A pro-democracy organization, Campaign for Democracy (CD) has frowned at the way the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been pursuing the anti-corruption cases against former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, claiming that it is looking more like a witch-hunt rather than diligent prosecution.
In a statement signed by CD’s Programme Director, Mr. Femi Lawson, the pro-democracy group also called out the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), for interfering in the affairs of the National Assembly.
While accusing the EFCC of bias in its dealings with Mrs. Jonathan, Lawson condemned what he called the “indecent haste to rush to the media with inconclusive and often false evidence of corruption against the former First lady.”
The statement said: “As an organization that fought hard to bring an end to military dictatorship in Nigeria, we are inclined to lend our voice to any development that threatens the survival of the nation’s democracy. We have for long watched the anti-corruption campaign being prosecuted by the the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) even as we quietly monitored people’s appraisal of the agency in terms of its neutrality.
“We are contented that the Buhari administration has made
anti-corruption fight one of the planks of its policies. But we are
nonetheless concerned that EFCC, the Government agency at the centre of this fight, is not been seen by a generality of our population to be objective, especially as many see the agency as only going after the opposition. We have held back from outright condemnation of the methods of the anti-graft agency, but we are not really convinced that EFCC is out to fight corruption in good conscience.
“Recent distress call from Mrs. Patience Jonathan, wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan over alleged persecution of her family is one complaint too many and it has made us to shed the toga of silence over the activities of EFCC. In the first place, we make bold to say that we are not supporting corruption, and would quickly advice those who have charges of corruption against them to clear their name.
“But we are not an organization that would lend our support to
haphazard anti-corruption fight that looks more like political
propaganda, than anything else. Mrs. Jonathan cried out over what she called media trial and we are incline to believe her or others that have raised the same fears. This is because there have been more trials on the pages of newspapers than the expected diligent quiet investigations that should ordinarily go on on behind the cameras. The indecent haste to rush to the media with inconclusive and often false evidence of corruption is making the whole exercise look like a circus.
“We also hold a dim view of the activities of some civil society
organization like Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), who now see itself as a higher authority that with powers to checkmate the constitutional duties of the National Assemblies.
SERAP overreached itself by calling for the withdrawal of the
directive given to banks by both chambers of the National Assembly for the lifting of the illegal restrictions on the accounts of Mrs. Patience Jonathan. That is tantamount to questioning the oversight
functions carried out by the lawmakers as granted to them by the constitution.
“In the case of Mrs. Jonathan, her allegation of EFCC witch-hunt can no longer be discountenanced in the light of the unending flow of false evidence that the anti-graft body has continued to throw at her to the discomfort of even the general public. On many occasions, EFCC has had to swallow its spit with the number of choice properties they have continued to link to her in the media, many of which had turned out to belong to either some other individuals, organizations or even government agencies. It is on record that some properties including the Local Content Office in Yenagoa which belongs to NNPC, as Nigerian Customs Guest House were once published in the newspapers as belonging to her. If EFCC is not conscientious enough to even identify properties belonging to a sister Government agency, how then can the people trust its capacity to handle more complex investigations?
“Again today Wednesday 12 October, 2017 EFCC used its media hirelings to heap more unsubstantiated allegations of money laundering against Mrs. Jonathan, including invoking the spirit of her dead mother, in a manner that showed no regard to the dead.
“We are also not comfortable with the fact that EFCC has continued to select the court orders to obey, especially pertaining to cases
involving Mrs. Jonathan and some other politicians facing prosecution.
The latest, being the refusal of the EFCC under Ibrahim Magu, to bey the directives of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions, which recently ordered banks to unfreeze accounts belonging to Mrs. Patience Jonathan, based on the fact, that the freezing action was illegal, as there no specific restriction orders from any competent court of law.
“We wish to reiterate that we support the anti-corruption crusade of the Federal Government and all lawful steps taken to deal with infraction on public expenditure. But we also want to place it on
record that what the EFCC is doing to Mrs. Jonathan and her family members is unprecedented and amounts to pure political vendetta and sheer act of intimidation against a woman. The unrelenting manner she has continued to be harassed bears out her claim that her sole offence was her support for husband during the 2015 elections as well as her loud criticism of this ruling APC, an act which we do not hold against her because we see healthy criticism as a critical ingredient of constitutional democracy.
“A gestapo-like operation by the EFCC against Mrs. Patience Jonathan is therefore clearly an act of intimidation and a suppression of the rule of law. It is considered as a violent violation of her rights, as a Nigerian citizen. And this is quite sad because it comes through as an affront against her husband, former President Jonathan who willingly handed over to the opposition as a means of strengthening democracy in the country.
“It is sad that the EFCC under President Muhammadu Buhari has been behaving like the Nigerian Security organization (NSO) of his military days which launched an unjustified crude and repressive crackdown against the opposition. Perceptive observers cannot ignore the fact that the strong arm tactics of the EFCC is always targeted at the opponents of the present administration, particularly those that are considered close to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“We have continued to ask this government, why Nigerians are yet tosee high profile members of this administration, like Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Babatunde Fashola and Abdulrahman Danbazau and other APC chieftains who have been indicted in in one way or the other over allegations of theft of billions of public funds, dragged to the EFCC for prosecution?
“We are also not unaware of the fact massive corruption has been going on in Government, especially at the finance ministry where contractors are subtly made to forgo between 20% to 60% of their money if they must get paid.
“We call on all lovers of democracy in our country to stand up to this assault on the foundation of our democracy as we don’t know whose turn it would be next.
Finally, we also call on President Buhari to immediately call Magu and EFCC to order as their activities are beginning to portray his administration as one with military tactics that is not founded on constitutional democracy. We must allow our institutions to work within the ambit of the law and not use them as oppressive weapon or attack dogs against perceived enemies of the