The Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) has thrown its weight behind the call by President of Nigerian Bar association (NBA), Mr. AB Mahmoud for a reassessment of the prosecutorial powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC).
The NBA President had at his maiden address to lawyers during the Bar annual conference in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, called for a re-evaluation of EFCC’s powers to investigate and also prosecute.
The call however drew the ire of the Commission which castigated the NBA President and lawyers in the country for defending persons under prosecution for alleged corrupt offences.
But in a statement Wednesday, signed by Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Collins Okeke, Senior Counsel and Legal/Programme Officer of HURILAWS respectively, it said it was inappropriate for the EFCC to be imbued with the powers to investigate and prosecute crime at the same time.
HURILAWS said as presently constituted, EFCC cannot effectively tackle corruption as it is overloaded with the task of investigating and prosecuting corruption cases.
The organisation said international best practice demands that different agencies carry out the functions of investigating and prosecuting corruption cases.
The statement reads: “The Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) applauds the call by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, A.B. Mahmoud SAN for a debate on the efficacy of the war against corruption in Nigeria. Where corruption is endemic like in Nigeria strong institutions are critical to achieve success. It is in this context that the debate on the propriety of the EFCC investigating and prosecuting financial crimes at the same time is appropriate.
“We support the position of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association. HURILAWS position is supported by international best practice and the need to build the capacity of the EFCC to deliver on its core mandate which is investigation of financial crimes. The international best practice is that one agency investigates, another prosecutes and the court adjudicates. The EFCC as currently composed is overworked and will not efficiently deliver on investigation and prosecution.
“Whilst we have no objection with the EFCC investigating or the courts adjudicating, we believe the powers to prosecute should be vested in an independent highly resourced prosecuting agency. We appreciate the enormous work done by the EFCC since its establishment in 2003. 13 years on the Federal Government needs to rejig the EFCC and other crime fighting institutions to perform optimally. We support plan by the Attorney General of the Federation to establish a National Prosecuting Agency”.