EFCC expresses frustration over trial of corrupt cases

Written by Collins Olayinka, Abuja

• Group seeks action over petrol subsidy fraudsters

THE Economic Crimes and Financial Commission (EFCC) has lamented the frustrations being experienced in prosecuting suspects, through the antics of accused persons’ lawyers and their collaborators.

Speaking at a town hall meeting for ‘advocacy against impunity in the oil subsidy regime in Nigeria’, organized by the Africa network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), yesterday in Abuja, Head, Media and Publicity of EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, said lawyers rely on fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution to prolong the prosecution lifespan of economic and financial crimes related cases.

“Under the Act too, judges are not supposed to grant interlocutory applications and stay of execution in economic and financial crimes cases. EFCC continuously have problem with that because lawyers will come and raise fundamental human rights issues. They also cite the fact that the EFCC Act is inferior to the Nigerian constitution and judges have had no choice than to respect that line of argument.

“Lawyers owe a duty to defend their clients but as the Spokesperson of the EFCC, I know that the conducts of some of them have not been too commendable especially in the fight against corruption. I say this because they have not allowed trials to progress in most of our cases. We think that national interest should supersede parochial interest.”

He said the clamour for special courts by Nigerians to try economic and financial crimes cases stem from the need to ensure speedy conclusion of the cases.

“It is not much of special courts to try corrupt cases strictly but Nigerians desire to see that those who have soiled their hands on corrupt acts pay for their deeds. The situation today is that we have delays in the prosecution of these cases and Nigerians are not comfortable with that. The argument is that special courts will help in dispensing the cases faster,” he stated.

He submitted that constant raise of objections and interlocutory injunctions by lawyers are largely responsible for delay of cases.

Uwujaren said the establishment of special courts may not be of help saying, the processes and regulations guiding regular courts will also affect the running of the special courts.

“Under the EFCC Act, there is provision for the Chief Judge of a state or Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to designate some Judges or courts to try cases of economic and financial crimes. What that means is that if a court and Judge is designated, they will give priorities to economic crimes.

“For instance, if a judge has 12 cases and two of the cases are economic and financial crimes related, priority will then be given to the two cases over the other 10,” he added.

While stressing the need for institutionalization of professional discipline to ensure ethics of professions are adheres to, he was quick to laud the National Judicial Council and Chief Justice of Nigeria for moving against unethical practice among lawyers and judges.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of ANEEJ, David Ugolor has expressed worries over the inability of government to successfully prosecute those indicted in the subsidy claim scam.

He said the prosecution is gradually being swept under the carpet and that the matter may soon be forgotten.

“At the moment, no single fuel subsidy corruption cases have been successfully concluded and most Nigerians appear to have been forgotten about the issue or at best left in the parking lot,” he said.

He stressed that the purpose of organizing the town hall meeting was to review how the anti-corruption agencies and judiciary have fared so far in the prosecution of accused suspects in the fuel subsidy regime and also to review the implications of fuel subsidy malpractice on livelihoods of Nigerians.