Legal Nigeria

Lawyers warn EFCC not to undermine itself by losing cases

Three prominent Lagos-based lawyers on Sunday said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) needed to do more in the area of prosecution and win cases, to justify its establishment.
The lawyers said in Lagos that further EFCC loses in court would mar its popularity.
They said the commission needed to be more diligent in its prosecution of alleged corrupt public officials as a way to support the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade.
Jiti Ogunye revealed that the EFCC needed to be more committed and diligent in its investigation and subsequent prosecution of those accused of fraud.
Ogunye said the way the charge against Mr Femi Fani-Kayode was prosecuted by the EFCC had revealed the need for a review of its handling of the prosecution of suspects.
“The EFCC’s dilatory and cavalier prosecution ended up telling Nigerians that it was not sure of what it was doing.
“The way the charge against Fani-Kayode was being changed showed that not much was properly done by the anti-graft agency.
“It has an advantage as both the investigating and prosecuting body and so will not be excused for failure to bring those charged with corrupt enrichment to answer for their deeds.
“The anti-corruption body ought to know the strength of the cases they are taking to court on the basis of their investigations,” he said.
Ogunye said that the EFCC could justify its funding through tax payers’ money by ensuring that it gets guilty judgments, especially against those charged with public embezzlement.
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“Facts must be properly substantiated in the eyes of the law by the agency.
“The EFCC needs to carry out thorough investigation and painstaking, diligent and conscientious prosecution of its cases.
“It must not allow extraneous factors, influence or pressure to affect the performance of its statutory duties,” Ogunye saisaid.
Similarly, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Taiwo Osipitan, urged the EFCC to streamline the counts it brings against suspects.
“The EFCC is fond of going to court with so many counts as charges.
“It is an indication that the prosecution is unsure of what it is doing when it brings about 40 to 50 count charges against a person.
“One can almost assume that perhaps the prosecution is playing games or gambling with so many charges against one person.
“The onus is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and you don’t need too many charges to accuse someone of theft or fraud.
“The judge in Fani-Kayode’s case correctly stated that the principle of law is that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“You really do not need several counts to convict someone because it ends up being bulky and time- wasting.
“In the UK, USA or Canada, you will only find public prosecutors going to court with a maximum of six counts,” Osipitan said.
To the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (Ikorodu Chapter), Adedotun Adetunji, the EFCC needed to improve on its investigation of allegations against suspects.
“The agency has to be more diligent in the investigation of financial crimes and the prosecution of offenders.
“It needs to ensure more diligence so as to be able to prosecute more efficiently and effectively,” Adetunji added.