Richard Ginika Izuora
The Nigeria Renewal Movement, has condemned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), arrest of immediate past Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano.
In a statement signed by Barrister Linus Ikechukwu and Comrade Yemisi Hameed-Aderibigbe, president and secretary of the movement respectively, said the EFCC has sometimes carried its business in strange ways which has often led to the loss of cases, especially high-profile ones, which ultimately leads to considerable erosion of public confidence in the ability of the agency.
Both officers said in the statement that the EFCC has routinely been accused of operating two systems of justice, one for favoured Nigerians and the other for the doomed.
The statement read, “The manner it has gone about the case of Chief Willie Obiano, Anambra State governor till Thursday, March 17, 2022, calls for concern. For example, its officers or agents on Saturday, March 19, 2022, leaked to the mass media a picture of the erstwhile governor in shorts drinking tabled water in its holding facility in Abuja. It has not adduced any reason for the action which is clearly unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. Most citizens agree that the purpose was to humiliate him. But the action has ended up winning Chief Obiano, one of the most famous governors in recent national history when he was in office, enormous public sympathy across the nation.”
The Movement claimed that this is not the first time the EFCC has attempted to surreptitiously use the media to denigrate Chief Obian, saying, “As early as last November when he still had four months to remain in office with all the constitutionally conferred immunity in place the EFCC sponsored and leaked a syndicated report in the press suggesting that he was attempting to escape from Nigeria, perhaps under a false identity, and that he would not be allowed to go out of the country.
“By the time the sponsored report was published, Chief Obiano was already in the United States, and he travelled through Murtala Muhamadu Airport in Lagos after all the formalities and with no effort to disguise himself.
“If any further evidence of bad faith in the ongoing persecution of the erstwhile governor is needed, the EFCC has already provided it. It gave very stringent conditions for Chief Obiano to be granted bail. Two directors in the Federal Public Service with verified landed properties in Abuja are needed to provide surety for him. Even if there are such directors, how many of them will be willing to come out to declare ownership of such properties in a case involving the EFCC directly? The conditions for Chief Obiano’s release are almost impossible to meet.” it said.
Continuing the statement added, “It beats the imagination of most Nigerians that rather than carry out their investigation before arresting him, some EFCC officers chose to keep him in detention indefinitely. It is not necessary to keep him in detention while investigation is going on. The best course of action is to conclude the investigation and charge him to court if there is enough evidence to prosecute him.
“EFCC’s halfhearted explanation that Chief Obiano was escaping from Nigeria and from justice when he was arrested last Thursday is unfair. Those who escape from the country in order to escape prosecution often disguise themselves. The erstwhile governor did no such thing. Fugitives from justice hardly use international airports where their identities will be shown. They use land routes, especially bush paths where security and immigration agents are not likely to see, identify and arrest them. Chief Obiano could not have been running away from Nigeria when his wife is well known to be preparing to run for the Senate.”
The Movement therefore called on the EFCC to go to equity with clean hands in such a way that it will be clear to all and sundry that it has done so. “The current practice which seems to regard some Nigerians as privileged and some others as damned goes a long way to shake the confidence of the citizens in the Nigeria project. Its treatment to Chief Obiano looks anything but just. The anti-corruption agency should immediately release him and charge him to court only when it has concluded its investigation and convinced that there is, indeed, a prima facie case against him. Only the courts can determine whether he should be a free man or not.” the statement added.