Posted by News Express | 21 March 2022 | 5,487 times
By TINA TIMOTHY
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has announced the granting of administrative bail to the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, who was arrested on Thursday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, while trying to board a flight to Texas, United States.
EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, announced this to journalists on Monday morning, March 21, in Abuja, adding, however, that Obiano was yet to meet the bail conditions.
Bawa said that there was nothing political about the former governor’s arrest.
His words: “There is nothing political about the investigation. You know what the EFCC stands for. We investigate crimes, we look at people that have committed crimes and we link it up together and then we go to court. That is all we have been doing and that is what we will continue to do.
“We have been accused of media trial. But we will continue to do our investigation professionally.
“He has been granted bail and we are waiting for him to perfect his bail conditions he has been cooperating with us and everything is going on well.”
News Express learnt that conditions for Obiano’s bail include providing as sureties, two directors in the Federal Public Service with verified landed properties in Abuja are needed to provide surety for him.
This has been condemned by the Nigeria Renewal Movement, which described the bail conditions as being “almost impossible to meet”.
The group in a press statement issued on Monday, signed by its President, Barrister Linus Ilechukwu and Secretary General, Comrade Yemisi Hameed-Aderibigbe, called on the anti-corruption agency to release Obiano and charge him to court if after investigation, he (Obiano) actually has a case to answer.
The statement reads: “While no one questions the relevance or value of anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a fantastically corrupt country like Nigeria, the EFCC has sometimes gone about its business in strange ways. The consequence is the loss of cases, especially high-profile ones, which ultimately leads to considerable erosion of public confidence in the ability of the agency. The EFCC has routinely been accused of operating two systems of justice, one for favoured Nigerians and the other for the doomed.
“The manner it has gone about the case of Chief Willie Obiano, Anambra State governor till Thursday, March 17, 2022, calls for concern. For example, its officers or agents on Saturday, March 19, 2022, leaked to the mass media a picture of the erstwhile governor in shorts drinking tabled water in its holding facility in Abuja. It has not adduced any reason for the action which is clearly unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. Most citizens agree that the purpose was to humiliate him. But the action has ended up winning Chief Obiano, one of the most famous governors in recent national history when he was in office, enormous public sympathy across the nation.
“This is regrettably not the first time the EFCC has attempted to surreptitiously use the media to denigrate Chief Obiano. As early as last November when he still had four months to remain in office – with all the constitutionally conferred immunity in place – the EFCC sponsored and leaked a syndicated report in the press suggesting that he was attempting to escape from Nigeria, perhaps under a false identity, and that he would not be allowed to go out of the country. By the time the sponsored report was published, Chief Obiano was already in the United States, and he travelled through Murtala Muhamadu Airport in Lagos after all the formalities and with no effort to disguise himself.
“If any further evidence of bad faith in the ongoing persecution of the erstwhile governor is needed, the EFCC has already provided it. It gave very stringent conditions for Chief Obiano to be granted bail. Two directors in the Federal Public Service with verified landed properties in Abuja are needed to provide surety for him. Even if there are such directors, how many of them will be willing to come out to declare ownership of such properties in a case involving the EFCC directly? The conditions for Chief Obiano’s release are almost impossible to meet.
“It beats the imagination of most Nigerians that rather than carry out their investigation before arresting him, some EFCC officers chose to keep him in detention indefinitely. It is not necessary to keep him in detention while investigation is going on. The best course of action is to conclude the investigation and charge him to court if there is enough evidence to prosecute him.
“EFCC’s halfhearted explanation that Chief Obiano was escaping from Nigeria and from justice when he was arrested last Thursday is unfair. Those who escape from the country in order to escape prosecution often disguise themselves. The erstwhile governor did no such thing. Fugitives from justice hardly use international airports where their identities will be shown. They use land routes, especially bush paths where security and immigration agents are not likely to see, identify and arrest them. Chief Obiano could not have been running away from Nigeria when his wife is well known to be preparing to run for the Senate.
“Like most Nigerians, we call upon the EFCC to go to equity with clean hands in such a way that it will be clear to all and sundry that it has done so. The current practice which seems to regard some Nigerians as privileged and some others as damned goes a long way to shake the confidence of the citizens in the Nigeria project. Its treatment to Chief Obiano looks anything but just. The anti-corruption agency should immediately release him and charge him to court only when it has concluded its investigation and convinced that there is, indeed, a prima facie case against him. Only the courts can determine whether he should be a free man or not.”
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