Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had submitted an advisory list containing names of prominent politicians, former and serving public officers, alleged to have one case or another pending before various courts in the country.
The list contained at least 100 names with 40 prominent politicians whom the commission said should be barred from running for elective offices in the forthcoming 2011 elections.
The EFCC’s intention as speculated, may not be unconnected with a purported pre-emptive measure to stop or dashing the hope of some politicians with ambition to contest election in 2011.
The list had generated furore and negative reactions from prominent citizens in the country. Some believed that EFCC has become political tool in the hands of privileged government officials as instrument of intimidation against perceived political opponents.
The Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government House, Hon. Nyesom Wike, whose name was conspicuously mentioned said: “it is a political vendetta.
Some citizens also saw the EFCC are institution and instrument poised to witch hunt perceived political opponents that refused to tow their political ideology.
This no doubt was said to be the ugly face of the commission under the erstwhile chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
The them EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu’s similar advisory list caused serious political uproar prior to the 2007 general elections.
The dust generated a number of controversial tendencies with the disqualification of the PDP governorship candidate in Rivers State now incumbent Governor, Rt Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, Chief Peter Okocha, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate in Delta State and former vice president, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, among others.
With determination and courage, they fought their cases to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court judgments gave them victory at the end of the day.
However, the questions agitating the minds of concerned Nigerians are whether the EFCC has such powers to stop any politician from contesting the forthcoming election based on the advisory list?
Will the 64 registered political parties in Nigeria accept the advisory list to act upon it thereof?
Is EFCC now usurping the constitutional functions of the law courts as to stop candidates without any conviction by the court?
However, perusing the law setting up the anti graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004), the EFCC was charged with among others functions, the duties of investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, future market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam etc.
Also, the EFCC shall adopt any measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crimes related offences or the properties, the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.
Again, EFCC has such function of the examination and investigation of all reported cases of economic and financial crimes with a view to identifying individuals, corporate bodies or groups. From the legal perspective therefore, EFCC was not charged with the responsibility of stopping any candidate from contesting elections or to compile any advisory list to the political parties.
A prominent legal practitioner based in Port Harcourt, Barr. Awanen Jas, said the EFCC lacked the power to advise political parties on whom they should endorse for elections.
The legal luminary added that until a person is convicted by a law court, nobody has the right to stop a person from standing for election.
“EFCC has no powers under the law establishing the anti-graft agency to stop any aspirant”, he declares.
Also speaking to The Tide, an Attorney at law of the OLORI EGBE & Co Port Harcourt law office, Olubisi Mikail Afolabi, Esq, said the political parties should disregard the EFCC’s advisory list as the agency cannot constitute itself unto a court of law to stop any candidate vying for elective position.
Mikail Afolabi added that it is only court of law of competent jurisdiction having found any politician guilty of corruption and upon conviction can such politician be stopped from contesting election and not mere EFCC’s advisory list.
Also speaking to The Tide exclusively, in Port Harcourt, the Chief of staff to the Rivers State Governor and former chairman, Obio/Akpor local government area, Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, whose name was among the names on the EFCC advisory list faulted the inclusion of his name by the anti-graft agency in the advisory list to the political parties, said that he has no case to answer before the anti-graft agency.
He stated that EFCC should not be a political tool to be used to witch- hunt politicians with integrity and willingness to serve their constituency.
Chief Wike added that EFCC wrongly included his name in the advisory list of politicians having cases pending against them in court.
The Chief of Staff emphasised that the case between him and the EFCC which started in 2008, originating from his arraignment by the EFCC before Abuja High Court and then to the Court of Appeal Abuja, presided over by His Lordship Justice Ayobode Olokulo-Sodipe, where the Appeal Court ruled in his favour by quashing such criminal case against him.
He further explained that from March 2009, when the Court of Appeal discharged and acquitted him of any wrong doing, the EFCC has not appealed against that judgment or any case against him to warrant his name being listed by the commission.
However, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Dr Ishmael Guorima, had a contrary opinion. He said the EFCC’s advisory list is timely to the political parties to be careful with certain candidate being considered to be fielded for elective position.
The senior lecturer said the EFCC’s advisory list is a welcome development and a clear departure of the modus operadi of EFCC under Malam Nuhu Ribadu.
He said the list to the political parties is to advise the parties that, “please they should look before they leap in fielding candidates”.
However, the various political parties have the discretionary power to field any candidate they consider as their choice, if such a candidate wins the primaries of the parties.
It is the consensus opinion that EFCC should be guided by law in its operations to avoid being used as political tool thereby defeat the noble objective of its primary responsibilities of fighting corruption.
Senate Wades Into CJN, S’Court Justices’ Feud
The Senate has waded into the disagreement between the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, and justices of the Supreme Court.
Fourteen aggrieved justices of the apex court had, in a widely circulated letter to the CJN, accused him of neglecting their welfare, not carrying them along in managing the affairs of the court, the deteriorating condition of services generally, and the state of the litigation department.
Speaking at plenary on Wednesday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the legislature must be interested in what is happening in the judiciary with a view to finding solution to any of its issues.
He therefore mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) to wade into the issue.
He said: “We must have interest in what is happening in the judicial arm of government with a view to bringing solution to the issue.
“Our Standing Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters should get involved and find out what the real issue is so that the National Assembly can help out.”
Voter Registration: INEC Insists On June 30 Deadline, Denies Extension
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied extending the deadline of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), describing the report that it has agreed to extend the deadline by 60 days as false.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Jibril Dukku, had while briefing lawmakers told members during a plenary session on Wednesday that the Commission had agreed to extend the CVR by 60 days.
“The Committee held a meeting with INEC yesterday (Tuesday) and they agreed to extend the CVR, all our resolutions were approved,” she said.
But responding, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, clarified that the Commission has not announced an extension of the CVR deadline.
The exercise, which was meant to end on June 30, has been greeted by calls for an extension. Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had stopped INEC from ending the exercise until all eligible voters had been registered.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has faulted media reports associating it with the extension of the ongoing CVR.
The House spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu, said it was untrue that the shift of the INEC voter registration was announced on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
Flanked by the chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Hajia Aisha Dukku, he said the decision on the shift is left to Prof Mahmoud Yakubu-led INEC to take.
Kalu acknowledged that INEC may not be able to adhere to the recently adopted motion of the House, which demanded an extension of the exercise by two additional months in view of the extant provision of the electoral amendment Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He reiterated the resolve of the House to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised in the 2023 poll.
Dukku expressed optimism that INEC would heed the call for an extension.
Fear Grips APC Over Gale Of Defections, Adamu Runs To NASS
Following the primary elections conducted in different parts of the country by political parties, a gale of defections has hit the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), causing the party serious concern.
APC national chairman, Sen Abdullahi Adamu, on Wednesday described the mass defection of members of the party to other political parties as unfortunate and worrisome.
Adamu made this comment to newsmen after he met with the APC Senate Caucus at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
He said: “It is an unfortunate development when it happens, but this is the season for all manner of behaviour in the political space. And Nigeria is not an exception.
“In every election year, this kind of thing gives cause for stakeholders to sneeze. This is what we are experiencing. Nigeria is no exception and the APC is no exception.
“I don’t give a damn what is happening in other parties. I care about what is happening in our party, but you and I know that it’s not just in the APC that is having this experience; because we are the ruling party, yes our problems are more prominent in the public glare.”
He stated that every responsible leader will be concerned worry about losing one member, not to talk of two. At the moment, we are faced with the stark reality of that problem and we are committed with my colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) to face the problems squarely and see the problems are solvable, and we will solve them,” he said.
But despite the defection the party has been suffering in recent weeks, yesterday three senators belonging to the APC resigned their membership.
The lawmakers are Senators Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North), Lawal Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi South), and Francis Alimikhena (Edo North).
Whilst Babba Kaita and Alimikhena defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Gumau, on the other hand, defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Two senators from Bauchi and Imo States have resigned their membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively.
The lawmakers are Senator Dauda Jika – representing Bauchi Central and elected on the platform of the APC, and Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi – representing Imo East Senatorial District, who was elected on the platform of the PDP.
Both senators, in separate letters addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, conveyed their decision to resign their membership of the APC and PDP, and to join the Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), respectively.
The APC lawmaker, Dauda Jika, said he was moving to the NNPP whose ideals are in line with his political aspirations.
Onyewuchi, on his part, said defecting to Labour Party would nable him to participate fully in the “movement for a new Nigeria.”
Wednesday’s defections bring the number of APC Senators to 66, with members of the minority parties standing at 43.
The minority parties in the Senate at present are five in number as of Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.
They are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Young People’s Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Labour Party (LP).
Meanwhile, A former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has raised the alarm that 22 Senators of the ruling party were at the verge of leaving the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over their inability to secure re-election tickets in the just-concluded APC primaries.
The Tide source reports that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had at separate sittings of the Houses lamented the inability of many lawmakers to secure their return tickets for the 2023 elections.
Chief Fani-Kayode, however, on Wednesday took to his verified social media handles, saying the threat by the aggrieved Senators was a serious matter and something must be done to avert the mass defection.
He added that many party members have expressed concerns over the development even as he called on the national chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to quickly wade in by reaching out to the affected lawmakers.
The former Minister wrote: “22 APC Senators are threatening to decamp to PDP because they have been denied the tickets to return to the Senate.
“This is serious and something must be done to prevent it.
“Many are concerned and we urge our able National Chairman and National Secretary to reach them. We cannot afford to lose them.”
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