Tuesday, August 7, 2007

According to the ThisDay Newspaper online, on Monday, Yardy instructed all agencies directly involved in the investigation of present and former Nigerian officials that they cannot prosecute without the consent and permission of Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, the nation's attorney general and Minister of Justice.

Yardy reminded the nation that the prosecutory powers were granted to the Minister of Justice in Section 43 of the EFCC Act of 2004. Through his spokesperson and Special Adviser on Communications, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, he clarified that this action was in response to the Minister of Justice's request to encourage better coordination among all law enforcement agencies in order to limit multiple criminal prosecutions. Mr. Adeniyi stated, "In fighting corruption, nobody and no institution, and this includes the Presidency and himself as President, should be seen to be above the law and the Constitution." (The Guardian, online).

Yardy's declaration is apparently in direct contrast to a Supreme Court decision and his spurred allegations that he is attempting to protect former governors who financed his campaign. Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, referred to Osahon v. FGN where the Supreme Court determined that the Police and other investigation agencies do not require permission from the Attorney-General to initiate criminal prosecution. In response to the announcement, Gani Fawehinmi said, "I think this is a tactic by the President to prevent the prosecution of some governors and this is dangerous for the anti-corruption war in Nigeria... It cannot be accepted by Nigerians who believe in the anti-corruption war."

The affected agencies are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

My Thoughts:
I have been following closely the cases of certain governors and have been appalled at the evidence against them. For instance, Alhaji Turaki is accused of stealing N17 billion from the Jigawa state treasury IN ONE DAY! According to the Weekly Trust newspaper, the amounts embezzled by Turaki comes to at least N602.36 million in 2006. That is just one governor and one state. As a result, I have been very pleased to see that EFCC has not only attempted prosecute such scoundrels but I was pleased that the law allowed for such action.

The previous administration constantly proclaimed the independent nature of the EFCC and swore that it was not interfering with its prosecutorial abilities. Nigerians did not believe. However, once Nuhu Ribadu started throwing former governor's into Abuja's Kuje prison, Nigerians began to hope that some parts of the governmental structure were actually independent and not corrupt.

To now limit the EFCC by referring to the EFCC Act of 2004, which apparently allows the Justice Minister to make rules or regulations with respect to the exercise of any of the duties, functions or powers of the EFCC, will only return Nigerians to the mindset that some powerful former officials will escape the chokehold of the law.

Now, I firmly believe in coordination and agree that all parts of the anti-corruption campaign work in sync. However, I cannot help but worry that by subjecting the EFCC to the Attorney General's decisions could limit the number of prosecutions and thus hamper justice. I hope that Michael Aondoakaa, who has achieved the status of SAN, will relieve the fears of Nigerians by giving us a clear picture of the IMPARTIAL guidelines by which the EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Tribunal may move towards prosecutions. Mr. Aondoakaa, please quickly provide the public with the necessary information to restore and improve confidence in the nation's anti-graft efforts and even encourage cooperation from those with evidence of wrongdoing by former officials. That, I believe, is the most effective way to do 'damage control' and keep the country on the right track in its quest to stamp out corruption.

UPDATE: Nigeria's The Nation newspaper stated that Yardy reversed himself on his earlier declaration. Therefore, the EFCC is now allowed to prosecute. According to the newspaper, Yardy apparently called a meeting of Government Secretary Babagana Kingibe, ICPC chairman Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, EFCC Chief Nuhu Ribadu, Dr Wale Babalakin, a lawyer and the Attorney-General, who was opposed the new decision.

Mr. Aondoakaa said today, "I do not intend to create any impediment on the work of any of the agencies that had inherent powers to their statutes to initiate prosecution. For the avoidance of doubt, I have said that they can proceed as if, except I have good reason to intervene."

He further stated that any intervention on his behalf will be "as a last resort. I will continue to exercise my supervisory powers to see that all agencies involved in the prosecution of criminal cases under the statutes created by the Act of the National Assembly are done in conformity with the constitution."

Well, I for one am still waiting on those impartial guidelines, Sir. I especially want to know what exactly "the last resort" would be. Nevertheless, it is good to see that public discontent and pressure were able to have an impact on Yardy and his 'crew'. A president that listens to the people? Hmmm, wonders will never cease...

Or, was the reversal a response to the fallout that may have come from the international community? I guess we will never know.

3 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Omodudu said...

I do think reining in the EFCc is a step in the right direction, in the long run. In the short run it may seem like the EFCC is loosing some of its power. However in the long run, and for the sake of sustainanblility the EFFC will have to be integrated into the justice system as a whole. The focus should be on how to restructure the the Judiciary arm of government in such a way that will allow them to inch towards a form of pseudo-sovereignity (if there is a word like that). Okay I am responding to this post on my blog.


Surely, in the long run, the coordination proposed by the Attorney General will be necessary. My concern is that agencies like EFCC need to be INDEPENDENT and not subject to a Minister of Justice who might use his position to stifle prosecution of his peers and friends.

That is THE concern. And, until we reach a point in Nigeria where we are confident that such will not happen, the move to subject EFCC to Mr. Aondoakaa's 'whims' is a bad one. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion is that EFCC should be given much and enough power to prosecute any Governor or individual who meld with state money in any form and gel them to life in prisonment or sentence such person to death by hanging or fireing. That's the only way fear might catch some people and then corruption will be able to reduce. That's just my own opinion.

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