Yahaya Bello: Beware of pending Appeal Court hearing, anti-graft CSOs tell EFCC, others  

A Coalition of Anti-Corruption Civil Society Organisations has advised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) not to desecrate the courts in the course of carrying out its constitutional role of fighting corruption. 

The CSOs and human rights crusaders cautioned the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies against trampling on the rights of supposed suspects of corruption in order to avoid breaking a law to enforce another law.

The activists, who spoke at an emergency press briefing in Lagos, Thursday, noted specifically that the recent public face-off between the EFCC and a former governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello in Abuja, as “unnecessary and unfortunate.”

The Executive Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), who addressed the press, suggested that the rush by the EFCC to make an arrest, when the Court of Appeal hearing on its application to vacate the restraining order was just in a few days, might give credence to allegations of political persecution.

“Mr. Olukoyede is my friend. But if he begins to trample on the rule of law, then that’s the terminal point of our friendship,” Adeniran said.

The CSOs noted that the EFCC’s action on Wednesday was “tantamount to the agency preempting the outcome of its appeal and also violating a subsisting and valid court order to pause action pending the determination of the case before it. 

“Our layman’s understanding is that a Court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot assume superiority over another.”

Gbenga Soloki of the Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence, who also spoke, said civil societies in Nigeria would protest vehemently against any attempt to use the military to arrest an individual who had not been accused of treason.

“It is extremely disappointing to hear this afternoon that EFCC is threatening to involve the military in their desperation to forcefully or violently arrest an individual who has not been alleged of treason. 

“Should that happen, we will be a laughing stock globally. Civil society will be active in protesting against such unforgivable infraction on our democracy should it happen as threatened. It should better not happen,” he said.

Adeniran stated, “We do not consider Yahaya Bello a saint, but even the devil deserves his rights under the law. Court documents at our disposal show that the former Governor had obtained a High Court restraining order on the EFCC not to arrest or prosecute him pending the determination of a case of the enforcement of his fundamental human rights, which the Commission has rightfully appealed with the intention of vacating.

“For those who are likely to misinterpret this intervention as it is their regular trademark, this goes beyond Yahaya Bello. Injustice to anyone should not be allowed to stand because it may be your turn tomorrow,” he noted.

The CSOs urged the EFCC to fight, prevent and prosecute corruption cases strictly within the ambit of the law set up to regulate the interaction between them and corruption suspects.

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The activists therefore urged the EFCC to revert to status quo antebellum pending the determination of its appeal and a vacation of the restraining order placed on it, saying “that is the way and dictate of the law.”