- Category: Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye Esq.
- Published on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 09:16
- Written by Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
Nigerians and the Italian family of the Mr. Mauro Zanin must not take the EFCC official storyline at its face value. The 52 year old was found dead in the bathroom of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s detention facility in Abuja at about
4.50am on Tuesday.
There are too many questions to address:
(1) Who filed an EFCC complaint against Mr. Mauro Zanin? EFCC hardly gets involved in a case, especially against European foreigners unless the complainant pays bribe to the EFCC officials. Such bribe is often needed to induce them to get interested in a case. And once bribe is taken the goal of the EFCC is primarily to please the person that has paid them. Investigation into this incident should be focused therefore on the complainant and whether she paid money for Mr. Zanin to be arrested. If money was paid to get them to arrest Mr. Zanin, then the integrity and the legality of the entire arrest, processing, charging and detention are compromised. Such compromise would turn the entire activity of the EFCC officials and the complainant into an unlawful act and this incident would become that of a homicide. EFCC modus operandi shows that you cannot rule out the corruptive motive of the EFCC officials in this case. They might not have intended to kill the man, but just to shake him up, get money from him and take their 10% from the money collected. That in itself is sufficient to make this case a murder or manslaughter as against the EFCC officials involved in the case and the complainant.
(2) I am familiar with the EFCC detention facilities, and I know them to be grossly inadequate. In fact, anyone that reads the comments I had made as far back as March of 2011 would notice that I pointed out the gross inadequacies of the EFCC detention facilities and I warned of the health hazards they posed. For instance, there is no effort by the EFCC officials to ask an arriving inmate about his heath conditions. And there is no effort to respond the health conditions of such an inmate either in the inmate’s interest or for the interest of the general inmate population. If a new inmates arrives in the detention cell with an infectious disease, the EFCC officials would make no effort to know this and would lack the ability to react to it. In my experience on March 23, 2011, I suffered a condition close to a heart attack. I fell in my solitary cell in the female wing of the cell. Even though a female inmate drew the attention of the EFCC guards to my condition and I was foaming in the mouth, it took the EFCC more than 30 minutes to find the keys to unlock the cage where they put me because the guard that had the keys had taken a break and switched off his phone. It took them 4 additional hours to call a doctor. The doctor was a nice and kind man. But really, all I had was an near-death experience. And there was never one single incident report anywhere in the EFCC about what happened to me that night. I would have been dead and they would have called it a suicide and they would have been describing me as a “confirmed fraudster and a thief”.
(3) The method of interrogation and communications between Mr. Zanin and the EFCC officials should be carefully examined too. He was tortured? Was he threatened? Was he intimidated? All these are common practice by the EFCC operatives. Even though the man had counsel, was his counsel present during the times he was interrogated by the EFCC? There are series of events and forms of mistreatment. Any violation of the constitutional due process standards of the man is a basis to question the integrity of the EFCC process. The saddest thing is that many Nigerian lawyers still seeing the world of law and due process from the era of military rule, do not realize that they need to be present each time the EFCC interrogates their clients or each time their client is made to give a statement to the EFCC. It is not a surprise that Mr. Zanin’s lawyer would be focusing on irrelevant things such as money and fees, when his client’s right to life might have been violated.
(4) Reading the report of the EFCC regarding the incident, a reasonable person should have a lot of be concerned about. For instance, the EFCC referred to the deceased as a “a confirmed fraudster”. Was this suspect not entitled to the presumption of innocence? The EFCC officials already prejudged and found him guilty of fraud even before he was to appear before a judge. That exposes the gross incompetence of the EFCC officials. If they could not respect the constitutional rights of the accused, even after he is dead, what does that tell you about other violations of the rights of the accused? If they could presume the man guilty so openly as to state it in the pages of the newspapers, that means that the EFCC officials operate with impunity and they might have taken it upon themselves to punish the “guilty” in their custody.
(5) Questions should also be focused on the notion that the man was charged with five-counts (of what), but no judge was to hear him yet. Also, the idea that they served him with the charging documents in detention so that he would prepare for his defense is suspicious. That is not the constitutional standard. According to the constitution, he was to be arraigned within 24 hours. What happened to that constitutional requirement? The idea that they granted him bail but he could not find a surety is equally suspect. What are the terms of the bail? Were those terms deliberately intended to be harsh and unobtainable, as usual, to please the complainant?
(6) What are the true conditions of the cell at the time? Was the man killed by another inmate? Or was he killed by one of the guards paid to do so. What does the EFCC do to ensure that inmates do not get killed in such manner? What they described as the cause of death seems to be within the range of causes that the EFCC should have anticipated and preempted. How come that this is coming to them as a surprise, even if their story were to be true? Who was the last officer to see the man? Now, you are hearing the lawyer say he was buying food with his money for his client. Does that not mean that the EFCC was not feeding the detainees? From experience, the answer is that the EFCC officials have embezzled the budget for feeding the inmates, leaving them with substandard and unhealthy food. That should be investigated too.
(7) Again the motives of the actors, particularly the complainant, and the EFCC officials are questionable. It is shocking that the complainant is rather more concerned about her money than the fact that the man is dead. It shows the mindset that must have been at play in her use of the EFCC against the suspect.
(8) In any case, for there to be a true and honest investigation into what happened, all the EFCC officers who handled the man’s case should immediately be placed on administrative leave with pay to ensure that they do not interfere with the investigation and that there are no cover-ups. The Italian family of the deceased must not take the words of the EFFC at face value. They must seek their own independent autopsy and examination to ensure that there was no foul play. My hunch is that given the general state of inadequacies in the EFCC, the prevailing health hazard in their facilities, there will be at least negligence somewhere. I hope the Italian authorities would take this serious and demand strict accounting for what happened to their national. Hopefully, also, this would open the eyes of Nigerians to the atrocities that occur in the EFCC.
(9) Finally, we must not forget the effect of corruption on the entire work of the EFCC. Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde admitted there is internal corruption in the EFCC and he promised to do something about it. Up till date, Mr. Lamorde has nothing serious to show for his promise to reform the EFCC. Where there is so much corruption, you cannot believe the words of the EFCC in matters such as this.
By conclusion, I do not know for sure what truly happened in this case in that place that night. My remarks here are just to urge that people should not rush to believe automatically the words of the EFCC officials because they are known to have lied on many issues in the past. Rather, there should be a clean and honest investigation by the authorities and all those involved.
Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire