EFCC is not a debt collection agency – Bawa
By Moji Eniola
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, warned members of the public not to drag the commission into business deals gone awry.
Bawa gave his advice while speaking as one of the panelists at the Alao Aka-Bashorun Memorial Lecture Thursday in Lagos.
Bawa, represented by Mr. Anselm Ozioko, Head of the Legal Department of the EFCC, intervened on the subject; “Our role in the effective implementation of Nigeria’s anti-corruption law”.
He said there was a general misconception among members of the public that the EFCC was a debt collection agency and urged the public to stop asking the anti-corruption agency to collect debts.
“I am responsible for saying that members of the public, including legal practitioners in the collection of their clients, should stop urging us (the board) to do so.”
“I must also state that in the course of a financial crime investigation, it is possible that a sum of money transferred from a symbolic plaintiff’s account could be recovered as an exhibit.
“In certain circumstances, the exhibits may be turned over to the complainant or the said exhibit will be used for the prosecution of the suspect in court.
“At the end of a successful prosecution, the court may grant a restitution order for the nominal plaintiff, in which the exhibit will be delivered to a nominal plaintiff in accordance with the court order,” Bawa said.
Victims of fraud turn to the EFCC and they expect the organization to freeze suspects’ bank accounts, have them confiscate their assets and hand over the assets (victims) to them.
The president said that when the EFCC followed due process and did not act according to the victims’ expectations, they are confused.
Bawa said that despite the best efforts of the EFCC, international e-commerce platforms like Paypal have failed to restore Nigeria to their payment platform due to the nefarious activities of fraudsters.
Commenting on the role of lawyers during questioning, the president said they should observe and not interfere with EFCC interrogations and should not vouch for suspects held by EFCC.
“The EFCC has, in certain situations, sued lawyers who have filed their appeal certificates with the bar to vouch for suspects because their client has skipped the bond.
“In some cases, we have reported such lawyers to the Legal Discipline Committee. It is not your responsibility as a lawyer to release anyone, you are recommending that someone be suitable as a surety, not you, as a lawyer, ”he said.
Bawa said that in many cases lawyers have tried to defeat investigations by bringing fundamental rights lawsuits against the EFCC when their clients receive letters of invitation.
“As a lawyer, you cannot prevent a law enforcement agency from fulfilling its statutory obligations,” he said.