Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has challenged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to immediately arrest and prosecute the officials of the Anambra State administration that are wanted over alleged heist of public fund. The Rights group said there was no need waiting for a formal handover of those indicted officials since the EFCC is empowered to arrest and prosecute anti-crime law offenders.
HURIWA stressed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established in 2003 in direct response to the overwhelming pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), which named Nigeria amongst the 23 Countries that were not cooperating with the international community in its efforts to fight Money Laundering. The EFCC also has the powers to investigate and prosecute corrupt malpractices as vested on it by the EFCC ACT, 2004.
According to HURIWA, the EFCC Act (the Act) endows EFCC with expansive powers over all forms of corrupt malpractices. The provisions of Sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the Act, particularly Sections 6(b), 7(1)(a), 7(2)(f), and 13(2) gives the EFCC powers to investigate and prosecute offenders for any offence, whether under the act or any statute in so far as the offence relates to the commission of economic and financial crimes. The provisions are reproduced under section 6(b), 7(1),(2), Section 13(2) of the enabling Act.
HURIWA argued that EFCC powers to investigate and prosecute corrupt malpractices are further expanded by Section 46 of the Act which defines economic and financial crimes. The section defines economic and financial crimes even as the Supreme Court in Dariye v FRN (2015) 10 NWLR (PT.1467) 325 at 353-354, PARAS E-F, G Ondo State v. A.G Federation (2002) 9 NWLR (Pt. 772) 222 at 300 and finally in Nyame v FRN [201 01 7 NWLR (PT.1193) 344 at 403 PARAS 11-G, put the issue to rest when it held inter alia:
“It is not a defence known to law that an accused person cannot be prosecuted by the authority with prosecutorial powers on the ground that the prosecutor is not the owner of the stolen items. Criminal offence is an offence against the state. A prosecutor need not have an interest in the subject matter of the complaint before he can prosecute an accused person. He is protecting the state and its citizens and every prosecutor or authority or agency vested with the powers to prosecute should be encouraged to carry out their duties, provided that the due process is maintained and followed.”
The Rights group recalled that on December 20, 2021, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in SC/CR/161/2020; Dr Joseph Nwobike SAN Federal Republic of Nigeria interpreted section 46 of the Act in relation to the powers of the EFCC’s powers to investigate and prosecute the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice as provided in Section 97(3) of the criminal law of Lagos No.11 of 2011. It was the contention of the Appellant that the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice was not an economic and financial crime and as a result, EFCC lacked the powers to investigate and prosecute the offence. The submission of the Respondent was that to the extent that the offence of perverting the course of justice is a form of ‘corrupt malpractices’, it is an economic and financial crime which the EFCC can prosecute.
Specifically, the Supreme Court held that having regard to the provisions of Sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the EFCC Establishment Act, particularly in Sections 6(b), 7(1) (a), 2(f), 13(2), the EFCC has powers to investigate, enforce and prosecute offenders for any offence, whether under the Act or any statute in so far as the offence relates to the commission of economic and financial crimes.
HURIWA has therefore applauded the Federal High Court, Awka division which dismissed a suit filed by the Anambra State administration challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate its finances. Justice Nnamdi Dimgba in his well considered judgment stated that the EFCC has the constitutional powers to investigate any act of economic and financial crimes in any part of Nigeria.
HURIWA then wonders why the EFCC seem to be begging the Anambra State administration to produce the officials wanted for investigation rather than moving in to arrest those individuals, and prosecute them since the EFCC believed that economic crime has occurred. HURIWA also expressed shock that the government of Anambra State led by Charles Soludo could go on this empty adventure of discovery instead of opening up its financial records for scrutiny by the statutory body empowered to do so which is the EFCC.