Worried by the skewed manner the anti-corruption had taken off, I saw early warning signs that it was heading for trouble. As far back as January 24, 2016, barely six months of the President Buhari’s government, I counselled against the modus operandi of Magu in the fight against corruption. Because I am never compromised or bought over by any government, persons or authorities, I always say it as it is – speak the truth. After all, as Uthman Dan Fodio once put it, “Conscience is an open wound. Only the truth can heal it.” Let us see how I foresaw the anti-corruption fight over four years ago. Call me Nostradamus, if you like. I will lap it all up. Read on.
I had earlier written, in the Sunday Telegraph of January 24, 2016, the following piece:
“Trial by instalment
“The fashionable thing today under EFCC’s revised criminal justice system is the curious trial by instalment, or instalmental trial. It can be defined as a clever (I will say not really ingenious), method employed by EFCC and the Federal Government, to keep accused persons perpetually in detention (captivity better), even before conviction, contrary to Section 35 (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as altered), which presumes a person innocent until he is proven guilty by being convicted after a trial carried out in accordance with the laws of the land.
How trial by instalment works
“By this obnoxious method fast creeping in to our criminal justice lexicon, a suspect is charged with say, five counts of money laundry and breach of certain provisions of EFCC and Due Process Acts. Bail application is filed and argued between his lawyers and those of EFCC.
“The judge listens to the argument and grants bail after imposing fulfilment of certain conditions, as permitted by our criminal justice system, which is accusatorial and not inquisitorial. The accused person fulfils the bail conditions after spending four to six more days in detention, while his family members and friends scout around for sureties agreeable to the Court. As soon as he steps out of EFCC or Kuje prisons where is he has been kept in a dungeon, he is promptly ambushed, arrested, abducted, whisked away and locked up again under the thin guise that there are fresh charges to be proffered against him in the future.
“This unconstitutional modus operandi has seen ex-NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, kept in detention for nearly three months, after three separate courts had granted him bail. His team of lawyers, led by Chief J.B. Daudu, SAN, ex-NBA president, complains that they do not even know his present whereabouts, as no access is granted to his lawyers, friends and family members. This curious and obviously aberative method that reeks of unorthodoxy, unconstitutionality and intimidation of the judiciary, forced Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge of the FCT, to query EFCC as to why it did not incorporate the “fresh” charge that Olisa Metuh (PDP National Secretary, the opposition party), tore his earlier statement made to EFCC, into the earlier charge already pending before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court. So, Metuh is simultaneously facing separate charges before the Federal High Court and FCT High Court, all emanating from the same pedigree. This is known as ‘forum shopping’. Of course, fulfilling the bail conditions before Justice Abang of the Federal High Court does not now automatically guarantee him freedom and liberty as the utter ambush before Justice Bello’s court awaits him. So, the outcome is predictable. He will be in custody for a long time to come.
What is going on?
“Compatriots, what exactly is going on? I am getting more and more worried and confused about our constitutional democracy, because the more I look and watch, the less I see of its assumed dividends in terms of our cherished rights, liberties, and freedoms. Tell me, what is going on here? Someone wake me up from this Professor Peller’s abracadabra nightmare; or at best, a state of somnambulism. The last time I checked, all international instruments for fighting corruption, under the UNO, EU, AU, ECOWAS, etc, all guarantee liberties and freedoms of movement, fair trial, fair hearing and from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. See Articles 2 – 7 of the UNO International Human Rights. Ditto the Nigerian Constitution, our grundnorm. Did Metuh need to be handcuffed? No. what was the point, when Dasuki who is said to have paid out all monies (still mere allegations), was not so handcuffed? In whose interest?”
See: http://jimidisu.com/trial-by-instalment-by-mike-ozekhome/; https://thenigerialawyer.com/ozekhome-san-seeks-constitution-amendment-to-validate-courts-virtual-sitting”
EFCC: The taming of the shrew
Again, the above piece was written in my Sunday Telegraph column of December 18, 2016 (over three and a half years ago):
“The taming of the shrew” is a comedy written by legendary William Shakespeare, about 1590 and 1592. In the play, there was a framing device called the “induction”, in which one mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Christopher Sly, into believing erroneously that he is actually a nobleman.
“The genuine nobleman then ordered the play performed for Sly’s mirth and diversion. A shrew is defined as a bad tempered and aggressively assertive woman. Some synonyms of shrew include virago, dragon, harridan, tartar, anthrophagite, ogress, termagant, vixen, gorgon, etc. The above scenario and context epigrammatically describe the EFCC, which has so far been employed as an attack dog by successive governments, to bay at and bite, with impunity, real, perceived and imaginary enemies. Critics, plural opinionists, dissenters, political opponents, government functionaries (except those of the ruling party, past and present), are not spared. Such persons are detained, bruised, intimidated and browbeaten by this rampaging government organ, which ought to act within the confines of constitutionalism in a constitutional democracy, such as we pretend to be operating.
“Former President Obasanjo dictatorially used the EFCC to repress and hound out of office, democratically elected governors, such as Dariye of Plateau State, Fayose of Ekiti State and Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. In Plateau and Ekiti states, one-third, rather than two-thirds majority legislators, were coerced to impeach the then governors. Alamieyeseigha was not that lucky. He was impeached, handcuffed out of office and flown to Abuja on December 8, 2005, in a helicopter, while his impeachment panel was yet to find an operational venue, let alone hearing from him. I was his counsel. So, I have the facts. Such was the unabashed impunity that has since been transplanted to the present. Nigerians are suddenly afraid to even speak out, let alone critique government. The fear of EFCC and SSS (they prefer the non-statutory sobriquet, DSS), is the beginning of wisdom. EFCC simply moves into private citizens’ accounts, blockade and freeze them, after nichodemously obtaining orders of court, ex-parte. EFCC has since elevated a mere EFCC Act over and above the Nigerian Constitution, the grundnorm, the fons et origo.
Judiciary to the rescue
“The unruly wings of the EFCC were recently judicially clipped by the FHC, Ado Ekiti, coran, Justice Taiwo Obayomi Taiwo, in a case yours sincerely personally handled for Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose. The EFCC had, as usual, obtained an ex-parte order, freezing the governor’s two accounts with Zenith Bank Plc, on the unproven ground that it suspected the sums therein to be ‘proceeds of crime’. But, there was a catch here. Unlike other interim forfeiture cases, the EFCC did not sue Fayose, the owner of the accounts (sitting governor of Ekiti State), obviously attempting to evade the clear provisions of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, total immunity from any ‘civil or criminal proceedings’ whilst in office. These provisions are as clear as crystal and as clean as a whistle.
“With this judgment, hitherto respected human rights activists and defenders of the rule of law, who now enjoy the largesse, munificence, comfort and opulence of closeness to, or appointment within, the cosy corridors of power, and have therefore suddenly become revisionists, renegades and turn-coats, standing law, but to sober up and advise their pay masters appropriately. They forget that like the mammy wagon lorry anecdote proclaims, ‘no condition is permanent’ and that ;soldiers go, soldiers come, but barracks remain’. Ha, the ephemerality of power!
“They should now let the government know that virile opposition, dissension, plurality of ideas, respect for and observance of, human rights and the rule of law, form the cornerstone of democracy.
“Let me emphasise again, ad nauseam: you cannot fight corruption with corruption, nor use lawlessness to fight lawlessness. It is wrong to tag all critics or dissenting voices as meaning that “corruption is fighting back”. Why make it “they” versus “us”? Haba! [see: https://www.newtelegraphng.com/sad-reminiscences-on-ibrahim-magu-3/]
More of my earlier interventions on the anti-corruption fight
Sad reminiscences on Ibrahim Magu
“I had screamed on roof tops; on television; dripped oceans of ink about the savagery manner the anti-corruption fight was being prosecuted. Magu and his supporters had always accused defendant’s lawyers of corruption, for merely defending their clients. They failed to appreciate the fact that the same accused persons were being prosecuted by some of the best lawyers the government itself had hired. They were not even interested in knowing that the government itself harboured some of the most corrupt people in its dark recesses. They said it did not matter for as long as they have grabbed those they wanted. Such paradox! Such contradictions!! Such inconsistencies!!! Such self-denial!!!!
“EFCC under Magu merely went after opposition elements, rights activists, critics of government, dissenters, plural voices; etc. Never their own. A decampment by any corrupt politician into the ruling APC party suddenly cleansed him of his criminal and corrupt leprosy, like Naaman the leper, who dipped himself seven times into River Jordan, and became cleansed of his leprosy.
“Magu has therefore become a sad metaphor for the anti-climax of the anti-corruption war, as the very anti-corruption czar is himself now being accused, rightly or wrongly, of the worst form of corruption – the ‘corruption of anti-corruption’ war. This is sad. Really sad. But, please, Nigerians, don’t convict him unheard through media trial. This was the passtime and template of the EFCC under him: ‘Name-and-shame’ Nigerians, whether guilty or not guilty; without a fair trial. I don’t believe in it. I am unapologetic about this.
The A – Z and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of how to fight corruption
“I was not just criticizing. I provided solutions. I asked questions; answered the questions; and even questioned the answers. Since 2015. I advocated for the building of strong institutions, not strong men or strong women. I asked for a full detailed account of all loots so far recovered (money and realty). I provided panacea to enable EFCC and other anti-graft agencies chart a positive way forward. I wrote to EFCC and presented a paper at a CACOL roundtable, titled “The A – Z and 24 “DOS” and “Don’ts” of how to fight corruption” (See Daily Times of 24th April, 2017 – https//issuu.com/dailytimes.ng/docs/dtn-24-04-17/19). I was ignored, almost sentenced to a “fatwa”
Thought for the week
“Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.”
– Thomas Jefferson