The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is the Nigerian anti-corruption agency established to fight corruption ‚Äď a menace that has eaten deep into the fabric of the survival of the Nigerian society. The Act of the National Assembly that established the Commission clearly spelt out its functions and powers as detailed in sections 5 & 6 of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act 2002 (as amended).
Interesting to note is that none of the stated functions and powers of the EFCC, under its enabling Act, confers on it the power or prerogative to screen candidates for elections in all the tiers of governance in Nigeria. Its wide powers to fight official corruption does not cover electoral offences either, thus the contemplation that an Electoral Offences Commission be set up to deal with culprit of electoral fraud. It is on this note that the news in most Nigerian newspapers on Monday, 25th October, 2010 that the agency had compiled names of certain politicians it considered inappropriate to stand for the 2011 elections becomes curious. If its enabling law contains no such powers and or responsibility, the pertinent question then is ‚Äėon whose instruction or prodding is the EFCC engaging on the strange voyage?‚Äô
What readily comes to mind is a repeat of the do-or-die political days prior to the 2007 elections, when the highest level of government appeared to have turned the EFCC (then under the chairmanship of Nuhu Ribadu) into an attack dog to scare off real and perceived political enemies of those in power. EFCC had come out then with a revelation that 31 out of the 36 governors across the country had cases of fraud hanging on their neck which, according to the commission, would be pursued to a logical conclusion.
As a matter of hindsight it is now clear that EFCC hoax was just a strategy to scare off those considered political threats to the interest of the Presidency at the time. At the exit of Ribadu from the commission in 2008, the new leadership of the EFCC revealed to the public that there were no files on the alleged investigations of fraud against most of the 31 governors earlier declared corrupt and unfit to stand for the 2007 elections. The so-called Advisory List of EFCC published on Monday 25th October detailing names of about 100 politicians is reminiscence of the dark days prior to the 2007 elections.
Even if EFCC has the power to scrutinise the credibility of the said politicians to stand for the 2011 elections, the only relevant person on whom such an inference could be appropriately drawn is anyone who has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction. The functions and powers of the EFCC entails investigation and arraignment of suspects in court and not pronouncement on the good character or otherwise of the suspects be they politicians or any other Nigerians.
Even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), empowered to regulate participation in the 2011 elections does not have the constitutional rights to arbitrarily disqualify any person from contesting election into any office on the mere allegation of a subsisting criminal litigation against such a candidate. Not even the provisions of section 137(1)(i) of the 1999 Constitution which prescribes disqualification based on an indictment of administrative panel for embezzlement and or fraud is self executing in this regard.
Because allegations of corruption or fraud evoke passion among the citizenry, there is the temptation that some people would jump into conclusion that a person is guilty once an allegation is made or a criminal charge filed against such a person. Such perception is not only illogical, it is unconstitutional. This is because section 36 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution clearly provides that ‚Äė...every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty‚Äô. Before anyone could be convicted of a criminal charge, the Nigerian law requires the accused to be given fair hearing (see section 36(1) 1999 Constitution).
In criminal justice administration in Nigeria, like in any common law jurisdiction, the efficacy of the fairness of the court process is predicated on fair hearing and the presumption that the accused remains innocent until proven otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction based on credible uncontroverted evidence that might be adduced by the prosecution. Suspicion, however rife, would not anchor a criminal conviction because of the threshold of the law that requires the prosecution to prove its case against an accused beyond a reasonable doubt.
Any doubt in the evidence of the prosecution would be resolved in favour of the accused because the court abhors unjust punishment of an accused, whom might have been innocent, but merely being persecuted with the omnibus power of the state as wielded by those in power at the moment of such a trial.
The ‚Äėnaked dance of the EFCC at the market place‚Äô is not only an embarrassment to the image of Nigeria, home and abroad on the administration of criminal justice, it is a contempt of the court as regards the various cases pending against those listed by the commission as ineligible to contest the 2011 elections. Apart from the case of Chief Olabode George (and others of his status on the list) who has been convicted (and serving a jail term) what the EFCC has done by its publication of Monday, 25th October, 2010 is an ILLEGAL PRESUMPTION OF GUILT IN CASES CURRENTLY PENDING IN COURT.
This runs contrary to the tenets of the law as stated by the Supreme Court in the case of AC v. INEC  Vol. 10 MJSC125 at pages 136 ‚Äď 137 (para E-G) where the court stated inter-alia ‚Äú...The trial and conviction by a Court is the only constitutionally permitted way to prove guilt and therefore the only ground for the imposition of criminal punishment or penalty for criminal offences of embezzlement or fraud‚ÄĚ. It is high time EFCC leadership was called to order, otherwise, the much touted ‚Äėfree and fair election‚Äô assurance of the regime of President Jonathan might end up a mere sloganeering.
The activities of EFCC on the list of purportedly ‚Äėdiscredited politicians‚Äô fall short of the constitutional provisions of Nigeria and to such an extent illegal and unwarranted aberration. It could lend credence to feelings in some quarters that the highest level of government in Nigeria, which has been paranoid since the independence anniversary bomb last, is desperate to maintain status quo in 2011 without adherence to due process of law.
It is only hoped that such is not the official position as it portends doom for the polity. If EFCC is not being micromanaged to harass or scare off real and perceived opponents of politicians currently at the highest level of governance, then the Commission has goofed and should be called to order forthwith.
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renaissance Lagos, Nigeria October 28, 2010
This comment is unfortunately swimming against the tide of public opinion and it is sad. The opinion showed little understanding of the facts of the case. The EFCC published on its website and other official publications, a list of all those the commission had charged to court and it included names of many politically exposed persons (PEP). This was the list DOWNLOADED by Thisday newspaper for its story and they so acknowledged it.
The EFCC had always advised the political parties of the ongoing cases in court and that on moral, ethical and practical grounds, and to support the anti corruption drive of government, it was advisable not to field such candidates because if they were eventually convicted, it would create complications for the system. It was an attempt to sensitise and persuade the political parties of the right thing to do. EFCC never sought to force the parties to ban anyone.
It left them with the choices but it had taken the moral high ground by advising them. In any decent country, these parties should not have needed such an advice to act appropriately. Even when they got the advisory, you can see the hullabaloo. How sad!
How in heavens name can a political party field a candidate that has a case in court? Why should a person with a case in court present himself as a candidate? Why should any right thinking person vote for anyone accused of corruption with a case in court? The country surely has gone to the dogs and the stench smells to high heavens.
You sir, in my opinion goofed with this writeup and should do your homework better before making such a shallow opinion. We are disappointed
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