The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said it is not working at cross purposes with the Attorney General of the Federation in the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases.
The Head of Legal at the EFCC, Mr. G.K. Latona, said rather than wait for the EFCC, the AGF had the power to initiative investigation into criminal cases and prosecute them.
A statement on Wednesday by human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, quoted Latona to have said this at a stakeholders’ round-table discussion on the prosecution of abandoned and unresolved high-profile corruption cases.
According to the statement by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Adewale Timothy, Latona represented the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, at the event which held in Ikeja, Lagos on Wednesday.
The round-table discussion with the theme, “Strategies and approaches for the successful completion and effective prosecution of abandoned and unresolved high-profile cases of corruption in Nigeria,” was organised by SERAP in collaboration with TrustAfrica.
The Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, had reportedly said on Tuesday that the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission were not cooperating with the AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), in the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases.
“Although the Attorney General of the Federation has the power, under both the constitution and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, to make a request of any case file that is pending either with the police, the ICPC, the EFCC or any of the prosecuting agencies, we met a brick wall when we requested the files of the high-profile cases of former governors from the EFCC and the ICPC,” Obono-Obla had said.
But speaking in Lagos on Wednesday at the SERAP event where Obono-Obla himself was present, Latona said, “We are not working at cross purposes with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation; we are cooperating with them. We have a wide range of corruption cases in concert with state agencies.
“The Attorney General Office has the right to initiate new high-profile corruption cases and investigate them themselves without waiting for cases initiated by the EFCC. We are also working on best practices manuals for the prosecutors and investigators. If you want a corruption-free society, we must all work towards it.”
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), who delivered a paper at the event, advocated serious sanctions for senior lawyers “who have turned obstruction and frustration of proceedings in high-profile corruption cases into an art.”
Sagay said punishment for such senior lawyers must include denial of right of appearance in high-profile corruption cases.
He urged prosecuting authorities to always insist on the full application of sections 306 and 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which barred stay of proceedings in criminal cases and provided for day-to-day hearing in such cases.
The guest speaker at the event, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), said the only way the judiciary could prevent interference by the executive was to purge itself of corruption.
“Judiciary must purge itself of corruption so that it can avoid executive interference. We also need to leverage on electronic recording of proceedings and put an end to writing in longhand by judges,” Akinseye-George said.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), urged lawyers not to hesitate to report to the NBA any corrupt act they notice in court.