Posted by News Express | 15 March 2020 | 515 times
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed worry over what it called “the disturbing menace of abuse of powers by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).” This, according to HURIWA, infringes on certain professional privileges of legal practitioners and other affiliated professional institutions in the private sector of the economy.
The group said it has received dozens of petitions from lawyers on how the practice of law in Nigeria has systematically been criminalised by EFCC under the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government.
HURIWA said in a statement on Friday by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf: “We have noticed since the last couple of years from 2015 that there is a growing phenomenon of officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) engaging in deliberate clampdown on lawyers of certain individuals who may have some political differences from officials of the powers that be within the corridors of power in Abuja.
“In some of these sad developments we are understudying, it would appear that the anti-graft body has consistently embarked on politically motivated witch-hunt targeting certain politically exposed persons who were influential in the past administration of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or who may still be holding political offices that enjoy immunity in which cases the EFCC has already charged legal practitioners connected with such individuals for series of money laundering charges that on a more serious analysis are smokescreen for political persecution.
“We have been told how lawyers working for prominent political opponents of the administration have been coming under persistent surveillance and reconnaissance missions by the EFCC and we intend to petition the National Assembly’s Committee on Public petitions to investigate this dangerous development which does not augur well for constitutional democracy and may harm the legal profession in the Country if left unchecked.”
HURIWA disclosed that it will soon publish a report of a scientific investigation it conducted to list “the most disturbing cases of how some legal practitioners either affiliated to political opposition party of PDP or have personal issues with some powerful people with connections to the Abuja’s political establishment have faced horrendous media trials by the anti-graft agencies.” It lamented that “due to massive propaganda in the media by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission these Senior Lawyers are constantly harassed by immigration officials in different international airports in London; New York; Germany; Paris amongst other world’s capitals even when the Nigerian constitution affirms that accused persons are innocent until proven guilty by a competent courts of law but the media propaganda machinery of the EFCC give crude slants and coverages of such cases to appear like the accused are already guilty as charged.”
HURWA added: “In that report which will soon be presented and sent to all relevant government institutions including the anti-graft bodies and the National Assembly, the Rights group said it will make the case for the establishment of a monitoring body similar but smaller in staff strength like the Police Service Commission (PSC) to investigate cases of abuses of power by the anti-corruption agencies. We believe that corruption should be eradicated only through law-based modalities and we also think that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. It would appear that legal practitioners who work for individuals with cases instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are facing persecution.
“May we kindly appeal to the EFCC which is an institution created by law to stop the media persecution of legal practitioners defending clients that have cases with the anti-graft bodies because by so doing, these accused persons will have their constitutional rights to fair hearing violated as against the provision of section 36(5) of the constitution which states thus: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.”
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