by Festus Ogun
Right from the election season last year, it is known to all and sundry that the ultimate mission of President Buhari is to tackle the Everest height of corruption in the country. And since his emergence, several measures have been taken to flush out corruption out of the face of the nation. It is a matter of fact that the war need be fought because of the ill effect of corruption on a country like Nigeria. All the mess the country is in today is bore out of the ugly womb of corruption.
However, with the way and manner the ‘politics’ of anti-corruption crusade is played, many heart of Buhari lovers have been left broken. Notwithstanding the good intention of the president to fight the monster called corruption, there are many acts and method used in fighting this corruption that are equally dirty, corrupt and uncalled for. And this particular point is where it seem Buhari and his ‘soldiers’ in this war front are getting it very wrong.
The fight against corruption is being carried out by some bodies established by statutes for this purpose. Out of all these bodies, the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is the one principally used to make the anti-corruption crusade a reality. Sadly, the EFCC, which seem to echo the voice of the president, have also been involved in countless corrupt acts which are really causing more harm than good to the health of our dear nation.
With what holds in the country today, it is crystal clear that Buhari isn’t fighting really corruption; rather, he seem to be fighting opposition. This is understandably so because, right from time which this ‘holy war’ commenced, the attention of the EFCC have been on the opposition parties; particularly PDP. This in essence means that Buhari have been selective in this anti-corruption struggle and has been playing politics of revenge. And being selective itself is the best definition of corruption. Perhaps, Jonathan have been vindicated; ‘stealing is not corruption’, it is far beyond that.
Apart from “selectiveness” highlighted above, the government have also been giulty of the usage of EFCC in gagging any form of opposition and criticism. Femi Fani-Kayode, Olisa Metuh and others are testimony to this fact.
Frankly speaking, the reason why this anti-corruption war may fail is because Buhari’s political home is also full of corrupt and unscrupulous ones. In fact, many of his election sponsors are suspected looters that left the PDP and metamorphosed to angels under the guise of APC’s change. Now, waging war solely against the unrepentant member of the PDP showcases the hypocritical nature of our president, Buhari. And this need not be so if he really wants to bring down corruption.
More importantly, there have been gross violation of the provision of law in the course of fighting this corruption. The truth seem to be that: the rule of law, which is the political principle that stipulates the supremacy of the constitution, have been for long jettisoned and discarded. In fact, fundamental rights of suspected looters have been encroached upon without any form of apology. Where saddens me mostly is the fact that many Nigerians seem to care less about this germane issue – disregard for our laws – since they have been blindfolded by the anti-corruption war. Let me put it straight, it is the greatest height of political cum constitutional rascality and insubordination to disrespect the law under the guise of fighting corruption. It is wrong, unconstitutional and evil. The fact therefore is: corruption can be tackle without necessarily violating the rules of law.
Just last week, the EFCC have extended its icy unlawful hands on a sitting governor. Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, have been unlawfully “investigated” and treated under the guise of fighting corruption. His personal account has been frozen for alleged corrupt funds in his account. This act of the EFCC is highly political and evil by nature.
It is known in all nooks and crannies that Fayose is one of the leading voice of opposition in Nigeria. He has been able to perform this “function” all this while mainly because of the immunity clause on him. If not, the EFCC might have gagged him by alleging him of an offence or the other. This has been the weapon used by the presidency to gag all forms of criticisms in the country. And it is very unfortunate and saddening that Buhari is unaware or pretend to be unaware of the importance of criticism/opposition in democratic governance. Wait, who knows whether his “no-no” to opposition/criticism is an indication of his dictatorial tendency?
Looking at the action of the EFCC towards Fayose from the legal angle, it is highly unconstitutional. The provision of the law need be respected by any government body whatsoever. Any act of government or its agencies which is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution is void. And this is the provision of Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution. Additionally, in the popular cases of GARBA VS. UNIVERSITY OF MAIDUGURI and A.G BENDEL STATE VS. A.G OF THE FEDERATION & OTHERS, it has been decided that when government or its agency is involved in what it has no power to do or that which is not according to the law, such action will be declared void.
Thus, in this case, the EFCC have acted ultra vires by infringing on the immunity clause bestowed on governor Fayose by the constitution. Section 308 of the 1999 constitution grants immunity on some government officials which Fayose happens to be part. The purpose of this provision is no other than to prevent the governor from being inhibited in the performance of his executive functions by fear of civil or criminal litigation arising from such performance during his tenure of office. This intention however have been violated.
It is apparent that “freezing” of a governer’s account by the EFCC is an investigative activity, and investigation which will hurt the “welfare” of the sitting governor is sheer bitterness and disregard for our law.
It need be pointed out here that the writer of this piece is not opposing the fact that EFCC should investigate. But, the investigation should be one that’s carried out on a low-key. Freezing of the account for any reason whatsoever, therefore, is too harsh a decision and eqaully against the spirit of law. In fact, the supreme court have observed in the case of TINUBU VS. IMB SECURITIES LTD that the essence of immunity is “… to insulate them (those whom the section apply) from harrasment in their personal matters” . This intention have also been defeated by this action of the EFCC.
Some have argued that the act that creates the EFCC also empowers them under Section 34(1) to investigate any person whose account is under the committal of an offence WITHOUT exceptions to person. This provision is however clashing with the provision of the constitution which is the grundnorm.
Thus, it is a settled principle, by virtue of section 1(3) of the constitution that where there is a clash between any other law, like that of the EFCC, with the provision of the constitution, like section 308, the provision of the constitution shall prevail and the provision of the other law shall be void to the extent of its inconsistency.
With respect to the principles of law highlighted above, it will be apt to say that the action of the EFCC is unjust and unconstitutional. Without any care about the political reasons behind the “freezing”, the bitter truth remains that EFCC have acted ultra-vires and need to act constitutionally if it’s ready to fight corruption.
Let’s ponder a minute, why should the EFCC be disregarding the law? This question needs an answer. For in the case of NICHOLAS ASHINZE VS. EFCC, the court has ruled that “EFCC is a creation of the the law. The court will not allow it to act as if it is above the law. The EFCC Act is not superior to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” ( Per Justice Yusuf Halilu).
On the final analysis, it need be stated that everyone is a creation of law and nobody, even the president, is above the law. So, both President Buhari, Governor Fayose, EFCC and all of us should be law abiding for us to have a better Nigeria and the account frozen should be “unfrozen” as a matter of constitutional urgency.
God bless Nigeria.
Festus Ogun is a 200 level law student of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.