Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Calls on EFCC to operate within legal precepts

The leading CIVIL SOCIETY GROUP- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the illegal and gestapo operational modalities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which are detrimental to the enjoyment of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights recognised in chapter four, and all relevant international human rights laws just as the Rights group says the officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (HURIWA) are by their provocative and illegal actions enticing Nigerians to stage a nationwide protests similar to the #ENDSARS PROTESTS # against the misconducts of the EFCC.

“The EFCC is a creation of the law and so it must be law abiding but the modalities of operations in which the operatives armed to the teeth go into people’s houses in the dead of the night like armed robbers and kidnappers, breaking into people’s houses and climbing in through the fences  like hired assasins are antithetical to the law and the principle of the rule of law and these unlawful actions are definitely aimed as triggers to instigate the masses to stage the kinds of demonstrations that will be almost unprecedented in dimension and massive in scale. 

The Rights group through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko said Section 36(5) of the constitution is very clear that even persons charged for criminal offence before the courts of law are deemed as innocent in the eyes of the law until a contrary determination is reached by the competent court of law. It is therefore unlawful that the operatives of the EFCC will continue to behave like outlaws or persons who are above the laws of the land.  EFCC is subject to the law and must be seen to be operating in compliance with the precepts of the law and in strict compliance with the RULE OF LAW”. 

HURIWA said there have been over a dozen clandestine operations by the EFCC in which these officials of the law have been seen defecating on the fundamental principles of the law and have abused with reckless abandon the Rules of Engagement as if Nigeria is a Banana Republic and these kinds of crude, debased and bakward application of brute force by the operatives of the EFCC are therefore absolutely condemned as despicable, reprehensible,  outrageous and provocative and must be checked otherwise the EFCC should watch and see that in the fullness of time the masses will demonstrate to say enough is enough. 

This same EFCC is around when the President gives red carpets reception to suspected high profile politically exposed persons who jump from one political party to the All Progressives Congress but the EFCC has now become agents of witch-hunt targeting largely young offenders and this body has started operating as if it is a reckless, lawless and primitive contraption but this is not so. The EFCC must be called to order to adopt law based procedures to go after suspected offenders and observe all the tenets and precepts of the fundamental human rights and indeed must adopt clinical and professional modus operandi that will be in compliance with all the rules of Engagement. Why not use surveillance and intelligence gathering to go after suspected offenders in the day time and make lawful arrests instead of behaving like armed robbers or armed Fulani militia members?”

HURIWA recalled that Norah Okafor, a journalist, has narrated how officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), stormed her residence at an ungodly hour.

In a social media post, Okafor said masked men robed in black and armed to the teeth stormed her apartment like armed robbers, at exactly 1:36 am on Thursday.

She said they destroyed properties, assaulted residents, and forcefully collected car keys, mobile phones, and computers.

“At exactly 1:36am, I was alerted by my brother that there were armed robbers at my gate trying to make their way into the compound. Because it was an electric fence, I didn’t bother enough because I felt they can’t make their way in.

“Alas, I was wrong. 2am on the dot they made their way into the compound. They came prepared. Over 25 of them with two hilux buses, masked and dressed in black upon black.

“A huge one climbed the fence, with a plier and immediately cut off a few of the wires, jumped into the compound and with an axe, broke the gate key open and zoom they made their first entry into my apartment.

“As a nude sleeper, while they tried to make their way into the compound, I found something to wear while my brothers and I were thinking of a way of escape. The worst case scenario for me is that they will rape or take the only valuable available (a car key) so I prepared my mind.

“The next thing I realized was that about 7 of them were already in my room with shouts of “lie down, face down, on the light, where’s your phone, where’s your car key? Where’s this and that.. Confused me. Seeing over 25 hefty men with different kinds of guns, mhen, e don be, be that. I handed the phone to them with the key, before then, they have already taken hold of my laptop.

“I turned to be sure these were armed robbers, and they asked for my passwords to all the devices collected with masking tape to identify each. Still in shock, I heard someone destroying everything in the kitchen, my room, that of my brothers and all the drawers. I was still asking myself what’s happening? They asked me to stand and follow them downstairs, lo and beyond, they unmasked themselves, hmmmm… are these kind criminals? I asked. All my neighbours were already going through the same pain as I.

“They have already given my brothers a beating of their lives, carried my neighbour downstairs and tried unlocking all the cars in the compound. And after searching all the phones and laptops, three of their men walked in, lo and behold, it was EFCC. What? I screamed. Shut up, was the next thing i heard and when they couldn’t open my phone, they asked me to, I did and after a while I just asked, please where is your office so I can come pick up my things on my way to work, they asked me what I do and I said “journalist”, asked my neighbour he said “lawyer”, the other “doctor”. They looked at me, handed over the phones and said, “we just wasted our time.

“These fools, spent over one hour molesting and destroying things in this compound. I feel so pained and embarrassed right now. Is this how EFCC operate? How did we get here? Who is the informant? I am just confused right now. Thank God my mum isn’t here.”

HURIWA recalled too that the Economic and Financial crimes commission, EFCC, allegedly invaded the house of the Big brother Naija celebrity, Dorathy Bachor.

Dorathy, who emerged the 1st runner up of the Big Brother Naija, Lockdown season, condemned the act.

Expressing her anger via a post on her Instagram page, the busty Delta state indigene shared some pictures of the supposed EFCC officials.

Operatives of the EFCC on Tuesday violently seized access cards and broke into hotel rooms in an overnight raid in Lagos, Peoples Gazette has learnt.

Dozens of hotel guests were left traumatised after anti-graft agents breached their privacy at Parktonian Hotel in Lagos affluent Lekki neighbourhood, witnesses said.

Many of the guests, including couples, were passing the night at the mid-size hotel when EFCC agents broke in at about 4:00 a.m. Some of them said they were naked under the duvet when agents broke in and were not even allowed to dress up before being interrogated by the officers, who said they were on a manhunt for suspected Internet fraudsters.

“The officers broke into my hotel room as I was sleeping,” a victim told The Gazette on Tuesday afternoon. “The incident that played out was just too traumatic for me to narrate.”

The witness said the officers started breaking into rooms after collecting the master access card to open all rooms from the management at gunpoint.

“They broke into the hotel and threatened to shoot the receptionists and management if they didn’t immediately release the master access card to them,” a witness said. “So the hotel workers had to comply immediately.”

Another witness who narrated his ordeal described it as “embarrassing and traumatising,” as he was unclad when operatives barged into the room.

Many foreigners, including some potential investors who came into the country to carry out preliminary studies on a cable manufacturing project, were caught in what witnesses described as “violent and uncivilised conduct” of the operatives, who were about two dozen.

The victim pleaded strict anonymity to avoid being victimised by EFCC agents. Some witnesses had previously reported being physically attacked by EFCC operatives for providing information about illegal and corrupt raids to the media.

“They continued to search other rooms. They went away with about 13 occupants,” he said. “I was naked, and I had to beg them (for me) to put something on. I am actually hypertensive, but I put myself together because I am not a criminal in any way.”

He described the experience as “embarrassing and traumatic,” noting that “nobody wants to sleep in a hotel where their privacy and security cannot be guaranteed.”

The witness added, “I am not going back to that hotel. They won’t go to Transcorp where people who are looting Nigeria’s money are staying.”

The hotel owner, Obinna Obiora, told The Gazette that he would comment on the matter later. The Gazette could not immediately confirm whether or not the officers had a warrant to invade the hotel.

When contacted by The Gazette, the spokesperson for the anti-graft agency, Wilson Uwujaren, claimed he was unaware of the raid.

“I haven’t got any report of such, but I’ll confirm from the Lagos office if there was any raid,” Mr Uwujaren told The Gazette over the telephone.

Controversial raids of public and private spaces have become increasingly common amongst EFCC officers in recent months. The department was established to fight economic crimes, but it has recently retooled itself towards a relentless crackdown on suspected Internet thieves, widely known as Yahoo Boys.

Earlier this year, an unidentified man jumped from the seventh floor of a storey building located at 1004 estate at Victoria Island, Lagos, during a raid by EFCC officials.

Few  weeks back,  a similar incident played out at Oasis Park Estate, Osapa London, Lagos, where EFCC operatives frightened residents when they broke into homes in search of a purported Internet crook, who was not even around at the time of the raid.  

HURIWA accused the EFCC of not just violating the laws but also abusing with reckless abandon the UN declaration on adherence to the Rule of law.

HURIWA said the midnight raids by EFCC offends the Declaration adopted on 24 September 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly at the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels reaffirmed that “human rights, the rule of law and democracy are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that they belong to the universal and indivisible core values and principles of the United Nations”.1 Indeed, government responsiveness to the interests and needs of the greatest number of citizens is strictly associated with the capacity of democratic institutions and processes to bolster the dimensions of rights, equality and accountability.

If considered not solely an instrument of the government but as a rule to which the entire society, including the government, is bound, the rule of law is fundamental in advancing democracy. Strengthening the rule of law has to be approached not only by focusing on the application of norms and procedures. One must also emphasize its fundamental role in protecting rights and advancing inclusiveness, in this way framing the protection of rights within the broader discourse on human development.

A common feature of both democracy and the rule of law is that a purely institutional approach does not say anything about actual outcomes of processes and procedures, even if the latter are formally correct. When addressing the rule of law and democracy nexus, a fundamental distinction has to be drawn between “rule by law”, whereby law is an instrument of government and government is considered above the law, and “rule of law”, which implies that everyone in society is bound by the law, including the government. Essentially, constitutional limits on power, a key feature of democracy, require adherence to the rule of law.

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