Falana To Buhari: Stop Shielding Corruption Suspects, DG Of DSS Ita Ekpeyong And Sacked NIA DG Ayo Oke

Oke shakes Buhari

by Tayo Soyemi,

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Femi Falana urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to treat former Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita and former Director-General of the NIA, Mr Ayo Oke “like sacred cows.”

In a paper presented today in Lagos at the National Seminar on Recovery of Noxious Funds organized by the University of Kent said, “If the two former security chiefs are allowed to be treated like sacred cows by the federal government other criminal suspects are going to resist arrest, investigation and prosecution under the principle of equality of citizens before the law. I can imagine that some lawyers will seek to enforce the fundamental rights of many suspects to freedom from discrimination guaranteed by section 42 of the Constitution.”

Falana, however, stated that “The setting up of a committee by President Muhammadu Buhari to carry out a holistic audit of recovered assets by agencies of the federal government is very commendable indeed. I believe the audit committee is pursuant to the landmark judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris following a Freedom of Information suit no: FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).”

According to Falana, “In that case, Justice Idris granted among other reliefs an‎ order of mandamus directing and or compelling the Federal Government to provide SERAP with up to date information on recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999, including: Detailed information on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets that have so far been recovered by Nigeria.
He called on civil society organizations to support the work of the committee and provide it with useful information to effectively carry out its work.

Falana, however, condemned some officials of the federal government foreign governments for “frustrating the fight against corruption being prosecuted by the Buhari administration.”

According to him, “While foreign governments which have benefited from the proceeds of corruption are reluctant to recover and repatriate the nation’s looted wealth some highly placed public officers have decided to use their positions in the government to frustrate the arrest of former security chiefs in a bid to shield themselves from possible arrest and prosecution for corrupt practices.”

The paper read in part: “This week armed security personnel drawn from the State Security Service (SSS) and the National Intelligence Agency frustrated officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrest of a former Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita and a former Director-General of the NIA, Mr. Ayo Oke at Abuja. To avoid a bloody clash at the scene the EFCC withdrew its officials from the houses of both suspects.”

“Although the federal government is characteristically silent on the dangerous trend some concerned Nigerians have condemned what has been referred to by the media as a demonstration of inter-agency rivalry. With respect, the faceoff was not an inter-agency clash but a clash between impunity and the rule of law. It was a clash between legality and criminality.”

“Before addressing the refusal of foreign governments to comply with the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) it is pertinent to examine the frustration of the arrest of politically exposed persons implicated in corrupt practices. Unless the federal government is prepared to confront impunity at home and abroad the war against corruption will soon be lost.”

“Since the EFCC were in the houses of both suspects to execute the warrant of arrest and search warrant validly issued by a Magistrate in the Federal Capital Territory the contemptuous brigandage displayed by the armed personnel of the SSS and NIA constituted an affront to the rule of law. To demonstrate that no one is above the law the law should take its course. Accordingly, all the security personnel who prevented the arrest of the suspects should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice contrary to section 38 (2) of the EFCC Act.”

“However, having refused to react to the allegations of economic and financial crimes against them the EFCC is at liberty to charge both suspects before a court of competent jurisdiction. In the alternative, the EFCC may wish to file a return before the Magistrate.”

“It is pertinent to point out that once a warrant of arrest or search warrant has been validly issued the suspect concerned is mandatorily required to cooperate with the police.”

“It has been said that in frustrating the arrest the SSS was acting on a regulation which stipulates that officials of security agencies cannot be requested to account for public funds allocated to them. With respect, if any such regulation exists it is illegal and unconstitutional as the Police and the anti-graft agencies have been empowered to investigate the mismanagement or diversion of public funds appropriated to any agency by the National Assembly.”

“Why was the regulation not invoked when two former Inspector-General of Police were charged with corruption at the Federal High Court?  Or why was the immunity granted to heads of security agencies not extended to a former Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs who are currently standing trial in the Federal High Court?”

“For goodness sake, was the immunity of a former National Security Adviser put in abeyance when the SSS stormed his houses at Abuja and Sokoto in July 2016 and arrested him? Why was the regulation not applied when the SSS dragged him before the Federal High Court for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms? Why was the EFCC allowed to investigate and charge him with corruption and stealing at the Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory High Court?”

“Even when both courts admitted the suspects to bail has the SSS not treated the law with contempt by continuing to hold him hostage? Has the order of the Court of Justice of the ECOWAS directing the federal government to release the suspect not been disobeyed by the SSS? It is my submission that by conferring immunity of the heads of two former security agencies is the Buhari administration saying that there are citizens who are above the law in the ongoing war against corruption and impunity?”

“Did the SSS not carry out a nocturnal raid on the homes of judges, including two Justices of the Supreme Court, on October 8, 2016? Were the judges not arrested and detained by the SSS on allegations of alleged corrupt practices? Have some of the judges not been charged with money laundering and allied offenses before the Federal High Court?  In a country where judges can be arrested, investigated and charged with corruption has the Buhari regime excluded two former security chiefs from arrest, investigation, and prosecution for corruption?”

“Many foreign governments which operate under the rule of law will be justified in rejecting any demand for the recovery and repatriation of the nation’s looted wealth once it is established that the federal government has conferred immunity on a few politically exposed persons contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and UNCAC.”

“Until now, foreign banks and financial institutions have been treated with kid gloves by their home governments. Ironically, while the banks and multinational corporations engaging in corruption in developing countries like Nigeria are paying billions of dollars in fines to their home countries, they have basically ignored the victim nations. This has to change.”

“It is our belief that there are strong jurisprudence and practice to successfully bring claims against some of the banks both in the US and UK. The efforts may well be extended to other jurisdictions. This will be very good for Nigeria, as it will be a further demonstration of the country’s leadership in the fight against corruption. It will also bring more recovered funds into the treasury, empower the government to deliver its people’s focused programmes, improve infrastructures.”