Reminiscing on how young Nigerians in all six geopolitical zones united around a common goal to end police intimidation, oppression, and brutality, the leading Civil Society Group; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the illegal and gestapo operational modalities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In a statement issued by the National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Rights group frowned at the new way officials of the EFCC chase after suspected criminals by breaking into people’s homes describing it as detrimental to the enjoyment of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights recognised in chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all relevant international human rights laws just as the Rights group says the officials of the Anti-Graft Agency are by these provocative and illegal actions enticing Nigerians to stage a nationwide protests similar to the #ENDSARS PROTESTS against the misconducts of the EFCC.
HURIWA warned that the EFCC, being a creation of the law must be law abiding and so tagged the modalities of operations in which operatives armed to the teeth go into people’s houses in the dead of the night like armed robbers and kidnappers, breaking into people’s houses and climbing in through the fences like hired assassins are antithetical to the law and the principle of the rule of law.
“These unlawful actions are definitely aimed as triggers to instigate the masses to stage; the kinds of demonstrations that will be almost unprecedented in dimension and massive in scale.
HURIWA revealed that Section 36(5) of the constitution is very clear that even persons charged for criminal offence before the courts of law are deemed as innocent in the eyes of the law until a contrary determination is reached by a Court of competent jurisdiction.
“It is therefore unlawful that the operatives of the EFCC will continue to behave like outlaws or persons who are above the laws of the land. EFCC is subject to the law and must be seen to be operating in compliance with the precepts of the law and in strict compliance with the RULE OF LAW”, HURIWA averred.
Continuing, HURIWA expressed worries that there have been over a dozen clandestine operations by the EFCC in which these officials of the law have been seen defecating on the fundamental principles of the law, abusing with reckless abandon the Rules of Engagement as if Nigeria is a banana republic.
Noting that these kinds of crude, debased and bakward application of brute force by the operatives of the EFCC are absolutely condemnable, despicable, reprehensible, outrageous and provocative HURIWA warned that they be checked otherwise “the EFCC should watch and see that in the fullness of time the masses will demonstrate to say enough is enough.
“In recent times, several people have made complaints concerning officials of the EFCC barging into their homes and hotel rooms at odd hours of the day, unannounced. These men do not knock on doors or wait to be invited in, some do not come with warrants or any official notice, they just fly in, eyes darting about, and noses trying to pick the scent of criminals.
The Wednesday, September 22nd 2021 night invasion of the apartment of the Abia-based Journalist; Norah Okafor by operatives of the EFCC, which saw about 25 hooded EFCC operatives bursting into Norah’s apartment in the dead of the night, after disconnecting the wire used to electrify the fence, scaled the wall and broke the gate key to gain unfettered access into the building depicts a horror scene.
“After subjecting the poor lady and other occupants of the building to over two hours of grueling physical stress, emotional trauma and destruction of their properties in the name of searching for non-existent incriminating evidence, the operatives reportedly declared ‘we have just wasted our time’.
HURIWA sees this declaration as a wholehearted, voluntary expression and admission of a disastrous blunder of a mission; that they were in the wrong place clearly for the wrong reason and at the wrong time.
Furthermore, HURIWA recalled that on August 3, 2021, Big brother Naija (lockdown) celebrity; Dorathy Bachor had in a series of Instagram stories, narrated how at 4:45am, she ran out of her room after hearing a loud bang to find EFCC officials in her living room, who told her they were looking for someone who ran into her estate, and then asked her to stay in, lock her door and not say a word.
HURIWA again pointed out that in July 2021, filmmaker; Biodun Stephen also had narrated how officials of the EFCC, “dressed in black with wielding weapons”, barged into her hotel room at 3:00am claiming to be looking for someone, but later apologised because she turned out not to be who they were looking for.
“On February 4, 2021, a man reportedly jumped to his death from the 7th floor of a storey building when EFCC officials raided the 1004 estate in Victoria Island. There are also many other reports of EFCC officials forcing their way into hostels, people’s homes, into clubs, or disrupting night parties to round up people they think are internet fraudsters.
“On October 14, 2019, officials of the EFCC raided a nightclub in Oshogbo, Osun state and arrested 94 suspected fraudsters. On January 17, 2020, they rounded up 89 persons suspected to be involved in cybercrime at 360, a night club located at Ibadan.
“Observably, there is one word that is peculiar with all of these arrests: ‘suspected’. These people being rounded up are still suspected to be fraudsters, which means that investigations have not been carried out to pinpoint who, amongst them all, is the actual fraudster.
“So to get to the fraudsters, EFCC officials barge into innocent people’s homes and spaces, and leave a trail of panic-stricken, horrified, and emotionally traumatised citizens who came face to face with gun-wielding men in black, and perhaps watched their lives flash before their eyes.
“It is not even enough to have warrants or identify yourself after you have barged in, it is abysmal that security agents would even break down people’s doors, or jump people’s fences in the first place”.
Provoked that these days, it is difficult to differentiate between robbers and men of the EFCC as they seem to adopt the same tactics in carrying out their operations, HURIWA opined that EFCC is missing their job description while noting that looters are right in their faces but they are busy chasing regular folks.
“Today it’s N100m missing in a government office, tomorrow N40m, why don’t they go and catch those stealing the common wealth blind? Instead of bringing to justice suspected high profile politically exposed persons who jump from one political party to the All Progressives Congress and are given red carpet reception by the President, the EFCC has become agents of witch-hunt, targeting largely young people”.
Hence, HURIWA emphasized the need for the EFCC to be called to order and made to adopt law based procedures in going after suspected offenders while observing all the tenets and precepts of the fundamental human rights just as the Rights Group advised that the agency must adopt clinical and professional modus operandi that will be in compliance with all the rules of Engagement.
“Why not use surveillance and intelligence gathering to go after suspected offenders in the day time and make lawful arrests instead of behaving like armed robbers or armed Fulani militia members?” HURIWA queried.
Referencing the video released by the Dubai Police last year, which gave an account of the series of investigations carried out before the arrest of Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, known as Hushpuppi and his gang, HURIWA admonished that the EFCC can learn professionalism from the Dubai Police as actions such as breaking into people’s homes and parading those who are still suspects show the insensitivity afflicting the anti-graft agency. This is because, according to HURIWA, EFCC is meant to protect the people and the country against financial crimes, not terrorising people in the same breath
“Observably from the video, the investigation, dubbed Fox Hunt II, was carried out for about 4 months, during which his social media account, fraudulent activities, and the gang’s whereabouts were closely monitored. The Dubai e-police team were tracking Hushpuppi’s every move and taking notes of all his online activities, including all the fake pages of existing websites he and his team created to redirect their victims’ payment to their own accounts.
“They also found out all the corporate emails he and his team had hacked to send fake messages to clients to redirect financial details, and people’s bank details to their own account. Before his arrest, the Dubai police could tell exactly the number of people he had scammed and how much Hushpuppi had in his account.
“During the time of his arrest, they knew exactly where he and his team were, and at what time. They didn’t need to jump fences or break into innocent people’s homes to carry out the arrest. They knew their onions.
“There’s a peculiarity with which our security agents clamp down on those they perceive to be criminals, which includes inadequate investigation, violence, blood-shot eyes, high-pitched command voices, swiftness to inflict pain, and then for many, extortion.
“Perhaps, the EFCC is no different; their recent mode of operation in breaking-in, spreading panic, battering, bullying, and half-true accusations is consistently making a horseplay of an institution that is meant to operate with intelligence and facts.
“It is disturbing that EFCC has joined the bandwagon of uniformed men terrorising the Nigerian people”, Prior to now, waking up in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning to see men clad in black with guns, one would assume being attacked by armed robbers. But with the increase in Controversial raids of public and private spaces by EFCC officers in recent months, it is might be apt to ask “who are you” when you see men jumping your fence, so they can introduce themselves and tell if they are thieves, burglars, or from the EFCC”, HURIWA concluded.