The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) on Saturday rejected a proposal by the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud, for the agency to be stripped of its prosecutorial powers, saying the call is “self-serving” and aimed at creating “a cabal of untouchables”.
A statement signed by EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said senior lawyers have been complicit in cases of corruption and money laundering, and some NBA members are “rogues and vultures”.
The commission, following criticisms of the scathing statement, have moved to make some clarifications.
A statement issued on Monday reads:
The attention of the EFCC has been drawn to the reactions that have trailed its statement on the call by Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, recently elected president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) that the Commission should be stripped of its prosecutorial powers.
Whilst the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, a few people seem to have read only the headlines of newspapers and online platforms that reported the statement.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission DID NOT say the whole of the NBA is populated by rogues and vultures. The Nigerian Bar and Bench are peopled by very many seasoned, upright members, who have made and are still making invaluable contributions to the fight against corruption.
The points being made by the Commission in the statement are as follows:
1.EFCC appreciates the commitment of the new NBA president to fight corruption;
2.EFCC appreciates the effusive praise the NBA president heaped on the Commission in its inaugural address (he must have been looking at the fact that the Commission is prosecuting more cases in court and has secured more convictions than the federal and ALL the 36 states departments of justice combined);
3.The NBA president’s weighty recommendation was advanced against the facts on ground and without advancing a single shred of justification;
4.The call of the NBA president (including its timing and the platform at which it was canvassed) was laid bare to speculations about the motivation behind it;
5.EFCC notes the unprecedented step it has taken to help rid the Nigerian judiciary of severely corrupt elements, including the investigation and prosecution of senior members of the Bar for corruption and money laundering, with several more such interventions in the pipeline;
6.EFCC is of the opinion that as in several professions (including law enforcement), there are some rogue elements in the Nigerian Bar Association giving the Bar a bad name;
7.There are people with vested interests who wish to dismember the EFCC and those who are hovering like birds of prey to devour the carcass of the Commission;
8.By way of background, then NBA president, Lanke Odogiyan (again at the Bar conference in Port Harcourt) in 2005, called for outright scrapping of the EFCC and it took the intervention of a number of progressive legal practitioners led by Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, of blessed memory, to shoot down the obnoxious move;
9.That failed attempt was closely followed by the move by one-time Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa, to bring about the same end that is today being championed by Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN.
These were what compelled the Commission to put the nation on notice. It was never meant to impugn the integrity of upright and honourable members of the Nigerian Bar Association.