Former National Publicity Secretary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, has described the declaration by the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ola Olukoyede to align the agency’s operations “with the Rule of Law and International best practice with respect to rights of suspects” as a step in the right direction in the war against corruption in Nigeria.
Metuh, in a statement on Sunday commended the President Tinubu-led administration for its move to restore Rule of Law and democratic tenets into law enforcement adding that Nigerians expects that the declaration marks EFCC’s departure from the the past especially when “it strayed to become a tool for harassment and political persecution” instead of focusing only on the fight against economic and financial crimes in the country.
The former opposition spokesman lamented that many innocent Nigerians, including himself were subjected to horrible and dehumanizing persecution, blackmail and media trial by the former EFCC leadership in violation of the Rule of Law and best practices in the course of investigation, arrest, detention and prosecution over trumped-up charges by the immediate past administration.
The statement reads; Nigerians have noted with commendation, the official statement by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s new Chairman, Mr. Ola Olukoyede, to align its operations with the Rule of Law and International best practice with respect to rights of suspects, especially where arrest, detention and bail issues are concerned.
“This declaration is a step in the right direction. It has indeed raised confidence that the EFCC under a new leadership is set to depart from the ugly past especially when it strayed to become a tool for harassment and political persecution.
“Men like us never had the opportunity of such professional best practices under the old EFCC. I recall the vicious political persecution, harassment, gruesome media trial, blackmails, seizure of my means of livelihood and traumatic life-threatening health challenges that I was subjected to by the EFCC, under the immediate past administration, apparently in a bid to silence me as opposition spokesperson.
“I recall how I was arrested by the EFCC, just some few days after I received a terse warning from a former APC Chairman that my criticisms will no longer be condoned. Not only was I denied bail, I was kept in custody for almost two weeks while the EFCC was searching for charges and non-existent evidence, before I was taken to court.
“Most instructively, when I was taken to court my bail was manipulated in a manner that it was impossible to meet. I was still in prison custody when the prosecution presented all its witnesses and concluded its case. I had no opportunity to adequately brief my lawyers. I was denied access to my documents that would help me prepare for my defence as guaranteed under Section 36(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). I met with my lawyers only once in prison and without effective communication to prepare for cross examination of prosecution witnesses.
“In the course of my arrest, detention and trial, the then EFCC management engaged in the most vicious media trial including publishing of outright falsehood and distortion of proceedings in court, all to discredit me in the public and set the stage to justify a negative outcome against me in the case.
“Such disposition to use the EFCC as a tool for political persecution and harassment of dissenting voices not only distracted and debilitated the agency from effectively discharging its statutory duties to fight economic and financial crimes in the country but also politicized, commercialized and corrupted the agency under the immediate past administration.
“It is against this backdrop that the declaration by the new EFCC leadership comes as a light at the end of a dark tunnel in the fight against economic and financial crimes in our country. A professionally inclined EFCC will be very effective in its duty and not yield itself to harassing innocent Nigerians, destroying private businesses as well as the nation’s economy in the process.
“I forgive the old EFCC and all those who conspired to make sure they stalled the rebuilding of the PDP then. I commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for bringing democratic practice, adherence to Rule of Law and respect for human rights to law-enforcement agencies in our country. Never again should the liberties and freedoms of citizens be sacrificed on the altar of political and/or official persecution, might cannot be mistaken as right” he said.
Metuh urged the new EFCC Chairman to ensure that the EFCC conducts its investigation thoroughly; put measures to check overzealous conduct by operatives as well as insulate itself from administrative bottlenecks and political and inducements that might compromise its fight against corruption.