A human rights group, the Access to Justice (A2Justice), has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to resist being used as a political tool. It said deploying the agency as a tool against political opponents would further erode its integrity. The group was reacting to an allegation that EFCC operatives barricaded the Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s legislative quarters in the early hours of July 24 to prevent him from getting to the Senate.
EFCC was said to have served Ekweremadu with an invitation by 8am, which was to be honoured by 10am. It was alleged that the aim was to prevent him and Senate President Bukola Saraki, whose home was also allegedly blockaded, from getting to the Senate.With lawmakers’ defections to other political parties planned for the day, it was claimed that the residences were barricaded to ensure the Senate could not conduct its proceedings due to the absence of its principal officers, although Saraki somehow made it to the Senate.A2J, in a statement by its director Joseph Otteh and programme officer Daniel Igiekhumhe, said it was unfortunate that the EFCC and the Police were involved in the high-stakes episode of political drama. “Many will find it particularly disappointing that the EFCC, a leading torchbearer of the fight against corruption, was co-opted into a scheme that was intended, from the beginning, wholly to serve partisan political objectives. “The history of the Nigeria Police Force’ biases towards, and attachments to incumbent political office holders sticks out a mile, so that its involvement in the ploy, though regrettable, will hardly come as a surprise to many. “The need for the EFCC to remain politically neutral and focused exclusively on fighting corruption is one that cannot be over-emphasised.
“Using the Commission’s powers to serve politically partisan ends will represent an invidiously corrupt use of, and departure from, that mandate, and will harm the perception of the Commission as an unbiased criminal justice agency. “It will also play into the hands of those who are detractors of the Commission’s work, and provide them cannons with which to attack the Commission’s objectivity and judgments,” it said. A2Justice said it feared that the EFCC may have already lost a significant measure of public goodwill, standing and trust following this incident, and it will be harder to rebuild its credibility after this stunt.
“The EFCC has made a grave mistake in its involvement in this incident and it must soberly reflect on how it will atone for, learn from, and put this incident behind it. “The EFCC must, going forward, make a decision to follow the ‘straight and narrow’ path, stay above the fray and fickle of partisan politics, and stand its ground not to become puppets of any party or government; otherwise, just like the Police Force, it will grind slowly – in a way of speaking – into its own death. “The precedent it has set with the Senator Ekweremadu incident must be overwritten with a clear and abiding commitment never to take that route again.
“A2Justice now urges the EFCC to immediately investigate its involvement in the Senate saga, and bring to account, any persons who may have authorised and executed the misuse of the Commission’s powers in that regard. “It must also apologise to Nigerians over its role in the Senate affair, and make a public commitment that it will never again go down that lane again,” the group added.