Emmanuel Onwubiko: EFCCs Chairman: A human rights agenda

  President Muhammadu Buhari was once captured on the television receiving some Youths activists who visited him on a solidarity meeting to ...

 

President Muhammadu Buhari was once captured on the television receiving some Youths activists who visited him on a solidarity meeting to applaud his administration for supporting the Not –too –young –to run bill which was successfully passed into law and signed by himself, the President.

The President was about that same time campaigning to win a second and final legal tenure as President of the biggest black nation in the World. He was facing one of the fiercest political battles of his life given that the opposition political party- the Peoples Democratic party was actually giving him a fight for his money through the erstwhile Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria- Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who incidentally is another member of the old school in politics.

One thing the President said which will be difficult to forget by observers was his appeal on those Youths to allow him win a second term after which they can aspire to become whomsoever they so wish as elected leaders.

In other words, President Buhari who actually signed the law allowing Young persons to compete for all elective offices, still thinks the Youth are leaders of tomorrow and not as stated by the law he had only just signed.

Anyway, the President went ahead with his campaign for the 2019 Presidential poll and it turned out, irrespective of the apparent credibility deficit of that 2019 poll, president Buhari emerged victorious. He has since reconstituted his cabinet and has made a rash of high level appointments.

A principle character in all of these appointments is that the Youth and women are still left in the margins and fringes of top political offices.

Aside the sports and Youth Minister who is truly Young, the rest of the bunch are the same old school persons recircled many times over and that have continued to be repackaged from one office to another even as the Younger persons who had jubilated when the law on participation of Youngsters in elections were passed, have been left in the cold.

Many months after, the current Nigerian President seems to have dusted up the file that contained the new law on not too Young to run and has made one of the most enduring appointments when he named a barely 40- year old Youth as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had named Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa as the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

He has therefore requested the Senate to confirm Bawa’s nomination.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday titled “President Buhari requests Senate to confirm Abdulrasheed Bawa as EFCC boss.”

The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Senate to confirm Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. “In a letter to President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, the President said he was acting in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of Part1, CAP E1 of EFCC Act 2004. “Bawa, 40, is a trained EFCC investigator with vast experience in the investigation and prosecution of Advance Fee Fraud cases, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundering, and other economic crimes. “He has undergone several specialised trainings in different parts of the world and was one of the pioneer EFCC Cadet Officers in 2005.“Bawa holds a B.Sc degree in Economics, and Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy.”

The truth is that the EFCC is an institution that has a history behind it. The man at the helm of affairs who founded the body alongside the Independent Corrupt Practices and allied offences commission President Olusegun Obasanjo as he then was has been quoted in the media as narrating the reasons for setting up the bodies.

The former President, who stated the main reason for establishing EFCC during the inaugural conference organized by the Ibadan School of Government and Policy, ISGPP, observed that corruption seems to be retaliating with a vengeance as the battle against the vice is now starting afresh under President Muhammadu Buhari.

His words: “I identified corruption as the greatest single bane of our society which was why I set up the ICPC and the EFCC to tackle it head long. Corruption drains billions of Dollars from our economy. Corruption has returned to Nigeria and we are just beginning to fight it afresh.”

Obasanjo, who warned that “corruption must not have resting place in our society because it destroys almost everything,” averred that the high rate of unemployment calls for serious reflection in view of the rising cases of insecurity, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast.

He went on to berate state governors for turning local governments to their personal estates, stressing that the corruption in the local governments has prevented the society from developing. This, he stated, is why “models that works elsewhere fail in Nigeria”. These summarises the essence of the EFCC. Years after these bodies were set up, economic crimes have only just become much more sophisticated and the entire machinery of government at both the national and subnational segments of the siciety are saturated with all kinds of mindblowing corruption by government officials. The objectives for setting up the EFCC has therefore not being met in anyway. Rather, EFCC has become increasingly relevant and the people have become impatient due to lack of constructive impacts by these two anti corruption bodies. This appointment of someone seen as energetic by virtue of his youth, has therefore come at the most appropriate time.

The symbolism of this appointment must never be lost on all of us.

First, the social menace of Corruption is monstrous and has been with us for over 60 years.

So, the new EFCC chairman is about waging a war against an ‘adversary’ that has been a problem for Nigeria long before he was born.

Secondly, corruption is the reason Nigeria has remained underdeveloped and the majority of the citizens who are young people are in absolute poverty and are perennially jobless.

Then a salient point which actually should be number one factor is that government’s primary duty which is to provide security and welfare for citizens as pronounced by the constitution, will be a pipe dream as long as the monster of corruption remains a central character of government. So the EFCC is set up to achieve what the constitution envisaged in section 15 (5) thus: “the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”.

The crusade against Economic Crime and Corruption needs Youthful energy but at the same time, the operational modality of the anti-graft body must be carried out in absolute compliance with the constitutional norms, central of which is chapter four which are the fundamental rights provisions.

Therefore, the newly appointed young chairman of EFCC must exercise the highest responsibility and adherence to the Constitutional provisions and must not unduly apply unlawful means in his work.

The new Chairman of EFCC is expected to be law abiding, firm but decisive just as he is expected to bring fresh air into the Modus Operandi he will inherit from his predecessor.

Few days ago, two young Nigerians were driven to their untimely deaths due to the fear of arrest by EFCC. The EFCC must design law based approach to arrests and raiding of hideouts of suspected fraudsters.

What gain will we achieve if suspected fraudsters who are young are made to jump to their untimely deaths because they are afraid of the demonization and the underhand media persecution that is the strategy in use by the EFCC? What then is the essence of section 36 (5) of the constitution on fairness if you parade accused persons before the media and demonize them even before conducting your investigations and prosecutions? Why are the officials of EFCC so media conscious that whereas cases are filed in the Courts of law, the EFCC conducts media trials even whilst the same matters being showcased in the media of mass communication are going on? Why the media drama and showmanship and why not follow the law and await convictions before publicising a matter?

We are not asking that suspects be pampered. No. But what we are saying is that if the country is governed by law and not by brute force, therefore EFCC must adopt law based approach to stop the ongoing group/class demonization of youngsters.

The decision of President Buhari to appoint a youngster to head EFCC should be looked at from a positive dimension.

Again, the new EFCC Chairman must know that over eighty percent of corruption happen in government offices and these suspected thieves in government garbs are those that young persons like him usually hail as “Ran Ka dede” (long may you live) in Hausa parlance. Whilst we expect him to be lawful, we do also expect him to deal with old thieves inside government offices.

The EFCC cells stinks of torture and dehumanization and need to be humanized Eve as those detention facilitieshould not be seen as psychological torture chambers so accused persons will be alive to attend to their trials in the Competent Courts of Law. The detention facilities should be open for investigations by credible Human Rights Organizations. Accused persons must never be dehumanize and nobody should die in the cells just like the man who died in one of the EFCC cells in Abuja few months back.

The EFCC CHAIRMAN must realise that the World judges Nigeria by the quality of delivery of services and the adherence by all to the Principles of the Rule of law and respect for the human rights of all. The anti graft body must therefore mainstream the respect to the human rights of the citizens in their overall operational strategies. The young man who is now the EFCC boss needs to read a lot of contemporary books and literatures on human rights. I will leave him with a citation from one of the latest books on human rights.

“The covenants and other international human rights treaties are established for all individuals. The obligations they create, however, are only for states. And states have international human rights obligations only to their own nationals (and foreign nationals in their territory or otherwise subject to their jurisdiction or control). Contemporary international (and regional) human rights regimes are supervisory mechanisms that monitor relations between states and citizens. They are not alternatives to a fundamentally statist conception of human rights. Even in the strong European regional human rights regime, the supervisory organs of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights regulate relations between states and their nationals or residents.

The centrality of states in the contemporary construction of international human rights is also clear in the substance of recognised rights.

Some, most notably rights of political participation, are typically restricted to citizens, other rights apply only to residents. For example, states have international human rights obligations to provide education and social insurance only to residents. The remaining internationally recognised human rights, such as freedom of speech and protection against torture, apply to foreign nationals only while they are subject to the jurisdiction of the state”. (Human Rights in Global Politics Edited by Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler).

I want to tell the new man in EFCC that the moment he breaches human rights in the execution of his duties, he has automatically transgressed against the law and has created bad international image for our nation. Remain firm, decisive but be guided by the laws.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and [email protected] theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.

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