EFCC, Legal Fireworks and the Media Trails: Issues & Matters Arising -Ishola Adebayo

April 21, 2017

As a result of the incessant rise in the rate of corruption In Nigeria, the Obasanjo administration established a special anti-graft agency that will see to the total reduction or eradication of corruption to its barest minimum. Up till now, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been trying its best in seeing that their mission is being carried out judiciously without bias. However, as a delicate governmental organization, has it been able to perform its duties without any iota of doubt or form of blemish?

On Monday April 3, 2017, the Federal High Court in Lagos lifted the order to unfreeze a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome money in Guarantee Trust Bank account for 120 days which means that the Federal government, through the EFCC, lost a case against a senior citizen. Before that, the EFCC lost its cases against the former First Lady; Dame Patience Jonathan, a senior member of the Bench and his wife; Justice & Mrs. Ademola and even Mr Godsday Orubebe, all on corruption charges.

So far, this has caused a stain on EFCC as in due course, people may not take their activities as serious as before. What is the essence of throwing media trail against a citizen only to face series of blame from the Nigerian populace as a whole?

This is where the issue of professional investigation comes into play. Literally, it means that the horse should be placed before the cart and not the other way round. In the words of Yusuf Ali SAN “Proper investigation is the proper foundation for a criminal trial”. In the case of the EFCC, it is not professional to arrest a suspect before investigation. A well detailed investigation will expose the suspect itself which will make it easier to arrest such person and for prosecution. Nigerians are tired of all these discoveries that lead nowhere. Once you do not get your investigation right, you can never get a conviction.

Another issue is that EFCC reveals much of the facts of its cases to the public, especially through the social media, before getting to court. For the fact that this act may attract accolades from people, the court of law doesn’t dwell on that. Judgments are based on facts and the law. Allegation does not translate to conviction. They are two different things. That is why agencies investigating criminal acts must shield the facts from the media except the ones that come out in court. Throwing a lot of findings may actually give room to the defense to find loopholes within a short period of time.

Furthermore, it is highly necessary that the EFCC should be able to eat its humble pie once an investigation shows that there is no case against a person. It should let the case go rather than foot-dragging issues unnecessarily for a long time. Let the EFCC focus its attention on important investigations, not investigations whose evidence cannot be relied upon by any court of law.

We should always remember that no matter how brilliant a person is, an experienced person may prove better most times, if not all the time. The issue of fielding counsels from the police department may not hold water against a team of senior advocates who is representing the defense. Even in law, much respect is accorded to a senior person as against the junior ones. In essence, the government should use the resources at its disposal in employing the services of more capable and experienced “ogbologbo” lawyers who will represent them at the court of law.

Corruption is usually being described as a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of our country. Hence, it may be challenging to get an incorrigible individual even in an anti-graft agency. Therefore, the prosecuting teams must consist of trusted persons who believe in fighting corruption – persons, who will not allow themselves, to be corrupted.

Another issue we should thoroughly look into is the issue of strengthening our existing laws. In the words of Macdonald Akhirome, “How best can the laws be reviewed and upgraded to meet with the nature of the crime and the changing trends? The world is becoming a global village and our society is advancing and so is crime. The laws must be reviewed to be able to catch up with modern day realities”.

So true that we still practice some obsolete laws that should have been reviewed or even go down the drain. A lot of innovations have taken place in the world today so it is not a bad idea to have some reforms in our legal system.

Still, we charge our anti-graft agencies to be hardworking as ever .Though the road may look tough as usual, but with proper investigations and an effective team, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel which is winning the much needed victory against corruption.

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.