EFCC’s Wanted List Under Fire: Lawyer Claims Agency Needs Court Orders.
Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, has said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lacks the legal authority to declare anyone wanted without valid court orders.
In a statement on Friday, Olajengbesi, the Managing Partner of Abuja-based law firm, Law Corridor, said the recurring declaration of individuals wanted by the EFCC raises concerns about the adherence to due legal processes by anti-graft agencies.
The EFCC, alongside the Police and the Department of State Services (DSS) have been declaring individuals wanted without court orders, the latest in the chain being a former Minister of Power and Steel, Dr. Olu Agunloye, being quizzed over an alleged $6 billion power contract.
According to Olajengbesi, the publication of pictures and details of persons said to be declared wanted as practiced by agencies like the EFCC constitutes a breach of the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence and amounts to a prejudicial media trial.
Olajengbesi said the habitual issuance of public notices by the EFCC and other security agencies, labelling individuals as ‘wanted’ is unlawful and reminiscent of dictatorial tendencies from military regimes.
The lawyer also said the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 explicitly outlines processes from arrest to conviction or acquittal.
Olajengbesi said, “Section 41 of this Act empowers only the court to issue public summons through newspapers or other means when a suspect, against whom a warrant of arrest was issued, absconds or conceals themselves. Thus, obtaining a valid warrant of arrest is a prerequisite before security agencies can approach the court to declare a suspect wanted.
“This legal perspective was reinforced in a case between Mr. Benedict Peters and the EFCC, where the court invalidated the EFCC’s declaration of the claimant as wanted, emphasizing that only the court has the discretion to make such a declaration.
“The EFCC (Enforcement) Regulations, 2010, in Regulation 12(2), explicitly states that the EFCC must comply with all laws related to arrest and granting bail to suspects.
“Therefore, the EFCC can declare a suspect wanted only when armed with a valid court order and after fulfilling all necessary conditions, including obtaining a warrant of arrest.”