By Romanus Okoye
Following the altercation between the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome and Sir Femi Falana, among other lawyers, yesterday said the AGF has the constitutional supervisory role over all the agencies involved in the fight against corruption; urging the agencies to stick to their powers, obligations and roles as clearly stated in the 1999 constitution.
Ozekhome said: “I am not surprised that the EFCC has scornfully and disdainfully refused to forward to the Attorney General of the Federation, the outcome of the investigations of high profile corruption cases. The EFCC has since become an island unto itself, no doubt; a country within a country, like the Papacy, which is recognised by the UNO, as a nation within Italy, another nation. It has since behaved, acted and lived above the laws of the land, contrary to its motto, ‘No one is above the Law’.
“Like witches and wizards whose activities are shrouded in eerie secrecy in covens, the EFCC has carried on without accounting and answering to anyone. It does not obey legislative queries or resolutions of the National Assembly. It defies court orders with imperious impunity and ridicule. Now, it has carried the battle to the remaining third arm of government, the very executive, of which it actually forms a part and parcel. To continue to defy the AGF, the EFCC must first amend the 1999 Constitution to enable it usurp and appropriate the powers of the AGF clearly spelt out in section 174 of the 1999 Constitution.”
Chief Ozekhome explained that the section donates to the AGF, absolute powers to institute, take over or discontinue any criminal proceedings in Nigeria, subject to certain constitutional imperatives, which do not, however, concern the EFCC. “The EFCC, which is clearly under the supervisory jurisdiction of the office of AGF, does not possess such powers. This government has turned everything upside down. It is so pitiable!”
He further said “the EFCC, in unholy alliance with the power drunk, dictatorial and unpretentious PACAC (Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption), has since usurped the powers of the AGF under the Constitution. The EFCC is, therefore, not only breaching section 10 of the EFCC Regulations, 2010, but is actually subverting the Nigerian Constitution in a most flagrant manner. This is impunity in its naked form, and crass constitutional aberration, both of which signposts the worst forms of corruption. Where do we go from here, now that the falcon can no longer hear the falconer and mere anarchy has been loosen upon the world? Nigeria is in a big governance mess, tottering to no identifiable destination, with no one appearing to be in charge.”
In his statement entitled “On revitalisation of anti-corruption agencies”, Femi Falana (SAN) said, “following the change in the leadership of the EFCC in November 2016, I had repeatedly called for the reorganisation of the other anti-graft agencies. At long last, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has deemed it fit to reconstitute the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC).
“In the same vein, the federal government has rightly decided to establish the Presidential Panel on the recovery of public property.
It is hoped that these appointments will go a long way to divert attention from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“By appointing Professor Bolaji Owasanye, the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption as the new chairman of the ICPC and Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, the Presidential Adviser on Prosecution as the Chairman of the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property who are both men of proven integrity, the federal government has demonstrated its determination to refocus, restrategise and rejig the anti-corruption programme which had almost been hijacked by the forces of corruption and impunity in the country.”
Also reacting to the matter, a human rights lawyer, Monday Ubani, said the altercation between the AGF and EFCC, was an embarrassment. “It is an embarrassment to some of us who believe this government is sincerely fighting corruption.
It is totally unproductive. It is uncalled for.”
Ubani said whatever information any of the agencies involved in the fight has ought to be made available to the others. He insisted that “the face-off was a total distraction and not good for the objective of government.”
Another rights activist, Malachy Ugwummadu, said: “Nigerians will want to know who is sabotaging the prosecution of high profile cases. Is it the EFCC or the AGF? No doubt Nigerians are not comfortable with the altercation. The face off is extremely unfortunate. There ought to be synergy among all the government agencies involved in prosecution at all levels.
“The AGF, under the 1999 Constitution, has the right as the chief law officer to supervise and set requirements. This matter should have been resolved, internally, without allowing it degenerate to this embarrassing level.
Something needs to be done, urgently, before Nigerians start losing confidence in the government’s fight against corruption.”
However, the Senior Special Adviser to the AGF and Minister of Justice, Salisu Othman, said the issue between his boss and the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, is an official matter which is being handled officially. He said there was no cause for alarm since the parties involved are working for the same government.