The Open Bar Initiative joins call for the review of the prosecutorial powers of the EFCC

Reactions have began to trail the rejoinder press statement issued by the spokesperson of the EFCC , Mr. Wilson Uwajeren on the 27th of August, 2016 against the calls made by the newly elected NBA national Chairman J.B Mahmoud SAN for the removal of the prosecutorial powers of the EFCC at the just concluded 56th Annual General Conference of the Association.

First of this reaction is coming from the  immediate Past Publicity Secretary of the NBA,  Abuja Branch & Coordinator  of the Open Bar Initiative Mr. Joseph Onu.

Mr. Onu said that the NBA’s call for the removal of prosecutorial powers of the EFCC though made innocuously prompted the press statement issued by the EFCC  which he described as “more personal than logical”. “EFCC is itching for a war with the new leadership of the NBA over calls to remove prosecutorial powers from the commission. They have made a statement which is more personal than logical.”

He aligned himself to the call for the removal of the prosecutorial powers of the EFCC noting that the EFCC should deploy all its energy and available resources towards carrying out deep and convincing investigation that would easily aid successful conviction.  “ My take on this issue is that, the EFCC should deploy all its energy and available limited resources towards carrying out deep and convincing investigations that will easily aid any prosecutor – irrespective of age of call or experience, undertake a successful trial with positive conviction. Presently, even the EFCC mode of briefing external counsel is marred in favoritism. The window has become a big business within the commission with a large room for juicy kick-backs.” “I will speak in support of the NBA PRESIDENT that the EFCC be stripped of her prosecutorial powers. In any case, this will even create confidence in the process.”  He further noted that the NBA President has enough reasons to back his view that the power to prosecute cases in court should be taken from the EFCC.  “The question Nigerians must ask the Mahmoud-led NBA is, what is wrong with EFCC prosecution? Mahmoud is in a position to answer this question. He was the Attorney General of the Federation’s counsel in the trial of former Delta State governor, James Ibori at the Federal High Court, Asaba, a case which EFCC lost in questionable circumstances. But the same ingredients from that case were used to fetch Ibori a 13-year jail term in London. Mahmoud is also the Commission’s counsel in the appeal against the infamous perpetual injunction from arrest and prosecution by former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili, which is still pending before the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, many years after it was filed.” Onu stated.

The Coordinator of the Open Bar Initiative then noted that it is important for stakeholders to  convene a round table  to brainstorm on this development. “To this end, we must bring the operations of the EFCC and count the cost of its direct prosecution/successful prosecutions since its establishment. We must also look into the quality of their investigation which forms the basis for any lawyer to prosecute. Then, we must determine which is more important for an anti-graft agency? “Open Bar Initiative will be calling for a round table on this issue in Abuja. However, we can brainstorm the issues here first.”

Mr. Onu further noted that the round table which would discuss the topic: Re-examining the operational capabilities of the EFCC to Investigate and Prosecute Financial Crimes in Nigeria – the need for restructuring and redirection of operational focus.”  Proposes to have as the speaker,  Professor Chidi Odinkalu. While discussants would include: Mrs. Funke Adekoya, SAN,  JB Daudu, SAN and Yusuf Ali, SAN. Other proposed discussants are  Femi Falana, SAN, JS Okutepa, SAN Festus Okoye.

He noted that the list of discussants is tentative while noting that suggestions would be welcomed from the general public.

It would be recalled that following the call by the newly elected NBA Chairman for the EFCC to be strip off its prosecutorial powers, the anti graft agency had issued a  statement which suggests that this call by NBA may not be unconnected with the move by the EFCC to arraign senior lawyers for corruption. The press statement issued by the spokes person of the commission stated in part. “It is too much of a strange coincidence that the suggestion to strip the EFCC of its prosecutorial powers is being floated few months after the Commission, in unprecedented fashion arraigned some senior lawyers for corruption.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission has recorded more convictions in the last one year than all the states and federal ministries of justices combined.”