Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari demanding the withdrawal of the proposed executive bill to amend the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act.
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, headed by Itse Sagay, had, last week, reportedly raised concerns that “the government is pushing a bill to amend the EFCC Act, 2004, which will demolish the anti-corruption infrastructure of Nigeria, and confer an enormous power of control of the anti-graft agency on the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.”
A letter dated September 19 signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, urged Buhari to “urgently instruct Abubakar Malami, minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to withdraw the proposed executive bill to amend the EFCC Act, which, if passed and signed into law, will severely undermine the commission’s independence, and render it a toothless bulldog or toothless tiger.”
The organisation alleged that the government was secretly pushing the proposed bill to amend the EFCC Act, as there was no public consultation or public hearing regarding the contents of the bill.
“The bill is apparently designed to undermine the independence, integrity and freedom of action of anti-corruption agencies, ignores the seriousness of grand corruption and its impact on Nigerians’ human rights, the rule of law, principles of good governance, development, as well as the threat corruption poses to the country’s constitutional order.
“By pushing to turn the EFCC into a department in the Federal Ministry of Justice, and effectively bring it under the control of the attorney general; and to subject the appointment of the agency’s head to the approval of the Directorate of State Security, your government would seem to indicate that it is not interested in combating corruption and halting its putrefying effects.
“We would be grateful if the requested action and measures are taken by your government. Should the proposed bill be passed and signed into law, SERAP would take all appropriate legal actions to challenge its legality, in the public interest, and to ensure anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria can operate independently and effectively.
“SERAP contends that Nigeria’s constitutional and international legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone inevitably create a duty on your government to establish independent and efficient anti-corruption mechanisms.
“This bill is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.
“Under the proposed bill, the limited independence that the EFCC enjoys will be substantially undermined, as the commission will now effectively become a body of the executive government, thus creating heightened risk of political interference in the work of the commission,” SERAP said.
It urged the government to ensure heads of anti-corruption agencies are appointed through a process that ensures their apolitical stance, impartiality, neutrality, integrity and competence.