That The Nation’s Editorial On Wike

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The sudden outbabbling of The Nation Newspaper against the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike and the Rivers State Government for condemning the impunity and disregard to the rule of law by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the discharge of its responsibility, is to say the least, exhibition of professional rascality.
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike had declared that no official of the State government would appear before the EFCC over the commission’s ‘politically motivated’ investigations until it approaches the Court of Appeal to set aside its 2007 judgement barring it from investigating the state.
This followed EFCC’s arrest of one of Rivers State’s bankers’ official, Zenith Bank’s Manager, ostensibly to explain the State’s transactions and withdrawals in the past three years. According to a statement signed by the Special Assistant to Governor Wike on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, the Governor had described EFCC’s action as a political witch-hunt on Rivers State.
Accordingly, Wike had declared, “we cannot be intimidated”, noting that the media trial by the EFCC would amount to nothing as the state government was already aware of the commission’s antics before it published its so-called investigations.
Commenting on the development, The Nation Newspaper, established by a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, in its Editorial of Thursday, September 6, 2018 titled: “Wike’s Curious Audacity,” asked: “If EFCC can investigate other state governments, why should Rivers State Government be different?”
We are worried that The Nation Newspaper which is expected to be well-informed of democratic precepts particularly as it affects the management of state affairs, should feign ignorance that the trend and pattern of EFCC’s ‘investigations’ on finances of states are becoming ominous. That the commission’s searchlight is deliberately beamed on States seen to belong to opposition parties and tagged political enemies while those seen to be political allies are ignored, even when there are ample evidences to put them through the microscope, is most unfortunate.
Only recently, Benue State Government and Akwa Ibom State Government, two Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled States had their accounts frozen by the commission on the guise that their finances were being investigated. Interestingly, both States became targets shortly after remarkable re-alignment of the political leaderships and interests in the States. Also, Ekiti State Government, another PDP State, had been harassed time and again by the commission in the name of finance investigation until it was stopped by a court order.
Regrettably, the public sphere is usually awash with the news of arrests and freezing of accounts by EFCC, in a clear case of media trials without corresponding media frenzy on the ultimate outcome of the investigation in the end.
We expect The Nation Newspaper to have known that there are extant laws and constitutional provisions that guide the operations of outfits like the EFCC and that of state governments in Nigeria. And by law, it is the duty of the State Houses of Assembly which appropriate the finances of the States to investigate the funds of the States via their oversight functions.
While we agree with the fact that EFCC was set up by law with clear terms of reference, the commission is not above the laws of the land and must operate within the ambit of the Constitution and rule of law. The EFCC and its operatives must not allow themselves to be seen as an extension of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government that is bent on witch-hunting the opposition for cheap political reasons.
In fact, the commission must not be allowed to become a political attack dog that would be unleashed at real and imagined political enemies or opponents.
The Tide is at a loss over The Nation Newspaper’s backing of the EFCC’s move to investigate Rivers State’s finances even with the knowledge of a court of competent jurisdiction judgement which barred it from doing so. We, therefore, cannot agree more with Governor Wike that the EFCC must vacate the Court of Appeal’s ruling that neither the State’s finances nor its officials be probed pending when the judgement is set aside.
A Federal High Court had in its 2007 judgement declared that the EFCC lacks the power to investigate state governments as “that power resides with the State House of Assembly. By any stretch of imagination, the EFCC is not a state House of Assembly,” the court held.
Moreso, it is curious why this same commission, which wittingly turned a blind eye to the financial misappropriation charges levelled against the immediate past administration in the State after it was duly indicted by a competent panel of enquiry, will be eager to pounce on the present government based on spurious and trumped-up petition.
EFCC’s penchant to pick and choose which State to descend on while observing due process and rule of law in the breach smacks of deliberate intimidation and hounding of the perceived opponents of its principal. These, we believe, do not mean well for the country’s democracy, especially as 2019 elections draw near.
While we do not want to believe that The Nation Newspaper is backing the perceived use of the EFCC by the Presidency for political witch-hunt, we expect The Nation Newspaper to advise that the commission should be reined-in immediately, particularly, on the ill-advised move to lay siege on Rivers State, which is tantamount to undermining the authority of the judiciary.
Enough of EFCC’s flagrant impunity and abuse of the rule of law. The commission’s recklessness and over-zealousness must be checked before the country degenerates into anarchy. This is the position The Nation Newspaper should adopt to defend our democracy rather than promote impunity and reckless abuse of rule of law as exemplified by the EFCC.