AN OPEN LETTER TO MR PRESIDENT
18th July, 2012
Commander-in-Chief, Armed Forces of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (GCFR)
EFCC and allegations on threats to National Security
On behalf of all members affiliated to the International Centre for Advancement of Justice and Peace in Emerging Democracies (ICJAPED), an NGO head quartered in New York, USA with United Nations affiliate status, we wish to draw your kind attention to our concerns on the many petitions from our members in Nigeria on recent actions of the Economic Financial Crime Commission of Nigeria a.k.a EFCC and the shocking allegations against it.
Our concerns are three folds. First, is the accusation on EFCC for indulging in repressive actions. Second, is the politicization of the fight against corruption and finally, is the finger being pointed at the EFCC in abetting militarization of Kogi State, Nigeria.
After extensive study and consultations on the many petitions forwarded to our office by our members including a well circulated press release by Olanikpekun Chambers regarding the escalation of threats of harassment and even physical attacks against Jibrin Isah, a contender in a judicial tussle for Kogi State governorship against Idris Wada, the present Governor of Kogi State, both members of your political party, Peoples Democratic Party. With all sense of respect, we boldly state that the allegations on EFCC point to a continuing and, in fact, deepening human rights crises fed by an institutionalized impunity. As a Human Rights Watch organisation, we urge Mr. President to take notice of the below stated actions of the EFCC and the allegations against it and bring to an end such actions because such tactics as expressed by Olanikpekun Chambers have frequently been used by authorities to oppress and harass innocent citizens.
Granted that the Olanipekun Chambers may simply have spoken out on an issue that affect their client, Jibrin Isah, as such, may be termed a sided argument but the avalanche of complaints sent to us on the same issue makes it a matter of great public concern because what is happening to Jibrin Isah can only be ignored in a dictatorship regime but never acceptable in a rights-respecting democracy like Nigeria. We therefore protest in the strongest terms, the purported use of the EFCC for the purpose of harassment and intimidation. The information made available by our members show that the current involvement of the EFCC in the matter may be rightly interpreted as promoting institutionalized intimidation in a democracy.
Specifically, threats of prosecutions or the withdrawal of a person’s status as prosecution witness in a court case should not be used by the EFCC or any well meaning organisation of Government to censor and intimidate him or her. We firmly believe that the present headship of the EFCCwere in the decision to use Jibrin Isah as a prosecution witness in the Afribank saga and this was established based on a careful assessment of the facts and the law. As far we know, there is no legal basis for the threat of prosecution except if allegations of close ties between a Chieftain of the EFCC and Idris Wada, a political opponent of Jibrin Isah are anything to go by. Again, if it is true that the present Aide-de-Camp to Idris Wada, ASP Mohammed Idris was a former aide of a present Chieftain of the EFCC, then, it becomes very easy to deduce a valid affiliation and we wish to conclude that this may clearly be a new attack against democracy. As much as we agree that it is common knowledge for people to make bogus accusations, it is however important that these issues are properly investigated and an inquiry instituted to determine whether the accusations that some opposing political interests to Jibrin Isah are “intimately involved” with the EFCC.
While we applaud and endorse any initiative by the EFCC to fight corruption in Nigeria, we however do not believe that criminalizing political opponents can ever serve that purpose. We strongly feel that a focused organisation like the EFCC under the leadership of highly respected Ibrahim Lamorde should take decisions based on merits, not politics or party involved. As such, we demand that the EFCC must reveal the facts and applicable law before its reversal of Jibrin Isah’s status as a prosecution witness, what evidentiary and legal standards were employed for changing the status of Jibrin Isah in the Afribank case that has been in court since 2009? When and where did Jibrin Isah cease to be an appropriate prosecution witness. Otherwise, this unusual move of the EFCC should be vigorously investigated.
From our investigations, we arrived at very valid reasons to believe that the EFCC under the guise of fighting “corruption” has in fact delivered a blow to its credibility. Instead of addressing the concerns of the defunct Afribank investors appropriately, its action on Jibrin Isah would only end up achieving the opposite effect for the interest of the Afribank investors which should be the primary interest of the EFCC. Moreso, the fear that any action taken on Jibrin Isah regarding the reversal of his status as prosecution witness will precipitate deep divisions within the EFCC and destroy professionalism is very real.
In as much as we may wish to consider the letter written to Jibrin Isah by the EFCC as an ‘honest’error from a very reputable agency of the Nigerian Government , we expect that now that the letter has been controversially brought to the public domain, the EFCC should have taken immediate steps to address its error. The refusal of the EFCC to address these concerns confirms its involvement in the politicization of Jibrin Isah, Wada Idris and Afribankissue. Indeed, this does not reflect well on the EFCC as it is capable of serving as a warning signal to the National Assembly to amend the law establishing the EFCC as no responsible agency of government should be misused to choke the human rights of Nigerians, become a tool of repression or be used to settle political scores.
While we demand a truthful, complete, and public response from the authorities and individuals mentioned herein, we believe that the Federal Government of Nigeria must be concerned about the allegations raised against the EFCC and its adverse effects on both its Democracy and Judiciary. As such, we join with other voices in the International and local community in calling on the office of Attorney General of Federation (AGF) to live up to its obligations, as the number one legal officer and guarantee the respect of all human rights. The AGF has a continuing legal and ethical obligation to ensure that the actions of the EFCC are within the ambits of law and supported by evidence.
Finally, we are also concerned about the present political crisis in Kogi State which no doubt requires an integral party approach or judicial intervention rather than the use of security forces, intimidation and prosecutions that are aimed at damaging public respectable institutions like the EFCC and the Nigerian Judiciary. While condemning any action that tilts to the militarization of Kogi State, we plead that the Federal Government of Nigeria addresses the safety concerns such actions by the EFCC may invite because it is obvious that such uncertain conduct of the EFCC are capable of breeding disaffection and violence amongst the electorate. The unpalatable truth is that if the EFCC persists in interfering in the Kogi State political affairs, a catastrophe will be hard to avoid especially at a time that the Kogi people are either calling for dialogue, compromise or awaiting the rule of law. Therefore, any action perceived as unfair by supporters of any of the opposing sides in the Kogi political debacle will end up outraging people and they may take to the streets.
It is therefore our firm hope that our politicians and individuals with special interest in the Kogi state politics should see National interest as a priority, especially now that the security authorities are busy working out a co-ordinated strategy to tackle the Boko haram menace. Indeed, everything that invites violence should be unacceptable because National security is too serious a challenge to be left at the mercy of political and bureaucratic bickering. As such, we urge the Office of the National Security Adviser to carry out its own internal investigations into the handling of these issues especially those that have potentials for violence and threat to national security.
Mr. President, at this point, we consider it vital for your government to take all necessary steps to ensure that there will be no attempts by the EFCC to further intimidate anyone on this issue until the offices of the AGF and NSA conclude their investigations on the issues raised in the interest of justice, peace and Nigeria’s reputation.
Your personal and prompt intervention is most essential to the political and social peace in Kogi State and security of the nation.
Dr. Stephen Briggs
Co-ordinator ,Africa region