By Senator Iroegbu
The Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) has thrown its weight behind the call by the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), for the whittling down of the prosecutory powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In a statement signed on Tuesday by the Senior Counsel, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), and Legal/Programme Officer, Mr. Collins Okeke, it applauded “the call by Mahmoud for a debate on the efficacy of the war against corruption in Nigeria”.
The NBA President made some commitments and pronouncements at the 56th Annual General Conference of the association in Port Harcourt on major issues of national importance including a recommendation that the anti-graft body should not be empowered to perform both the investigative and prosecutory roles.
This was, however, not well received by the Commission, which berated the NBA and its President, claiming that the Bar is populated by “rogues and vultures” with questionable intent concerning war against corruption.
But Agbakoba and HURILAWS aligned with Mahmoud, saying: “Where corruption is endemic like in Nigeria, strong institutions are critical to achieve success.
“It is in this context that the debate on the propriety of the EFCC investigating and prosecuting financial crimes at the same time is appropriate”.
Part of the statement read: “We support the position of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association. HURILAWS position is supported by international best practice and the need to build the capacity of the EFCC to deliver on its core mandate which is investigation of financial crimes.
“The international best practice is that one agency investigates, another prosecutes and the court adjudicates. The EFCC as currently composed is overworked and will not efficiently deliver on investigation and prosecution.
“Whilst we have no objection with the EFCC investigating or the courts adjudicating, we believe the powers to prosecute should be vested in an independent highly resourced prosecuting agency. We appreciate the enormous work done by the EFCC since its establishment in 2003.”