by Abayomi G. Omotayo
The focal point of this piece is on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but I will touch briefly on the DSS and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation using Justice Ademola Adeniyi to drive home my point. I will then proceed to examine the recent activities of the EFCC using also recent examples of their raids resulting in the discovery of huge stashed away cash.
In the fight against corruption in Nigeria, the judiciary is not the problem even though I am personally of the opinion that that arm of government is tainted but not irredeemably so. As clearly seen in the case of Justice Ademola, sheer incompetence played a major part in determining the outcome of that case. There is a lot we can take home from the Judge’s ruling and if all the relevant agencies fighting corruption will be humble enough to learn from that judgment, it serves as a veritable ‘expo’ in mounting a very strong prosecuting for subsequent cases. That ruling should become a case study for our anti-graft agencies. The summary of Justice Okeke’s ruling is that the prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case with respect to any of the 18 counts. In fact, Justice Okeke said that the charges brought against the defendants by the federal government is highly speculative and lacks merit and It would amount to asking the defendants to prove their innocence contrary to the provision of the constitution which required the prosecution to prove their guilt.
The most instructive part was in his final comments where he admonished security agencies and law enforcement officers to ensure proper investigation before heading to court. In other words, do a thorough job and don’t come to court brandishing incompetence. Cases are not won by sentiments or emotions but by facts backed up with sound arguments and to think that the DSS initiated the raid and arrest of Justice Ademola while the office of the attorney general of the federation filed this ‘wishy washy’ case makes one wonder how really prepared this administration is in the fight against corrupt. Having the desire and enormous passion to fight corruption is a one thing while being prepared in all ramifications to tackle it especially in the law court is another thing entirely.
Now to EFCC; I applaud the whistle blowing initiative of the government. It is obviously bearing fruits considering the recent cases of huge cash discoveries starting from the grandmaster of safekeeping, Mr. Andrew Yakubu to the most recent everybody-is-now-laying-claim $50m found in an apartment at 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, West Africa, Africa! I am not a law or forensic expert but I do not lack common sense either. ‘Follow the money’ is a widely used phrase if not the most used phrase by investigative officers of money laundering and other financial crimes. The EFCC is too loud and too quick to court the media in its approach. For example, the N250m discovered in Balogun market, a more intelligent approach is to follow the money stealthy and the bigger fish or fishes would have been caught and not just the bureau de change operators who may now claim that they were just doing their legal business. It was alleged that a haggard looking woman usually came to the Ikoyi apartment where $50m was found. Was the EFCC so impatient to just create a media frenzy that it could not use stealth, surveillance and a coordinated sting operation to catch that woman red handed during her next visit. Wouldn’t she have offered first hand, more reliable information concerning the owners of the money or the apartment?
While I am trying hard not to laugh even till the point of writing this piece in order not to make me look like I am trivializing an important national matter, I find it so ludicrous that more than forty eight hours after the Ikoyi apartment discovery, as ‘powerful’ as the government is, both the Federal and State government, there is absolutely no tangible, concise information about the owner of that building instead Nigerians have been insulted with different dynamics regarding this matter. If it is a small fry like a ‘yahoo boy’, the EFCC would have no problems tracing his ancestors and their properties up to the fourth generation but now big men in posh building in big men area are supposedly involved, the EFCC cannot provide Nigerians with the details of the owner of that building in a brief press conference. Is there a separate protocol for big men when fighting corruption?
First is the news that Adamu Mu’azu is the owner of the apartment, that quickly changed to Rotimi Amaechi and then to the National Intelligence Agency. The latest in this unfolding nolywood blockbuster is the claim by Governor Wike that the money belongs to Rivers State. All this would have been avoided if the EFCC was patient, thorough and meticulous before swinging into action in the first place.
One random thought before I conclude, why are the EFCC officials always counting the money or handling it with bare hands? Are they not unwittingly tampering with evidence? Even though I know we are not yet at the level of having forensic investigation and hi-tech finger print stuff, still, shouldn’t evidence be handled more professionally? I may be wrong and this may be as a result of watching too much CSI episodes. Also, when the EFCC is quick to court the media about their modus operandi, the yet-to-be-nabbed looters are not foolish, they will quickly change tactics and relocate their stash ‘based on logistics’.
My admonition to the EFCC is this; even though you were not involved in Justice Ademola’s case, take the advice and submission of the Judge to heart. Do not be under any pressure. Nigerians (well, those that are not corrupt!) like and support you. The handler of your twitter account has endeared us to you even more. There is no reason to be under undue pressure to impress us and if the pressure is coming from the executive, professionally diffuse that pressure to enable you carry out your functions methodically, meticulously and objectively. You also need very competent lawyers or as Obasanjo put it ‘ogbologbo’ lawyers.
I know you are determined to bring all looters to book and I like that passion; however ‘gra gra’ does not win corruption cases only effective prosecution does so please put the adrenaline under control. In the end, if you continue to lose cases, you will be as guilty as the looters of our commonwealth because of the financial resources being expended to prosecute those cases without fruitful results.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
The author tweets @AbayomiGOmotayo and blogs at www.musingsamplified.com.ng