- Category: SPECIAL REPORTS
- Published on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 10:02
- Written by Elombah.com
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Available reports indicate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is to sack some of its top lawyers over alleged involvement in sharp practices. A source told elombah.com EFCC Lawyer Festus Keyamo is likely to be among those to get the sack soon.
[photo: Mr. Lamorde, EFCC Director[
The anti-graft agency is worried about what it described as embarrassing loss of sensitive cases in court involving highly exposed politicians.
But a source at the EFCC, told National Mirror yesterday, no one can confirm yet whether the affected lawyers were the in-house legal practitioners or the private counsel on retainership handling sensitive cases for the agency or both.
Substantiating the reports, an independent lawyer told elombah.com that it is alarming that EFCC has not won up to 20 cases on the merits since 11 years of its existence.
The Abuja based lawyer told an elombah reporter: “I recently wrote my opinions on Lamorde's pronouncements on tackling internal corruption in EFCC. I had prepared a twelve-point memo on how EFCC could root out internal corruption. Three of the points are focused on these lawyers that have been used by the EFCC over the years. Most of them are the real conduits through which the EFCC leadership collected bribe money from suspects."
National Mirror also says that all the lawyers against whom prima facie case was established would soon get letters debriefing them of the cases they were presently handling.
He said: “The chairman is of the opinion that there is no way he could make any difference in the way the EFCC is being run except there is internal cleansing.
“This is so because some lawyers working with the commission are discovered to be sabotaging the commission.
Commenting on the development, another top member of Nigeria Bar Association also told elombah.com: “If you recalled, I had warned several times now that there is corruption in the manner the lawyers of the EFCC were working. I had depicted the entire idea of relying on external, inexperienced private prosecutors as the worst form of corruption in the EFCC. There is no reason whatsoever to use those lawyers on such a consistent and wide-spread basis. I worry most about those lawyers that were retained during the tenor of Mrs. Waziri. They must have shared their fees with her. Then, they turned around to collect money from rich politicians undergoing trials and compromise the cases. That's why there has been hardly any meritorious convictions.”
Asked whether Festus Keyamo is among those to get the boot, a source in EFCC said “I do not know yet the lawyers affected, but there is no question in my mind that Festus Keyamo would be involved among the problem lawyers”.
Some defence lawyers in EFCC cases had complained of how Keyamo has engaged in all manner of conflict of interest in their case. Recall Former speaker of the House of Repersentatives had gone to court seeking to have Keyamo dismissed from his case with the EFCC. Even though the court refused to grant his application, unknown to a lot of people, Keyamo is a private counsel to some firms in their private cases in Nigeria, yet “Keyamo does not disclose this conflict of interest in his affidavit”.
“So, we have a situation whereby Keyamo causes the accused to be prosecuted while he receives reward for that from a group that my client have commercial dispute against. For example, he uses the prosecutorial powers of the Nigerian state to the benefit of his private client in Republic of Benin against my client”, the lawyer told an elombah reporter.
National Mirror also reported that during the time Lamorde was seeking confirmation at the National Assembly, some senior lawmakers also hinted the EFCC boss about some illegal practices at the agency.
“He was told and was advised to investigate how some of the commission’s lawyers have been engaging in sharp practices, collecting money from accused persons to water down their charges or mess up with the prosecution in such a way that the cases against the accused persons would be difficult to sustain.
“Lamorde, who has been in the system for long, is aware of some of these things and has decided that the House must be cleansed first before making progress with the business of fighting graft.
“Any moment from now, letters debriefing these lawyers will be handed over to them.”
The source, however, added that the reason for debriefing the lawyers would not be stated in their letters.
According to the local daily, "although tongues had wagged in December 2009 when Justice Marcel Awokulehin freed former Delta State Governor James Ibori, it became embarrassing when a London court used the same facts gathered and supplied by the EFCC to the London Metropolitan Police to get Ibori to plead guilty to a 10-count charge of money-laundering.
On March 2, 2012, the commission also lost another sensitive case against former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Specifically, Daniel was absolved by the High Court sitting in Isabo, Abeokuta, of the 43-count charge levelled against him by the EFCC.
The trial judge, Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje, said that the applicants had failed to follow the constitutional provision required to file information containing indictable offences.
According to Mabekoje: “Trial leave of court is required to file information containing indictable offences by any person in the High Court. The EFCC failed to comply with section 340 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Law before filing the information. Therefore, the information is liable to be quashed.
“EFCC has made a fundamental error and based on their failure to fulfill the constitutional provision, the court cannot go on to hear the case unless the right thing is done.
” Similarly, an Abuja High Court had on January 31 this year, cleared former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole; and his deputy, Bayero Nafada, of allegations of fraud involving N40bn and criminal breach of trust.
In his judgement, Justice Suleiman Belgore ruled that both men had no case to answer on the N40bn bank loan alleged to have been misappropriated by them.
The EFCC which arraigned them on Monday, June 13, 2011, had alleged that they sourced the loan to illegally increase the running costs of members of the House of Representatives between August 2010 and May 2011.
They were also alleged to have implemented the increment without the approval of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.
Although the judge said that the increment was “immoral, wrong and condemnable”, especially against the backdrop of the abject poverty experienced by the majority of Nigerians, he added that the accused did not commit any crime.
The judge noted that the Clerk of the House should have been blamed for the development, over which Bankole and Nafada were dragged before the court by the EFCC.
The court also held that the House of Representatives had the power to use its funds in ways it deemed fit, whether as running costs or enhancement of welfare package and that such discretion exercised by the House over its funds did not amount to a crime.
Belgore held that constitutionally, the Speaker had nothing to do with the accounts of the House of Representatives, noting that the management of the accounts of the House was the function of the clerk.
He, therefore, explained that the clerk should be reprimanded for allowing the Speaker to usurp the powers of his office, adding that it was the clerk, not Bankole and Nafada, who should be charged for securing and disbursing the controversial bank loans.
The defence counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, had argued that the proof of evidence showed that Bankole was innocent of any crime known to law since he (Bankole) was not the accounting officer or the controller of funds of the House of Representatives under the Constitution, the National Assembly Commission and Financial Regulation, 2009.
Bankole and Nafada also argued that an account number issued by a bank could not be said to be a property to be owned or entrusted as alleged in the charge brought against them by the EFCC.
Asked for his comments on these developments, Barrister Emeka Ugwuonye - who also has a pending case with EFCC, told elombah.com, “Because Keyamo is the prosecutor in my cases (all of them), I shall refrain from explicit statements regarding his role or potential role, but at the end of it, I must say that firing these lawyer would not be enough. They must be prosecuted and their licenses taken away. For those who set out to fight corruption to become the true purveyors and practitioners of corruption is a matter that this country must take seriously. It is only when EFCC comes down hard on its own men that we could take it seriously in its claims of fighting corruption.”