The opinion expressed by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, was a personal one. Any member of the society can air their opinions on any issue.
Personally, I think the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should be given more powers. It has done very well in the past years. Probably, that is why the attention is on it. Why are we not talking about the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, which also prosecutes offenders?
Punch reports. The powers of the EFCC to prosecute are expressly stated in the constitution. The same sections that give the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice the powers to prosecute also give the EFCC the powers to prosecute. And it is not only the EFCC that has prosecutorial powers. The Nigeria Police Force, ICPC, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control are given similar powers.
If you leave prosecution to only the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, it would be burdensome. It was based on this that the EFCC and other agencies are given the same powers. This is good for the country.
If you look at the statistics, you would observe that the EFCC has recorded the highest number of convictions in the country. How do you then ask the government to reduce the powers of such a commission? The powers it enjoys are constitutional.
Besides, it has done very well. When a child is doing well, you do not discourage him. Rather, you encourage him to do better. I would rather suggest that the EFCC’s powers should be strengthened. It deserves that. – • Rotimi Jacobs (Senior Advocate of Nigeria)
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Mahmoud, is somebody I respect. But I disagree with him on his call for the withdrawal of the prosecutorial powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Perhaps, he was not properly advised. I am sure that he would change his position if he has access to information on the sterling performance of the anti-graft agency.
The EFCC has secured more convictions than all the ministries of justice in the country put together. That includes the Federal Ministry of Justice. You can confirm that from records. Why should the NBA president single out the EFCC when many other agencies, including the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Police Force and several others have prosecutorial powers?
Based on its performance, the EFCC needs to be strengthened. It prosecutorial and investigation powers should be strengthened. Its capacity should also be boosted so that it can perform much more than it is currently doing.- • Wahab Shittu (Lawyer)
Prosecution is a very serious business. To achieve success in prosecuting a criminal, the person prosecuting must be thorough and competent. That is why I believe in building what I call judicial architecture.
Let us go into history to examine the performance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. You would observe that there were instances when the commission brought 200 charges against an alleged criminal but could not prove a single charge. That means it lacks prosecutorial competence.
In many instances, it would not finish investigation before it makes an arrest. When you arrest an accused person, the investigative process is considered to have been completed. This is because the accused person has the right to refuse to speak with you once he is arrested. But what we have noticed is that the EFCC would hurriedly arrest an accused person while its investigation is still ongoing.
For such an agency, it should seek clearance from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before it prosecutes. And the constitution is clear on it – the chief prosecuting officer of the country is the AGF. A former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, raised the issue but many people dismissed his argument.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice should be part of the EFCC’s prosecution processes. But there may be unnecessary delay if we insist that the EFCC should get clearance from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before it prosecutes. The EFCC could duplicate each case file and give a copy to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice so that he/she could intervene in the process when it is necessary.- •Chuks Nwachukwu (Partner, Indemnity Partners)
To have said that the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to prosecute alleged corrupt people should be withdrawn, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, appears to miss the point. The EFCC should be encouraged and empowered to continue the prosecution of corrupt individuals.
I think some lawyers, who have been colluding with corrupt members of the society and judges to defraud the country, are threatened by the good work the EFCC is doing. That could be the reason the NBA leadership is calling for the weakening of the EFCC. The government and the entire country should know that the call is not in the interest of the nation.
Personally, I am fully in support of the anti-corruption war. The government should use everything within its control to fight corruption. Obviously, the EFCC is critical to the success of the war. Calling for the weakening of the commission raises a lot of questions about the interest of the individual making such a demand.
A lot of people are blaming the government for the poor performance of the economy. But the truth is that we would not be able to boost the performance of the economy if corruption is not defeated. The EFCC is germane to the efforts to sustain the war. Hence, we cannot afford to weaken the agency. – • Frank Kokori (Former Secretary-General, Petroleum Energy and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria)
The face-off between the new President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is very unfortunate.
First, the NBA should acknowledge the fact that the EFCC is not filled with unlearned people. It is also important the NBA notes that the law establishing the anti-graft agency is clear on its mandates. That law was not enacted yesterday.
Rather than plotting how the agency would be weakened, the NBA leadership should explore areas of collaboration with the agency, so that it (the EFCC) could gain from its expertise. Already, the masses see the Nigerian bar as a hindrance to the anti-graft war. The first thing the new leadership of the NBA could do to show that it has good intentions is to make an in-house policy banning members of the bar from using legal loopholes to stall corruption cases.
How would Mahmoud view a call asking judges to stop ‘writing’ verdicts and allow the EFCC to pronounce sentences on corrupt individuals? The NBA leadership should rethink its position on the matter. Otherwise, it would further fuel the suspicion that Nigerian lawyers are colluding with the enemies of the country to destroy it. – •Chris Otaigbe (Coordinator, Great Nigerians House)
The suggestion of the President of the NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud, calling for the limitation of EFCC’s powers to only investigation was made in good faith given the antecedents of the commission. The commission, over the years, has shown a high level of competence in investigation. But the same thing cannot be said when it comes to prosecution. We must remember that the EFCC is mainly made up of police officers.
On that basis, the NBA president’s suggestion ought to have been considered on its merit. It should not be seen as an attempt to undermine the commission. I think the EFCC would perform better if another body is empowered to undertake the prosecution of economic crimes while the agency takes care of investigation only.
Nigerians must not forget that Mahmoud has also addressed judicial corruption, which he said would be fought with vigour under his watch. He made it clear that corrupt lawyers and judges would be dealt with decisively to uphold the sacredness of the legal profession. – • Evans Ufeli (Human rights activist and constitutional lawyer)