BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA – The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers & Advocates (COPA), has said that the circumstances surrounding the allegation of fraud against Senator Shehu Sani remains vague.
COPA specifically said that it is foolhardy to undertake a public trial of Senator Sani even before establishing a basis for his guilt.
It noted that in recent years, the EFCC has earned the notoriety of singling out perceived ‘enemies’ of the government in power and going after same with trumped up charges in order to undermine their criticism of the government.
These were contained in a statement issued by the convener of COPA, Mr. Pelumi Olajengbesi, Esq. in which he stressed that such a feature in a professional body such as the EFCC robes its every action with a degree of suspicion and deprives it of public trust and support critical for intelligence gathering and general success.
COPA noted that a thorough examination of the hurried arrest and detention of Senator Shehu Sani by the EFCC, suggests and exposes a thinly veiled malicious attempt to throw the Senator’s hard-won reputation in the mud in a bid to discredit him.
It further said; “Senator Shehu Sani has in recent years been a vocal and un-relenting critic of the government of his state and that at the federal level, and in Nigeria’s predictable political space, has within a short time made himself a marked enemy of those he opposes with his wits and actions.
“While we encourage the EFCC to accord no sacred cow status in the pursuit of its mandate as an anti-graft agency, we caution it to act transparently and with verifiable facts.
“We are, however, puzzled at claims that the Senator sought to influence the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, as the two do not enjoy a cordial relationship beyond common courtesy. In fact, Senator Sani’s several past barbed inferences indicting the EFCC and its boss of playing to the tunes of a federal piper rather than the law hardly makes him a friend of the agency.”
COPA therefore advised the EFCC to act impartially and by the law at all times, adding that it urged for a thorough and non-vindictive investigation to be undertaken in the Senator Sani’s and indeed in all matters before the EFCC, with a view to serving the law and not servicing the ego or private wars of political figures in government.
The Coalition of Public Interest Lawyers & Advocates noted that a lot of commentaries on the arrest of Senator Sani are reiterating claims that he had it coming as an avowed critic of government, stressing that to play into such a perception especially with a lack of concrete grounds for his detention, the EFCC are making themselves out to be errand hunters of shadowy political figures stung by the senators acerbic criticisms.
The COPA’s statement further said; “It is unbecoming of such a professional body to bear such a toga without making efforts to shake it off through impartial actions.
“The invitation, arrest and subsequent arrest of Senator Shehu Sani may yet undermine what’s left of the public’s goodwill towards the EFCC and we simply cannot have such a happenstance in our national experience.”
“We are abreast of available details of the invitation, arrest and detention of Senator Shehu Sani by the graft agency for allegedly obtaining a bribe under false pretence and with intention to exert influence on the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to stave off ongoing investigation of a friend of the Senator.
“It is worth noting that Senator Sani is reported to have honoured the invitation extended to him by EFCC by a day earlier than slated, and is said to be cooperating with the agency in ascertaining the basis of the allegations against him which he has reportedly denied as contrived and untrue.
“COPA invites all well-meaning members of the public and the civil society space to keep a watchful eye on the EFCC to dissuade it from further acting on whims and impulses rather than by the law as some instances of their excesses would show.”