The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law, Monday Ubani, has said that there should be provisions and amendments made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, which will make it possible for qualified agencies apart from the Nigeria Police Force to head the commission.
Ubani expressed this opinion in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Friday, while he discussed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent appointment of Ola Olukoyede as the executive chairman of the EFCC which had sparked controversy, as the EFCC act states that for one to be the chairman of the agency, he has to have achieved the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) or its equivalent.
Ubani said, “Ordinarily, the work of EFCC is supposed to be done by the Nigerian police. That is, I mean, ordinarily, all over the world, the issue of crime and crime prevention and prosecution lies squarely with the police. But we now created an agency because of the fact that there were some lapses with the police. We saw some level of incapacity and not meeting up with expectation.”
He then said that it was highly ‘contradictory’ that after creating the EFCC due to the lack of accountability from the police, it then became a requirement for a person to have been, at least, an ACP of police in order to head the organization.
The lawyer went on to say, “I think that if there is any ambiguity whatsoever, there is nothing wrong for a swift reaction in terms of amendments of that particular act and say look, let’s change that particular thing and allow some other professions that are qualified to carry out this responsibility. We have tried the Nigerian police over time, starting from Ribadu, he has been Nigerian police officer that have manned that agency.
“Can we say we have gotten satisfaction from those people in that security arrangement, you know, in manning EFCC? The answer, again, clearly lies in the hand of the public. So why don’t we now do a radical change and amend the law if there is any ambiguity, and say, specifically for many of the provisions that can man the agency should be in charge in order to give us effective accountability with regards to that agency that was created.”
When he was, however, asked about his reaction to Olokoyede’s appointment, Ubani said, “I am excited that for once, a lawyer is appointed to head that particular agency. And let us see the operation of EFCC from now onwards under the headship of a lawyer who understands the issue of fundamental human rights of a citizen. Even if somebody is accused of a crime, the law has prescribed method of investigation, and that investigation must be done with the mindset that the person also enjoys some fundamental human right that is provided in the constitution and not an animal.”
Speaking on the ongoing controversy, he then referred to the law, saying, “If you look at section 2 sub-section 3, it says that if you must be the chairman of that revered body, you must have been a retired or serving member of, having worked in government security agency. That word is sinking in government security agency, and it mustn’t be below the rank of assistant commissioner of police or its equivalent. Look at the proposition of those who are saying that that is clearly illegal, I mean, the current appointment. They said that look, he has not maybe been in the mainstream of the security agency as in the operation of any of the security agencies or has been in the rank of assistant commissioner of police, that is their argument.
“But look at the argument of the government saying look, he has been in the security agency of EFCC for up to 15 years, and the word there is ‘or its equivalent’, that it must be between the ranking of an assistant commissioner of police or its equivalent. When the word ‘or its equivalent’ is used, so it gives you a room to say somebody of this particular standard or statute is also qualified apart from being ACP and all that. That may be where the government has actually used in order to say, look, if this man has actually been in a government security agency, you know, which EFCC represents, and actually has also attained the level of assistant commissioner of police because the word ‘or its equivalent’ is used, then, they are able to justify that he is eminently qualified to be the EFCC chairman.”
Ubani then said that this appointment will have to go through the senate, which, according to him, is filled with many eminent lawyers, who will thoroughly screen and go through the provisions of the act “and know whether there has been a due compliance by the president of the country in appointing the new person. So, it’s not something, the appointment is one thing that has to go through the scrutiny of the senate for approval, and they will look at that provision we have just mentioned, whether there is iota of truth that he is qualified.”
“All our eyes now will be on the senate,” he said, explaining that it is up to the senate to decide whether he is qualified to be the EFCC chairman or not.