The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers & Advocates, COPA, in keeping to its mandate to be the conscience of the nation and stand in the gap for good governance, human rights and fruitful political leadership deem it fit to make public its reservation and suspicion of the arrest of Senator Shehu Sani by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
We are abreast of available details of the invitation, arrest and detention of Senator Shehu Sani by the graft agency for allegedly obtaining a bribe under false pretence and with intention to exert influence on the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to stave off ongoing investigation of a friend of the Senator.
It is worth noting that Senator Sani is reported to have honoured the invitation extended to him by EFCC by a day earlier than slated, and is said to be cooperating with the agency in ascertaining the basis of the allegations against him which he has reportedly denied as contrived and untrue.
While we encourage the EFCC to accord no sacred cow status in the pursuit of its mandate as an anti-graft agency, we caution it to act transparently and with verifiable facts. In recent years, the EFCC has earned the notoriety of singling out perceived ‘enemies’ of the government in power and going after same with trumped up charges in order to undermine their criticism of the government. Such a feature in a professional body such as the EFCC robes its every action with a degree of suspicion and deprives it of public trust and support critical for intelligence gathering and general success.
The circumstances surrounding the invitation and allegation of fraud against Senator Sani remains vague at best as it would be foolhardy to undertake a public trial even before establishing a basis for his guilt. We are, however, puzzled at claims that the Senator sought to influence the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, as the two do not enjoy a cordial relationship beyond common courtesy. In fact, Senator Sani’s several past barbed inferences indicting the EFCC and its boss of playing to the tunes of a federal piper rather than the law hardly makes him a friend of the agency.
A thorough examination of the hurried arrest and brief detention of Senator Shehu Sani by the EFCC, therefore, suggests and exposes a thinly veiled malicious attempt to throw the Senator’s hard-won reputation in the mud in a bid to discredit him.
Senator Shehu Sani has in recent years been a vocal and un-relenting critic of the government of his state and that at the federal level, and in Nigeria’s predictable political space, has within a short time made himself a marked enemy of those he opposes with his wits and actions.
It came as a little surprise to many when news of his arrest became public news. A lot of commentary on the arrest are reiterating claims that he had it coming as an avowed critic of government. To play into such a perception especially with a lack of concrete grounds for his detention, the EFCC are making themselves out to be errand hunters of shadowy political figures stung by the senators acerbic criticisms.
It is unbecoming of such a professional body to bear such a toga without making efforts to shake it off through impartial actions. The invitation, arrest and subsequent arrest of Senator Shehu Sani may yet undermine what’s left of the public’s goodwill towards the EFCC and we simply cannot have such a happenstance in our national experience.
COPA advises the EFCC to act impartially and by the law at all times. It is our hope as a group that a thorough and non-vindictive investigation would be undertaken in the Senator Shehu Sani, and indeed in all matters before the EFCC, with a view to serving the law and not servicing the ego or private wars of political figures in government.
COPA invites all well-meaning members of the public and the civil society space to keep a watchful eye on the EFCC to dissuade it from further acting on whims and impulses rather than by the law as some instances of their excesses would show.
As a group, COPA intends to keep the vigil on good governance, political propriety and accountability to the public ongoing.
Pelumi Olajengbesi, is the convener of Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers & Advocates, COPA.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.