A senior Nigerian lawyer, Wahab Shittu, has said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is empowered by law to prosecute financial crimes committed in any of the country’s federal units.
A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, argued last week that the EFCC had no right to examine the accounts of the states.
However, Shittu, in a statement made available to The PUNCH on Monday, explained that the EFCC is a special agency that was created specifically to combat corruption.
He said: “The call to remove the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, which has received vociferous endorsement from leading members of the bar association, is a mistake.
“First of all, and with all due respect to Olisa Agbakoba SAN, it is contradictory to argue that the EFCC should not exist and also to argue that the EFCC, as a creation of the National Assembly, does not have the power to interfere with the activities of the state government. and therefore should only be restricted to the Federal Capital Territory. These two points of view cannot be side by side.
“Section 19 of the EFCC Act grants jurisdiction to the Federal High Court, the High Court of a state and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory to try offenders under the Act, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law. As provided in Section 1(2) of the EFCC Act, the commission can sue and be sued on your corporate behalf. This provision empowers the commission to prosecute cases in the Federal High Court, the state High Court and the Federal Capital Territory High Court. By implication, the commission is empowered to prosecute financial crimes committed in any of Nigeria’s federative units.
“It is also worth noting that the EFCC is a special agency created specifically to combat corruption. There is no doubt that the police have extensive powers, but their main duty is to maintain law and order in society. Given the current trend in terms of corruption and financial crimes, a special agency should be dedicated to combating corruption; this is a task that the EFCC has been very successful in carrying out”.
Shittu also noted that there were ways to address duplication of duties between government agencies rather than a direct call to eliminate them, adding that other countries have special agencies that focus on a particular aspect of law enforcement.
“Nigeria is not the only country that has special agencies that focus on a particular aspect of law enforcement. For example, the UK, in addition to the police, has the Special Fraud Office, which was created by the Criminal Justice Act 1987 to specifically combat fraud, bribery and corruption,” he added.