MUCH ADO ABOUT AN ADVISORY LIST
I have watched and listened with keen interest to the raging debate over a list of alleged corrupt persons being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. This has, of late, been tagged an 'Advisory List.' In view of my position on issues that border on corruption, I have decided to make my position known to the public through this medium.
I recall that the day the publication was made in two national dailies, the EFCC came out with a statement to clarify the facts in the newspapers' publications. Unfortunately, the commission obviously has no control over how the media interprete a news material. This is why I will love to avail myself and the reading public the full content of that statement signed by the commission's spokesman, Femi Babafemi to actually determine whether, after the clarification, the hue and cry that has followed can actually be justified. The EFCC statement entitled: 'The Innocent Needs Not Be Jittery', reads:
'The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to a barrage of mixed reactions following media reports on a list of high profile cases being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency. 'The Commission has decided to clarify some of the issues raised in the publications in the interest of members of the public who might be misled by the selfish arguments of some hired commentators who are desperate to stifle the nation's anti-graft war. 'For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC has repeatedly emphasised that it does not have the power to ban or disqualify any person from contesting for a public office and does not intend to embark on actions outside its responsibility. The Commission under its present leadership has been working and remains fully committed to working strictly within the rule of law.
'It is however surprising that the mere publication of a list of cases being prosecuted in courts by newspapers has generated so much reactions from those who are yet to discharge their burden of corruption charges as well as their fans and agents alike. It is more disturbing given the fact that the list that has elicited the flurry of reactions has been on the commission's website since 2008 and all the facts therein have been in the public domain since the trial of the accused persons began. 'The list is neither a covert or overt strategy, intention, ploy nor agenda of the EFCC to arrogate to itself the power of a law court. Thus, it is patently assumptive and speculative of anyone or any group to accuse the commission of using its power to stop aspirants.
The commission never states or pretends that it has any power to stop aspirants. What the list simply represents is a public disclosure of the gamut of its prosecutorial efforts in the war against corrupt practices, an information that has since remained in the public domain for several months. 'It is therefore obvious that most of the reactions and attack on the commission were borne out of the desperate bid by those who have deliberately stalled their trials in the courts to buy time through various frivolous applications so that they can seize the opportunity of another election to return to public office and once again enjoy immunity.
'The EFCC, contrary to some selfish claims by a few people, is not seeking to convict aspirants before being pronounced guilty by a law court. In what way will a list that has been in the public sphere achieve the purpose of a conviction? What parallel or similar effects will a mere information on our cases in court has with a conviction? What pronouncement has been made on the list that can be equated with a conviction?
'The truth of the matter is that, those who have no quarrel with the lion have no need to fear its fatal claws! The innocent needs not be jittery. The EFCC is doing its job and should be appreciated for doing so creditably.
'We do not have any control over what interests the media nor how they do their job neither do we determine who a political party fields for an election. It is left for any political party to determine the level of integrity of candidates it presents for an election. 'It is rather unfortunate that at a time when all efforts should be geared towards raising the bar against corruption in Nigeria in a way that will positively affect the global rating of the country, some persons can still be found to be taking sides with the cankerworm that has given our nation so much negative publicity.'
The statement, to me, has cleared the air and is sufficient to clear all doubts, if there is any, created by the Monday newspapers' publications. What I have seen so far is an expression of anger by persons who have been waiting for a chance to take their own pound of flesh from the EFCC, notwithstanding whether their arguments are rational or not. Unfortunately, the media have equally provided them an avenue to execute their own hidden agenda using a non-issue as a springboard to do this.
But even beyond the clarification by the EFCC, and for the sake of argument and on moral grounds, I completely support those who have been expressing support for the EFCC over this issue, if indeed there is such a list which has been sent to political parties. How do you defend the attitude of the accused persons who have refused to work in the interest of speedy hearing of their cases? Now they want to return to political offices for the purpose of enjoying immunity that will put their trial in abeyance till eternity.
I am aware that the courts, at various levels, have indicted many of these people by ruling that they have cases to answer in their numerous bids to quash charges against them. What other indictment could be more damning than this?
It is on this note that I find the statement credited to the Attorney General of the Federation, Bello Adoke cautioning the EFCC uncalled for and totally at variance with the oath of his office. His comments were totally against the expectation of the Nigerian people he was put in office to serve. I will advise him to watch it, because of different unpalatable allegations already all over town and the Internet against him, lest he falls into the same pit his predecessor fell into.
Pray, even if the list of those facing criminal charges was actually published, what is wrong in the commission advising political parties on questions over the credibility of some of their candidates, and saving them the embarrassment that may happen if the trial of those who do not enjoy immunity continue after they are voted into office and they end up being found guilty and convicted while in office?
Rather than condemnation, the political parties should thank the EFCC for having the list of those facing various charges in law courts on its website. After all, the trials are not secret trials. They are public trials.