A UK based organization, The International Lawyers for Justice and Peace in Africa (TILJPA) has petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan over an alleged plot to use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to intimidate a former governor of Kogi State who was elected on the platform of the ANPP.
The petition which was signed by Paul Smith alleged that the invitation of Prince Abubakar Audu by the EFCC for interrogation and subsequent rearraignment was an abuse of court process.
The petition said: “We wish to draw your kind attention to our concerns on the many petitions from our members in Nigeria on recent actions of the Economic Financial Crime Commission of Nigeria and the shocking allegations against it.
“This is coming after extensive study and consultations on the many petitions forwarded to our office by our members, including a well-circulated press release by Chief Mike Ozekome (SAN) Chambers, regarding the escalation of threats of harassment and even physical attacks against Prince Audu, a former Governor of Kogi Sate.
The petition condemned EFCC’s letter No: CR: 3000 / EFCC / ABJ / ISOS / TM.11 / VOL. 7/ 37 dated 11th December, 2012 inviting Prince Audu for an interrogation over an undisclosed on-going investigation activities involving the former Governor, with a view to freshly arraigning him before a Court in Abuja in the face of a pending charge duly initiated by the same EFCC at the High Court of Justice presided over by Justice S. T. Hussaini with respect to the same offences allegedly committed by the Prince Abubakar Audu during his tenure as Governor amounts to a gross abuse of the process of court.
“Any organisation that is serious about fighting corruption in Nigeria should know that Prince Abubakar cannot legally be arraigned and / or prosecuted by the EFCC or any other person or authority within the Federal Republic of Nigeria in respect of offences allegedly committed during his tenure as Governor of Kogi state between May 1999 and May 2003 when there is subsisting a charge pending before the High Court of Justice, Lokoja presided over by Hon. Justice S.T. Hussaini and the Court of Appeal, Abuja in Appeal No: CA / A / 381c / 2011, alleging the same offences committed during the same period and arising from same facts as the pending and extant charges” the petition said.
The organization declared that the unlawful invasion of the residence of Prince Abubakar Audu in the early hours of 11th December, 2012 without any prior invitation and without a valid search warrant or warrant of arrest, under the pretext of arresting him and the subsequent wide publicity accorded the invasion by the EFCC in the print, electronic and internet media without any prior invitation to the effect amounts to crass irresponsibility, undue sensationalsim, humiliation,
intimidation, and invasion of the former Governor’s right to privacy and family life contrary to the provisions of Sections 37 of the Constitution if the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is a shame that a responsible organisation like the EFCC should know that the Supreme Court decision delivered on November 23, 2012 overruling his appeal “did not effectively and finally terminate his trial on the – 80 count charge at the High Court of Justice, Lokoja.
“We therefore protest in the strongest terms against the purported use of the EFCC for the purpose of harassment and intimidation. The information made available by our members in Nigeria shows that the current involvement of the EFCC in the matter may be rightly interpreted as promoting institutionalized intimidation in a democracy”.
The organization said while it believes in anti-corruption campaign, it should not be used to criminalise political opponents.
The petition added: “While we applaud and endorse any initiative by the EFCC to fight corruption in Nigeria, we however do not believe that criminalising political opponents can ever serve that purpose.
“We strongly feel that a focused organisation like the EFCC under the leadership of highly respected Ibrahim Lamorde should take decisions based on merit, not politics or the party involved.”