Lere Olayinka: EFCC and the brigandage that won’t stop

Nigerians have always been sentimental about issues concerning Politically Exposed Persons and it is understandable.

I still remember what many Nigerians said about Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) then. What has happened to Dasuki and all the Arms Money they claimed he stole? Has anyone been convicted on the basis of the basis of what was termed then as Dasuki Gate?

Even Dasuki that they claimed had weapons “capable of disrupting the peace of any city in Nigeria for a while” is in his house now, enjoying life.

I remember what many Nigerians said about Ayo Fayose then too. Some people even said that Fayose will go to jail the moment he was out of power as Ekiti Governor.

While still in office as governor, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives were everywhere, invading properties perceived as his. A petrol station in Akute, Ogun State was shut down by EFCC operatives. The news was that Fayose owned the petrol station, but a few days after shutting down the petrol station, it was reopened by the same EFCC operatives having found out that they acted wrongly. Many buildings in Ekiti were marked with the usual EFCC INVESTIGATION KEEP OFF! The marks were latter to be cleaned when they realized that the houses were not owned by Fayose.

Then, when Fayose said he will report at the EFCC office in Abuja at 1pm on October 16, 2018, many Nigerians said he was only using that as a decoy to run away from Nigeria. But as he promised, Fayose reported at the EFCC office in Abuja, wearing a T-shirt with inscription, “EFCC I’M HERE.”

Today is April 19, 2024, Fayose’s trial that started on October 22, 2018, is still on, close to SIX YEARS after it started.

Early last year, EFCC was bragging about how the then Zamfara State Governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle will be arrested and prosecuted after his tenure for alleged N70 billion fraud.

Today, Bello Matawalle is a serving Minister. In fact, he is in charge of defense!

Also, in June last year, Federal High Court, Abuja, restrained the EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) from detaining former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulaziz Yari.

Up till today, EFCC has not invaded the residences of Matawalle and Yari to arrest them. They have not been declared wanted and placed on watchlist too.

Now, it is about Yahaya Bello, immediate past governor of Kogi State.

As usual, EFCC is presenting Yahaya Bello as one who is running from investigation and prosecution. His residence has been invaded. He has been declared wanted. He has been placed on WATCHLIST.

But in all these EFCC usual dramas, the public has not been told whether or not, Yahaya Bello was at any time INVITED by the EFCC.

Methinks EFCC should oblige Nigerians with its Invitation Letter to Yahaya Bello with the date it was received and who received it.

Furthermore, on March 14, 2024, EFCC charged Yahaya Bello before Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja for alleged N84 billion money laundering offences, alongside his nephew Ali Bello, Dauda Sulaiman and Abdulsalam Hudu.

Now, the question is, if someone has been charged to court, of what essence is the arrest and interrogation?

When charges are filed by the investigating authorities against and accused person and such person is arraigned in court, it presumes the conclusion of investigations, meaning that such an accused only has business with the court, not the investigating authority any longer.

Therefore, in the case of Yahaya Bello, he only needs to appear in court on the next adjustment date or when he is served with the court processes.

Meanwhile, there is a court order barring arrest and prosecution of Yahaya Bello, and EFCC is at the Court of Appeal, challenging the order. So why not wait for the Appeal Court to determine the appeal?

Also, a Federal High Court, Abuja, is scheduled to rule on the application by EFCC, seeking a substituted service of the charge on Yahayo Bello, on April 23, 2024.

Justice Emeka Nwite fixed the date after counsel for the EFCC, Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), and the ex-governor’s lawyer, Abdulwahab Mohammed (SAN), presented their arguments for and against the oral application.

Mohammed, who announced appearance for Yahaya Bello, challenged the validity of the charge on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the one hand and to have issued the arrest warrant against his client on the other hand.

He informed the court that a preliminary objection had already been filed before the court, to the effect.

The lawyer urged the court to vacate the arrest warrant order, pointed out that a High Court in Kogi State had on February 9, 2024, restrained the anti-graft agency from arresting, detaining or prosecuting the former governor.

He said the ruling was on a fundamental rights suit filed by the Yahaya Bello, and that the EFCC was a party in the matter.

So, why should the EFCC declare someone it is already prosecuting in court wanted? Isn’t it the duty of the court to issue warrant of arrest against an accused it is trying?

Methinks once an accused is charged to court, the prosecutor no longer have any right on him or her.

In this case, having charged Yahaya Bello to court and his lawyers were in court to represent him, should the EFCC still declare him wanted? Isn’t that the duty of the court? Is it right for an agency of government to act in a way to suggest that it is overreaching the court?

The court adjourned till Tuesday, April 23, 2024, to rule on EFCC’s application for substituted service on Yahaya Bello, why should EFCC act like it was seeking self-help?

These are questions lovers of democracy and the rule of law should ask, not falling for the usual drama of the EFCC, which in most cases have led to shoddy prosecution of cases.

Let me say this again, I am in support of the investigation and trial of anyone for corruption in this country.

After all, when the police in Ekiti State invited me for alleged stealing of N13 million while serving as head of the State Broadcasting Service, I reported at the Police Headquarters in Ado Ekiti almost immediately.

I was charged to court and grated bail, and I was going from Abuja to Ado Ekiti to attend court from March 2020 till May 2022 that the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution.

For more than three years that I was going to court, the Ekiti State Government that took me to court for corruption did not show up. They simply abandoned the case and left me to waste my time and resources coming to court.

After the usual drama of the EFCC, the same situation I faced for more than three years is what many Nigerians being prosecuted by the the commission are facing. In some cases, it will be the EFCC that will raise issues about the integrity of judges, causing transfer of cases to other judges and the matters starting afresh.

Like I have maintained, corruption cases are not prosecuted and won by public drama as being done by the EFCC. They are won through diligent investigation and prosecution, ICPC has been more successful in prosecuting corruption cases than the EFCC.

I hope that soon, Nigerians will begin to ask questions as to why ICPC does not make noise, but has achieved more conviction in corruption cases than EFCC, the Aláríwo (Noisemaker) of Nigeria.

It is Yahaya Bello today, tomorrow, who knows whether it will be you or someone very close to you. Reason EFCC must be told to stop being dramatic and do its jobs in accordance with the laws of the country.

I am still Lere Olayinka. I am here with the Irunmales of Oke Agbonna in Okemesi Ekiti, doing Night Vigil.
Email: [email protected]

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