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EFCC chair: Fresh issues over Olukoyede’s confirmation

Last week Wednesday, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Ola Olukoyede as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Mr Muhammad Hammajoda as the secretary of the anti-graft agency.

That was after the duo were cleared via a voice vote by senators at the plenary. The two nominees were screened and cleared by the senators at the Committee of the Whole after answering questions bordering on how they planned to make the anti-graft agency prevent corruption in the country.

However, not only was the nomination of Olukoyede controversial on the account that he did not meet the requirements of the Act establishing the anti-corruption agency, the Senate confirmation of the appointment at a time a Federal High Court sitting in Kano was already seized of the facts of the case, was also worrying. 

How it started

The Presidency had, penultimate Thursday, announced the appointment of Olukoyede as the new helmsman of EFCC for a renewable term of four years in the first instance, pending Senate confirmation. Olukoyede is a lawyer with over 22 years of experience as a regulatory compliance consultant and specialist in fraud management and corporate intelligence.

He has extensive experience in the operations of the EFCC, having previously served as Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman (2016-2018) and Secretary to the Commission (2018-2023).

But the appointment has unsettled the legal community with some claiming that Olukoyede was not qualified for the appointment while others maintained that he (Olukoyede) was eminently qualified to be so appointed.

But as soon as the news of Olukoyede’s appointment became public knowledge, some lawyers faulted the decision. One of such legal practitioners, Daniel Bwala who doubles as spokesperson for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, described Olukoyede’s appointment as unlawful and illegal.

According to him, the appointment ran foul of the provisions of Section 2 of the EFCC Act. The section requires that the person to be appointed as EFCC Chairman must, amongst other things, be a serving or retired member of any security or law enforcement agency; have 15 years of cognate experience in law enforcement, and must not be below the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police. 

Bawa should have been allowed to resign—Mahmud

Meanwhile, another lawyer and rights activist, Abdul Mahmud, also argued that Olukoyede’s years as Chief of Staff to Magu or as Secretary of EFCC did not come near the 15 years cognate experience required by law. Mahmud also said that Bawa did not resign when Olukoyede was appointed, claiming that it was preposterous for anybody to claim that Bawa, who was in detention at the time of the appointment, resigned his position as Chairman.

EFCC chair should’ve come from North—Falana, SAN

Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN also wondered why President Tinubu would go for a candidate in the South to fill the vacant seat in the EFCC when the ICPC, a sister anti-corruption agency in the country itself is headed by a southerner.

“The only issue that has been raised which has to be considered by the government is that we have in this country, the Federal Character Commission Act and also by the virtue of Section 14 of the constitution, appointments must reflect federal character.

“If you are going to have the EFCC and the ICPC, the heads cannot come from the same zone. If there are two positions in the public service, one must go to the North, one must go to the South. If there are four, two must go to the South, two must go to the North. If there are six, one must go to each geopolitical zone. That is the law in Nigeria today.

“So, I am not comfortable with the fact that the heads of the EFCC and the ICPC are from the same zone,” Falana added. But unknown to Falana, SAN, the ICPC chairman at the time he was criticising the appointment of a southerner to fill the vacant chairmanship seat of the EFCC was already on his way out of office. 

Olukoyede’s appointment in order—Presidency

However, the Presidency dismissed as balderdash all the arguments that Mr Olukoyede did not satisfy every legal requirement to be appointed as EFCC Chairman. Tinubu specifically said that his decision to appoint Olukoyede was in strict compliance with Section 2(3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.

He said it was clear from the unambiguous provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act, 2004, that any member of the Commission whether serving or retired who has 15 years’ cognate experience in their chosen career is eligible to be appointed as the Chairman of the Commission.

According to him, Mr Olukoyede was the Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman of the EFCC (2016-2018) and Secretary to the Commission(2018-2020) and was a member of a law enforcement organisation as Secretary, in this case, the EFCC, as stipulated in the EFCC Act, and as such, satisfied every legal detail to be appointed as Chairman.

Olukoyede is a game changer—Okechukwu

Supporting Tinubu’s decision, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, VON , Mr Osita Okechukwu, argued that the appointment of Olukoyede is a game-changing event. While appealing to Olukoyede’s traducers to sheath their swords, as he settles down for business, Okechukwu said that it was not unusual for controversy to erupt after the appointment to an important and strategic office like the chairman of EFCC, without regard to whether the appointment conforms with extant laws.

Another lawyer, Tony Idoko, said he was saddened by the allegation by a group operating under the aegis of the Alliance for Good Governance and Due Process to the effect that Olukoyede was suspended from the EFCC after he was purportedly indicted by Justice Ayo Salami panel.

According to Idoko, it was an attempt to “misinform the public” about the person of the former EFCC secretary, adding that he “was not suspended because of any wrongdoing or crime he committed but that he was suspended as administrative protocol demanded because the Panel claimed that it wanted unhindered access to documents in the offices of the affected officers.”

Lawyer sues Tinubu, Senate

But while the debate on the qualification of Olukoyede was still raging both in the conventional and social media, one of those lawyers who believed the appointment violated certain provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the EFCC Act, Mr Stanley Okwara, dragged President Tinubu before the Kano Federal High Court with a request for an order nullifying Olukoyede’s appointment.

Okwara, in his suit, specifically wanted the court to issue an order restraining Tinubu from appointing anyone who is not a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent (with 15 years cognate experience) to the position of the Chairman of the EFCC pending the hearing of the case on its merit.

Already, the court has granted leave to the lawyer to join both the newly appointed chairman and secretary of the EFCC to the suit even as it ordered that both Tinubu and the President of the Senate should be served the court processes in the case through the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Clerk of the National Assembly respectively.

The court has also fixed October 30, this year, for all the parties to appear in court to address it over the legality of Olukoyede’s appointment.

Vanguard Law and Human Rights learnt that the order of the court on the service of its process had been complied with. But less than two weeks to the adjourned date, the Senate moved in favour of the presidency by confirming Olukoyede as the new EFCC helmsman.

The Senate’s action during the pendency of the Okwara’s lawsuit has, however, triggered a fresh bout of controversy on the constitutionality of its decision and appears to have set the legislature on a collision course with the judiciary.

The court is expected to hear from all parties in the suit soon while the matter is expected to be decided according to its facts and relevant laws, in due course.

It is hoped that the court’s interpretation of the combined provisions of Section 1(1), 1 (2), and (3), 4 and 15(5) of the Amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Section 2 (1) (a) of EFCC Act 2004, would not only rest the controversy surrounding the matter but also determine, with finality, Olukoyede’s fate.

SourceVANGUARD

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