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NBA, EFCC At ‘war’ In Kwara Over Alleged Intimidation

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ilorin branch and the Zonal command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are presently at daggers drawn over the detention of a lawyer who reportedly tampered with the report of a suspect under investigation among others.

While the NBA had consequently directed its members to boycott the Ilorin zonal command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for any business until the zonal commander of the anti-graft agency is transferred out of Kwara state, the Anti-graft Agency in its reply on Friday said it would be blackmailed or intimidated by the NBA into “unconscionable docility.”

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin on Thursday, the Acting Chairperson and Publicity Secretary of NBA in Ilorin, Aishat Omotayo Temim Esq and Ridwan Musa Esq, respectively, flanked by other executive members, said that the EFCC boss lacked respect for the rule of law, adding that he violates citizens’ rights at will. 

The NBA had narrated how citizens were arrested and treated in undignified manner with little or no access to their family and legal practitioner of their choice when being interrogated by the EFCC. 

“Ilorin and indeed Kwara State, bastion of legal practice and rule of law, is too big environment to operate for an officer or zonal head who lacks total respect for the rule of law and who violates citizens’ rights at will. We, therefore, demand immediate transfer of the zonal head, Micheal Nzekwe, to where his capacity can help him to operate”, the NBA said.

The association, which also warned its members, who allegedly collaborate with the EFCC officials in subduing the Rule of Law, to desist from that act, said that nemesis of law would catch up against such members.

It called on the Acting Chairman of the EFCC to cause an investigation into the Ilorin zonal office of the commission with a view to separating the grain from the shaft.

“EFCC is an agency of government established by law and to carryout her mandates in accordance with law. Therefore, it will be undignifying for the commission to be headed at her Ilorin zonal office by an officer or commander who has no little respect for human dignity and the rule of law but seeing himself as above the commission and the law as manifested in the manner with which the Zonal Head, Micheal Nzekwe, exhibits his arrogance at all-time towards legal practitioners and citizens.

“It must first be pointed out that EFCC like any other government agencies is established by law and as such, must be guided by the laws in her operations. A situation where officials/operatives of the Commission now see themselves as being above the law is therefore not only unacceptable but also condemnable. Therefore, the Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin Branch unequivocally condemn such unlawful and immoral attitude.

“We’ve also had verifiable reports of how suspects arrested are given the option of disengaging their lawyers employed by the family and accept ‘EFCC nominated lawyer’ as a condition for securing their freedom temporarily or permanently. To that end, Legal practitioners, who are not ‘EFCC nominated Lawyers’ are treated with disdain.

Uncooperative suspects are usually rush to the court with a view to securing their convictions at all cost. Recent Judgment of the Kwara State High Court where a defendant was acquitted, because he was maliciously charged to court on the basis of non-cooperation with ‘EFCC nominated Lawyer’, is a testimony to this practice. 

“We are not unaware that it takes two to tango, this unholy practice is impossible without the cooperation/collaboration of some of our colleagues, who agree to share their ‘professional fee’ with officials of the Commission in whatever ratio they agree to. To these our colleagues, we remind them that, that is a very serious professional misconduct which can cause appearance of the legal practitioners before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) and this may attracts sanctions which may include suspension/withdrawal of practitioners’ license to practice. The NBA is watching and will not hesitate to take the appropriate steps to sanction the erring members”.

However, in a statement by the head, media and publicity of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, on Friday, he said that the NBA press statement, “to all intent and purposes, smacks of blackmail and disguised attempt to intimidate the Ilorin command of the commission into unconscionable docility”.

The EFCC reaction, titled, Why NBA is Against EFCC in Ilorin, explained that a member of the NBA, Suleiman Toyin Yahaya, was being detained by the Ilorin Command for allegedly tampering with the statement of a suspect under investigation. 

The EFCC, in its reaction, titled, Why NBA is Against EFCC in Ilorin, said that, “the Commission is scandalized that the NBA Ilorin Branch chose a moment when one of its members, Suleiman Toyin Yahaya, was being detained by the Ilorin Command for allegedly tampering with the statement of a suspect under investigation, to launch a media attack against the Command and its leadership.

“This, to all intent and purposes, smacks of blackmail and disguised attempt to intimidate the Ilorin Command of the Commission into unconscionable docility.

“As a branch of the NBA that prides itself as apostle of rule of law and ethical conduct, it is shocking that the Ilorin Branch of the NBA was silent on the alleged criminal act of its member who was being detained with a valid remand order, and has since been released in obedience to a counter order of court.

“It is also worrisome that the NBA finds it convenient to shift the blame for the alleged unprofessional conduct of its members in matters of legal representation for crime suspects, to personnel of the EFCC. Legal representation of suspects is not within the remit of the EFCC.

“While the Commission is willing to investigate any allegation of unprofessional conduct by any of its personnel, those making such claims must provide proof.

“It must, however, be emphasized that the Commission, as a creation of law, conducts its activities within the ambit of law and no law has been violated so far by the EFCC in its operations in Ilorin”.

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