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Is EFCC to blame for dismissed cases?
I recently read in the newspapers the report of Orji Uzor Kalu’s trial which they reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, April 27, 2012, secured a landmark victory in its suit against the former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, when a panel of three justices, led by Justice Ejembi Eko, struck out the appeal by the former governor and his company, Slok Nigeria.
That, to me, is surely a victory, as a couple of the anti-corruption agency’s cases have recently been thrown out of court based on flimsy excuses by judges. My question is: Has EFCC done anything differently or has the file been prepared differently? I, however, don’t think so because I believe EFCC’s lawyers must have followed the same procedures in the previous cases that were thrown out.
My second question is: Why was this landmark victory not celebrated in the newspapers like other dismissed cases; does this mean that Nigerians are quick to kick the dog when it’s down, or we have a problem with our judicial system? The EFCC, as I believe, cannot be the prosecutor and at the same time be the judge and jury of their cases. It is obvious now how a case that was thrown out for lack of merit by a Nigerian judge, was the same case that a UK court only took two of the charges and got Ibori sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Looking back at some cases that were thrown out, it has been observed that most of the reasons given were not sufficient basis for dismissal. Few of the cases include that of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, which was assigned to Justice Suleiman Belgore of the FCT High Court, Abuja.
There was also the case of Hon. Ndidi Elumelu, a member of the House of Representatives, which was assigned to Justice Garba Umar of the Federal High Court, Abuja, as well as that of the former Ogun State governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel.
In the cases of Dimeji Bankole and Ndidi Elumelu, the judges said that the accused had No case to answer!
And when such hit the news, the media and the public descend on the EFCC. But, is the Commission really to be blamed for these outcomes? Look at the Gbenga Daniel’s case, where the Judge said the prosecutor for the EFCC did not obtain the court’s permission before amending a charge. Is that a good reason to strike out such a high profile case?
It is, however, a good thing that the EFCC has appealed all these cases. The case of Orji Kalu, has proven time and again that the EFCC is not to be blamed for the delay in the trial of persons accused of grand corruption.
I think there is a fundamental flaw in our judicial process that criminals capitalise on to frustrate their trials. Until the system is strengthened to discourage frivolous applications and appeals, there is very little anti-graft agencies can do to fast-track the trial process.
It is not enough to call the EFCC name, Nigerians should comprehend the enormity of the challenge faced by the agency in the prosecution of cases.