That Media Trial against Jafaru Mohammed, By Jatau Michael
With the appointment of the young Abdulrasheed Bawa to lead the EFCC, hopes were high that the Commission would become professional and in the words of the new EFCC Chairman, drive an intelligence led anti-corruption campaign. One of the approaches that has derailed the EFCC in the past is its penchant for media trial of persons under investigation.
This theatrics and the conduct of investigators raise questions around the rights of citizens. It is common knowledge that every person under investigation is innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law. Why then should the EFCC and some of its operatives commit public harm upon the image of an individual? Who then will protect the credibility of individuals in the eye of the public when the courts finally find them to be innocent of alleged crimes?
A recent case in point is that of Jafaru Mohammed. The EFCC, rather than conduct a diligent investigation is fighting a media war against a citizen. The Commission sought an interim order against properties in which Mr. Jaafaru had no interest. The Commission failed to do a simple search at the Corporate Affairs Commission and the land registries to determine the true owners of the Eight properties allegedly linked to Mr. Jafaru. This due diligence, if conducted would have revealed to the Commission that Mr. Jafaru has interest in only one property listed which he had acquired since 2009 and built gradually over the years.
Furthermore, in another series of propaganda which claimed that Mr. Jafaru operate seventeen accounts holding millions of Naira, again the commission failed to use its powers to trace the origins of the said accounts and their balances. Initially, the Commission actually claimed that Mr. Jaafaru had 32 accounts only to realise that these were Government accounts which the BVN identified as those from several official accounts from previous postings which Mr. Jafaru had been mandated to operate as part of Finance Departments.
The EFCC only needed to have written to Government offices to find out the truth. Of the seventeen accounts opened since 1993, five have been dormant, others were dollar or euro accounts usually generated by the banks and never were they used for any transaction. In all, the highest balance in the accounts is Mr. Jafaru ’s salary account which is less than 5million Naira . Other balances are as low N295.01. Cumulatively the account balance is shy of 10million but the impression fed the public is that Mr. Jafaru holds billions of Naira.
Above few examples raise the question of intent to blackmail. The EFCC under Bawa must turn a new leaf by organising its purpose around intelligence, investigation and diligent prosecution of cases. Being the first non police officer to head the commission Mr. Bawa must bring civility into the work of the commission. Although trained by police officers who had led the Commission in the past, some facing allegations of corruption, Mr. Bawa has an opportunity to start afresh. All over the world, law enforcement is conducted within the rule of law and respect of human rights. As Mr. President has shown his commitment to respecting democratic tenets in the fight against corruption, the EFCC and other anticorruption agencies must follow through in that direction.
The fight against corruption must be based on sound evidence and diligent investigation to prevent the Commission from undermining our anti-corruption war. The EFCC may face huge judgement debts for libel and international organisations who invest heavily in training the commission staff may begin to look away from Nigeria if we undermine the rule of law.
Jatau Michael writes from Lugbe Abuja