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EFCC’s actions: Anti-corruption CSOs raise concerns over Yahaya Bello’s safety

Frontline anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations have again advised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to toe the path of the rule of law and not continue to give credence to the impression that its anti-corruption mandate is being politicized by some interests whose intentions are neither patriotic nor altruistic. 

According to them, what is happening currently, in the ongoing controversy surrounding the Commission’s handling of its allegations against the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, “connotes nothing but that.”

They also noted that, with the way the EFCC had handled the matter, especially the threats from the lawyers and the Commission’s boss, it was justifiable to say that Yahaya Bello’s life might not be safe in the custody of the EFCC as being expressed by his supporters. And we believe this is a legitimate fear.”

The scores of activists, who gathered in Lagos on Tuesday for a well attended press conference on the state of Nigeria’s fight against corruption, noted that “the principle of justice presupposes that its scales are always balanced and it is blind to personality, creed, gender, race or status.” 

They specifically pointed out that what had led to the overheating of the polity was a simple factor – unwillingness of the EFCC to obey a court and follow the due processes of law. 

“If the EFCC had gone ahead to defend its appeal against the Kogi State High Court’s order without the premeditated drama of attempted arrest of a citizen who had a subsisting court order against such action, we will not be here today,” they said. 

The Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, who led other CSOs at the press conference, said, “The question will still remain a subject of legal interrogation whether charges filed against a subsisting court order can stand the test of legal scrutiny. If a court of competent jurisdiction has ruled that you must stay action on a particular matter pending the determination of the matter before it but that action was executed in spite of that order, one wonders how valid such charges could be in the long run.” 

He stated, “If your enemy falls victim of injustice today and you are happy and mute, when the same hand of injustice slaps your friend tomorrow, you will be under no moral or legal obligation to be angry or complain because society will remind you of the saying that ‘what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander’. Worse still, you may even eventually become a victim of the same hand of injustice that you once celebrated. 

“In this hazardous duty of rights activism, we are under permanent obligation to speak and rise up against injustice even if the person concerned is our mortal enemy or even a total stranger. It does not matter to us your religion, your ethnicity, your status in the society,  whether rich or poor, powerful or powerless, popular or obscure; our commitment to the cause of justice is a perpetual  service to humanity for which no sacrifices, including insults, blackmail and deliberate misrepresentation of facts can be too heavy for us to bear. It is our cross. Some of us have carried this cross for over four decades. 

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“They say there is no morality in politics. We say there is no sentiment in justice and rule of law. Every citizen is equal before the law and must be seen to be treated equally.” 

The activists added, “In the current matter between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello,  our position remains that the due processes of law be followed to the letter and unconditionally. 

“As you may have noticed recently, more prominent Nigerians, including legal luminaries and politically exposed persons, are coming out to speak truth to power on this matter of arrogant disobedience to lawful court orders…

“Let us reiterate the fact that the EFCC could still have achieved its objective of prosecuting Yahaya Bello simply by following the due processes of law and even might have achieved more but for its decision to act ultra vires. We need not go into the details of that again as it is already in the public domain in large volumes.” 

They advised the legal teams of the Commission to pay more attention to the technicalities of their cases before presenting them before their lordships, saying that “the EFCC loses too many cases that either should not have been taken to court in the first instance, or badly prosecuted whilst their lawyers continue to smile to the banks.” 

“With the way the Commission has handled the Yahaya Bello case thus far, especially the Gestapo-style employed, threats of military invasion to arrest him, and the needless public outburst of the Commission’s boss on the matter, it is justifiable to say that Yahaya Bello’s life may not be safe in the custody of the EFCC as being expressed by his supporters and we believe that this is a legitimate fear. 

“To that extent, all legal procedures can continue as they are now without Yahaya Bello being put in EFCC’s custody. The Court knows what to do to ensure that he presents himself in Court whenever his presence is required. 

“It is our well considered position that an error has been committed which can only be remedied by the well established judicial processes of Nigeria if truly this is strictly about corruption investigation and nothing else,” the human rights crusaders said.

The press conference was attended by Comrades Debo Adeniran, Olufemi Lawson, Declan Ihekiare, Gbenga Soloki, Abdullahi Usman, Funmi Jolade, Shina Loremikan, Akeem Olanrewaju, and Gbenga Ganzallo.

Also in attendance were Comrades Ochiaga Jude, Hakeem Sowole, Kolawole Egunsebi, Shina  Ishola, Leke Adebanjo, Peter Olayinka, Fola Akinola, Musiliu Adeajo, Mmeje Chukwudi, Samuel Olatoyin, and Rotimi Akinade, among others.

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