By NBF News
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A pro-democracy group, Democracy Watch yesterday cautioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) not to go ahead with its alleged plan to bar no fewer than 54 politicians from contesting 2011 polls.

The group appealed to the Attorney General of the Federation, Bello Adoke (SAN) and all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the EFCC boss to guide her utterances in her campaign against corruption in the country.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos, a legal team of the group led by Mr. Kola Kolade, said the purported plan of the commission to stop the alleged corrupt politicians from the elections would be unconstitutional.

His words: 'History will not forgive us if we don't react to a statement in the press credited to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, saying that politicians or former political office holders who have cases in court or who are under investigation would be stopped from contesting election in 2011.

'We feel as lawyers that the main thing that binds us together in Nigeria or which is the supreme law over every citizen of Nigeria is the constitution of Nigeria. The constitution gives every Nigerian the right to vie for any political office of his or her choice so far as the person complies with the relevant laws, like the electoral law.

'At the same time, the law is very clear that the EFCC is only an investigative agency, an investigative arm of the executive. Therefore, the EFCC or the chairman of the EFCC cannot constitute herself into an investigator, a prosecutor and the judge. 'I also want to appeal to her not to turn the EFCC to a political body or a witch-hunting body. Once you have done an investigation, let her leave the rest to the court.

'One cardinal principle of the rule of natural justice is that you cannot be a judge in your own cause. Once you are investigating a person or you are prosecuting a person, you cannot be the judge. You will wait till the determination of the court before you can say you want to stop or not.'

Kolade stated that the law stipulates that once a person is standing trail or is being investigated, there is a presumption of innocence until a court of competent jurisdiction finds such a person guilty. He appealed to the EFCC boss not to take Nigerians through the lessons learnt from the 2007 elections, which led to the 'annulment of so many governorship elections as a result of exclusion of such governorship candidates by the INEC and EFCC against due process.'

In 2007, Kolade recalled, Nigerians were living witnesses to what happened to the present governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, wherein the EFCC claimed to have indicted him and his name was substituted with that of Celestine Omehia. The Supreme Court judgment, he said, faulted the indictment of Amaechi by the EFCC.