secure the independence of the agency in terms of political interference. You cannot have a prosecution agency that reports to somehow political authority. It is not done and it is not acceptable.

“Now we suggested that we need to define the mandate of the EFCC more narrowly.  In the criminal justice sector, you have several agencies that operate. EFCC is only one of them and it is supposed to focus on highly specialised areas such as financial and economic crimes, terrorism and the rest of them. So, you can’t have the EFCC operating broadly and generally and getting into everything.

The law must define the parameters on the basis in which the EFCC will then wade into those matters.  The EFCC is not meant to substitute the Nigerian Police or other agencies in prosecution. It is supposed to focus on highly specialised areas of financial crimes of certain magnitude and public importance, policy-wise for instance. If you define the mandate narrowly and you secure the mandate from political interference, you are making it more efficient and effective.”

Condemnation Of NBA By EFCC Uncalled For, Regrettable – VATLAD
The Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD) has said that the condemnation of the NBA by the EFCC for suggesting that there should be some reforms of the law and operations of the agency was uncalled for and most regrettable as the NBA was only exercising its fundamental right.

Comrades Igbini Emmanuel, National President and Kelechi Ijeoma, National Secretary, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD) in a statement stated that the call by the NBA was intended to improve on the war against corruption in our country and make more effective and easier the operations of the EFCC towards tackling corruption in Nigeria and to operate within the constitution and laws of Nigeria.

According to VATLAD, although it agreed with the EFCC that some legal luminaries, who are members of the NBA, might have hindered the war against corruption, “that is not enough reason to condemn the entire members of the NBA, even as it has also often strongly condemned similar statements from some Nigerians condemning the entire officials of the EFCC as fraudsters hiding under the protection of EFCC to commit worse crimes of corruption.”

VATLAD appealed to the NBA, EFCC and the entire Nigerian nation to come together and patriotically review the journey so far on the war against corruption since year 2000 when the ICPC was established.

The body also suggested that corruption cases against public officers and other high profile economic and financial crimes should be conducted publicly and televised live for Nigerians to see.

“There is need for us to remove all the mutual suspicions, allegations and counter-allegations in this war on corruption. It is time for sincere stock taking as a way to re-strategize towards improving on the success recorded so far. To this effect, we call for a public conference to be jointly organised by the National Assembly, NBA, ICPC and EFCC for Nigerians to freely express their views and suggestions.

“Corruption has been defined and accepted as our nation’s major enemies manifesting in different dangerous ways like terrorism, violent crimes, militancy, killing and murders. This calls for a National Referendum if you like,” the VATLAD leaders said.

EFCC Need To Be Totally Independent – Shittu
Comrade Amitolu Shittu, the National Coordinator of Committee for Democracy and Right of the People (CDRP) has stated that the only restructuring needed in the EFCC was to ensure effective prosecution of the anti-graft cases in the country.

Reacting to the call by the NBA boss, Shittu said there was the need to make the EFCC totally independent, explaining however that the present composition of the commission, headed by Ibrahim Magu, has done well in both arrest and prosecution of suspects.

Shittu maintained that under its current leadership, the EFCC operatives had been carrying out investigation before effecting arrests and prosecution of the suspects.

According to him, “there is the need to restructure the EFCC in such a way that the commission should be totally independent. Ibrahim Magu has done well as it now does proper investigation before arresting and prosecuting the suspects. This is unlike EFCC of the past where they will not properly conduct investigation before effecting the arrest of the suspects.

“In the past, it is after the arrest had been made that the investigation would commence. This is not right and the court of law throws out these charges for want of evidence.

“But, this time around, the body carries out proper investigation and it will be very difficult to deny charges raised against most suspects.

“You will also recall that most of the loots recovered from the suspects are intact and accounts of the suspects identified and details of lodgments are correct before arrest is made. This is a good development.”

Shittu further stated that EFCC’s workings are not political as being alleged by some Nigerians, adding that those accusing the commission of being on witch-hunt are not correct.

He added that the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Chairman of EFCC must be independent and their appointment must be done in such a way that they should not be under the supervision of the executive.

EFCC Restructuring Necessary – Hon. Ndubuaku
Hon. Jasper Ndubuaku, a former member of the Imo State House of Assembly, has thrown his weight behind the call for EFCC restructuring to make for efficiency and speedy dispensation of justice, even as it will put Nigeria on a better map in global issues on corruption and prosecution of offenders.

Ndubuaku backed the NBA’s call that the EFCC should engage in the investigation of allegations against suspects across the country, while the power to prosecute suspects should be removed from it, adding that the call was for the good of the country as well as that of the anti-graft agency.

According to him, there was nothing wrong in the proposal by the NBA because it would bring efficiency in the system, saying that where the commission investigates and allows the office of the Attorney General and Justice Minister to handle the prosecution of the suspects would usher in a new dawn in the justice system and lead to a brighter future for the nation’s judicial process.

He maintained that this would reduce the problems of the anti-graft commission and enable them to fully concentrate on the arduous task of conducting investigation of suspects, which should be very intensive, after which they should move the file over to the AG for prosecution.

Ndubuaku said it would also reduce the pressure on the EFCC over the number of cases they win, stressing that some of the criticisms against the commission was due to the fact that they have many cases currently in the courts, but have not been able to either win most of them, or seem capable to prosecute them properly and diligently.

He insisted that where the prosecution of suspects based on the outcome of investigations is commenced by another office, it removes the pressure from the commission and from then onwards, the pressure would be on the new body to win such cases and also take whatever criticisms emanating from there.

However, he stressed that in implementing the programme, there should be a proviso that would allow individual legal practitioners to also apply and be allowed to prosecute any of the cases under the auspices of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, so as to further broaden the scope of prosecution.

He said that this proviso would become imperative because the situation may arise where the Attorney General and Minister of Justice may either be dilly-dallying on the prosecution of a particular matter, or where the AG would decide outright not to carry on with the prosecution of a particular matter.

To this end, Ndubuaku said the private legal practitioner can apply to the Office of the AG and take up the prosecution of such matter without recourse to expenses on the part of the government, adding that this was the practice in several developed countries of the world.

He maintained that Nigeria was in dire need of a reformation of its justice system, especially because of the changing times and that there is indeed need for such reforms, especially in the prosecution of corruption cases to ensure quick dispensation of justice and to enable Nigerians enjoy what the rest of the world enjoys.

?There Must Be Separation Of Powers Within EFCC – Ahirika
Osondu Ahirika, an Uyo-based public affairs analyst stressed the need for separation of powers and responsibilities within the EFCC.

Akirika believes that combined powers, as currently being exercised by the EFCC, has the potential of making the commission a monstrous outfit that can easily be manipulated by politicians for selfish ends.

To make the commission more effective, Ahirika suggested need for separation of the investigation and prosecution ?arms of the commission, both operating within the same umbrella to achieve a common goal.

He said: “?I strongly believe the NBA President is not absolutely wrong in his advocacy, because, there is the tendency that EFCC can abuse such combined powers for political ends.

“I am of the view that they should maintain both powers, but with an amendment that there should be a full-fledged ?department which sole duty is to prosecute. Such department should be set up with competent manpower.

“Why I am suggesting that both departments remain under one umbrella is because a commission which investigated a case would have more insight into the case than an external prosecutor. So, there is need to have two agencies under one umbrella, but their roles should be complementary. But let it come from one agency so that the synergy and coordination will be there, no missing link.”

On the fear over abuse of powers by the EFCC, Ahirika argued that there was nothing to be afraid of as the commission can only investigate and prosecute, and does not have the power to deliver judgment, a power which still resides only with the courts.