*wants National Assembly to create anti-graft ombudsman:
The prominent civil Rights Advocacy group: – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) is worried by the disturbing menace of abuse of powers by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which infringes on certain professional privileges of legal practitioners and other affiliated professional institutions in the private sector of the economy. The group said it has received dozens of petitions from lawyers on how the practice of law in Nigeria has systematically been criminalized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the All Progressives Congress led Federal government.
“We have noticed since the last couple of years since 2015 that there is a growing phenomenon of officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) engaging in deliberate clampdown on lawyers of certain individuals who may have some political differences from officials of the powers that be within the corridors of power in Abuja. In some of these sad developments we are understudying, it would appear that the anti- graft body has consistently embarked on politically motivated witch-hunt targeting certain politically exposed persons who were influential in the past administration of the People’s Democratic party (APC) or who may still be holding political offices that enjoys immunity in which cases the EFCC has already charged legal practitioners connected with such individuals for series of money laundering charges that on a more serious analysis are smokescreen for political persecution. We have been told how lawyers working for prominent political opponents of the administration have been coming under persistent surveillance and reconnaissance missions by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and we intend to petition the National Assembly’s Committee on Public petitions to investigate this dangerous development which does not augur well for constitutional democracy and may harm the legal profession in the Country if left unchecked.”
In a media statement, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, disclosed that it will soon publish a report of a scientific investigation it conducted to list out the most disturbing cases of how some legal practitioners either affiliated to political opposition party of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or have personal issues with some powerful people with connections to the Abuja’s political establishment have faced horrendous media trials by the anti-graft agencies and due to massive propaganda in the media by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission these Senior Lawyers are constantly harassed by immigration officials in different international airports in London; New York; Germany; Paris amongst other World’s capitals even when the Nigerian constitution affirms that accused persons are innocent until proven guilty by a competent courts of law but the media propaganda machinery of the EFCC give crude slants and coverages of such cases to appear like the accused are already guilty as charged.”
“In that report which will soon be presented and sent to all relevant government institutions including the anti-graft bodies and the National Assembly, the Rights group said it will make the case for the establishment of a monitoring body similar but smaller in staff strength like the police service commission (PSC) to investigate cases of abuses of power by the anti-corruption agencies. We believe that corruption should be eradicated only through law-based modalities and we also think that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. It would appear that legal practitioners who work for individuals with cases instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are facing persecution.”
“May we kindly appeal to the Economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC) which is an institution created by law to stop the media persecution of legal practitioners defending clients that have cases with the anti-graft bodies because by so doing, these accused persons will have their constitutional rights to fair hearing violated as against the provision of section 36(5) of the constitution which states thus: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.”
HURIWA said: “May we remind the anti-graft body that under the enabling law: “The EFCC Act 2004 states “6: The Commission shall be responsible for – (a) the enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of this Act; (b) the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc.; (c) the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority; and among others. (d) the adoption of 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.”
HURIWA however restated to the hierarchy of these anti-graft bodies- EFCC and ICPC that the Courts of law have the judicial powers of the federation and are the only authority to rule an accused person guilty or not and not the EFCC using the media because section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) affirmed thus: “(1) The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation. (2) The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State. (3) The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the States, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (1) of this section, shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record. (4) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall be construed as precluding:- (a) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly from establishing courts, other than those to which this section relates, with subordinate jurisdiction to that of a High Court; (b) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly, which does not require it, from abolishing any court which it has power to establish or which it has brought into being. (5) This section relates to:- (a) the Supreme Court of Nigeria; (b) the Court of Appeal; (c) the Federal High Court; (d) the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (e) a High Court of a State (f) the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (g) a Sharia Court of Appeal of a State; (h) the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (i) a Customary Court of Appeal of a State; (j) such other courts as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which the National Assembly may make laws; and (k) such other court as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws. (6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section – (a) shall extend, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law (b) shall extend, to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any persons in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person; (c) shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution; (d) shall not, as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law.”