HomeViews and ReviewsYahaya Bello, EFCC And Rule Of Law

Yahaya Bello, EFCC And Rule Of Law

By

Pelumi Olajengbesi

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stands as a cornerstone in upholding the rule of law and combating economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Its unwavering commitment to investigating and prosecuting offenders has earned it commendation, fostering transparency and accountability in governance, even though there cannot be an institution without a challenge.

Despite facing institutional challenges, the EFCC’s track record of success has solidified its reputation as a formidable government agency, instilling a sense of propriety and caution among those in positions of political and economic influence.

However, recent events have generated concerns about the agency’s capability to function above interference, particularly in light of perceived political interference in its operations. A notable example is the recent stand-off between EFCC personnel and the immediate former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, highlighting the roles played by the Nigeria Police, the Court, and his successor, which underscores this concern.

The recent decision of the Kogi State High Court, purportedly restraining the EFCC from taking action against the former governor came as a rude shock, sparking widespread debate and scrutiny of the Nigerian legal system. Many citizens perceive this as an instance where certain individuals are seemingly placed above the rule of law, fueling media arguments and public discourse.

While awaiting access to the Certified True Copy of the judgment for clarity, it’s crucial to affirm the EFCC’s statutory authority, akin to other law enforcement agencies, to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing offenses. Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act unequivocally empower the Commission, with constitutional backing that cannot be overridden by the courts.

The Supreme Court in the case of Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN v. The Federal Republic of Nigeria held thus: “Having regard to sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the EFCC Establishment Act, particularly 6(b), 7(1)(a), 2(f), 13(2), the EFCC has powers to investigate, enforce, and prosecute offenders for any offense, whether under the Act or any statute, insofar as the offense relates to the Commission of economic and financial crimes.”

Similarly, in the case of Ewulo v. EFCC & ors., the Court of Appeals held as follows: “It is no longer in doubt that agencies vested with statutory powers to investigate crimes cannot be restrained or arm-twisted by litigation to prevent them from exercising their statutory powers.

Once there is semblance of legal justification in the exercise of statutory powers, the courts must refrain from making orders that have the consequence of stupifying the proper exercise of statutory powers.”

From the above, it is clear beyond a doubt that the Commission cannot be restrained from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities. Any attempts by an individual or group to use the instrumentality of the law to obstruct, delay, and/or circumvent the Commission’s constitutional responsibilities are therefore unlawful.

While respecting citizens’ constitutional rights is crucial, courts lack the authority to impede law enforcement agencies from executing their duties, regardless of the individual’s status. Upholding the rule of law necessitates ensuring equal accountability and justice for all, without exceptions or undue influence.

OLAJENGBESI ESQ IS MANAGING PARTNER AT LAW CORRIDOR, ABUJA

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