IN the last one month or thereabout, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has lost three high profile court cases.
The cases which had generated public interests like similar ones in the past involved two former public office 0holders (former Governor Timipre Sylva and former Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode) and an ex-bank Managing Director, Francis Atuche.
It is, however, curious that EFCC lost the three cases on legal technical grounds, not on the merit or otherwise. A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja dismissed the 42-count charge filed against Sylva for lack of diligent prosecution. Atuche got a reprieve from a Lagos High Court on the ground of jurisdiction which the court said it lacked on the matter. The court ruled that Fani-Kayode’s prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
It may be out of place to insinuate that EFCC deliberately bungles celebrated cases particularly those involving highly placed personalities in the society. The question that however pleads for an answer is: why have cases of such nature not been prosecuted successfully? Is it that the anti-graft agency is underfunded by the government? Interestingly, most of the cases are being prosecuted by experienced senior lawyers including Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN’s).
Reasons have been adduced as to why the anti-corruption agency appears not to be faring well in securing convictions in its important cases. It has been accused of looking for evidence to prosecute after arrests. Some of its operatives have been accused of compromising cases during investigations. Lack of capacity on the part of some of its officials is another adduced reason.
At present, the public confidence in the EFCC as an effective anti-graft agency is waning.
For its fading glory to be restored, the Commission must rise above the daunting challenges impeding its performance. There must be ample evidence to prove its case beyond an iota of doubt before an individual is arrested and subsequently arraigned. Arrests should not be on a basis of mere suspicion that will lead to phantom charges that cannot withstand coherent and vigorous defence.
Second, only credible operatives with proven record of professionalism and integrity should be allowed to investigate sensitive cases of public interest. In the same vein, bad eggs and misfits should be identified and flushed out. Also, the process of recruitment must be overhauled to prevent moles from infiltrating the system.
EFCC should consciously build the capacity of its operatives especially in the area of forensic and technology based investigations. Equally, only lawyers with proven track record should henceforth handle its cases.
EFCC cannot help the President Buhari regime to fight corruption unless the factors behind its spate of prosecution failures are arrested.