Lawyers fault Olukoyede’s appointment as EFCC chair

SOME lawyers have faulted the appointment of Ola Olukoyede by President Bola Tinubu as the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

One of the legal practitioners, Daniel Bwala, a spokesperson for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, described Olukoyede’s appointment as unlawful and illegal. 

He said the appointment ran foul of the provisions of Section 2 of the EFCC Act, which requires that the person to be appointed as EFCC Chairman must, amongst other things, be a serving or retired member of any security or law enforcement agency; have 15 years of cognate experience in law enforcement, and must not be below the rank of assistant commissioner of police.

In a post on his X account on Thursday, October 12, shortly after Olukoyede was announced as EFCC chair, Bwala said Olukoyede was a private legal practitioner and had never worked or belonged to any security or law enforcement agency as a member.

“He does not have 15 years cognate experience as a law enforcement officer, and his private legal practice years cannot be equated to the rank in law enforcement. 

“He only has a stint as Chief of staff to Magu and later became a Secretary of the Commission, all of which last for less than six years,” Bwala tweeted.

In a further discussion with The ICIR on Thursday, Bwala stated other reasons he said made Olukoyede unfit to be the chairman of EFCC: “The fellow was indicted in the Justice Salami Report that removed Magu. As a private lawyer, potentially all the people he has or is defending as a lawyer now have a free pass now that he is a chairman. 

“Besides, the commission’s staff who supported Magu’s trial might have their jobs in jeopardy,” he added.

When asked if the appointment of former EFCC chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa also violated the EFCC Act, Bwala told the ICIR that, contrary to speculations, Bawa met the criteria.

According to Bwala, Bawa was a course one operative of EFCC at the time of his appointment and had put in 16 years of experience.

“He was a staff member of the EFCC, which is a law enforcement agency. His rank at the time was about the rank of assistant commissioner of police,” Bwala stated.

He said Bawa had 15 years of cognate experience investigating live cases, apart from receiving training outside the country.

Also reacting to the appointment, a human rights lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, said Olukoyede was not qualified to be appointed chairman of the anti-fraud commission.

According to Mahmud, Section 2 of the EFCC Act is very clear. “He’s not qualified. His years as Chief of Staff to Magu or as Secretary of EFCC don’t come near the 15 years of cognate experience required by law.

On the claim by the Presidency that Bawa resigned, Mahmud said, “Then, again, how could anybody claim that Bawa, who is currently in detention, resigned his position as Chairman,” the lawyer asked.

Presidency reacts

Meanwhile, the Presidency has reacted to the controversy surrounding Olukoyede’s appointment. 

According to a post by the senior special assistant to the president for public engagement, Fredrick Nwabufo, on the social media platform X, he argued why Olukoyede should be in charge of the EFCC.

According to Nwabufo, the appointment was approved by Tinubu in accordance with Section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.

He listed the reasons as follows:

1. Olukoyede was the Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman of the EFCC (2016-2018) and Secretary to the commission (2018-2020). He was a member of a law enforcement organisation as Secretary, in this case, the EFCC, as stipulated in the EFCC Act, and as such, satisfied every legal detail to be appointed chairman.

2. Section 2(1)(p) of the EFCC Act plainly, ordinarily, and unambiguously established the Secretary to the commission (i.e., EFCC) as its member and head of its administration.

3. The Supreme Court determined in the case of Ejuetami v. Olaiya & Anor (2001) LPELR-1072 (SC) at Pg.23-24 that The words used are to be given their ‘ordinary and natural sense’. Therefore, the clear, explicit and unambiguous words used in sections 2(1)(a)(i)-(iii), (p), 2(2), 3(1)-(3) and 8(5) of the EFCC Act must be given their ordinary and natural sense in line with the guidelines set by the Supreme Court in its long line of undisturbed judicial precedents.

4. The provision of Section 2(1) sub-paragraph (iii) of the EFCC Act did not state the nature of the experience that a person is required to possess similar or alike for fifteen (15) years. This implies that such cognate experience is presumed to be that of the work or functions of the EFCC acquired anywhere since the EFCC Act did not state the specific place where it must be acquired. It is also unambiguous by the provisions of subparagraph (iii) that once a person possessed fifteen (15) years of such cognate (i.e., similar or alike) experience, then he has satisfied the provisions of subparagraph (iii) of section 2(1)(a) of the EFCC Act.

5. It is clear from the unambiguous provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act, 2004, that any commission member, whether serving or retired, who has 15 years of cognate experience in their chosen career is eligible to be appointed as the commission’s chairman.

6. Prior to this time, the convention and precedence is that to be qualified for appointment as the Executive Chairman of the Commission, the nominee must be a Police Officer or someone with a law enforcement background, particularly in the area of investigation only exposed the commission to all manner of vices but has brewed internal wrangling, discontent, and hatred among the members of staff of the commission.

7. It is nonjusticiable to elevate convention above statutory provision. It is time to move away from fiction to fact and from convention to strict adherence to the statutory provisions of the enabling Act of the Commission in our constitutional democracy.

8. Olukoyede is not only a trained regulatory compliance officer but also a specialist in fraud management, compliance management, and corporate intelligence. He has more than 22 years of leadership expertise as a fraud examiner. He has led investigations and civil litigation of fraud and financial crimes in international development projects.

He further argued that Olukoyede fulfilled all legal requirements to be appointed as the chairman of the EFCC.

Ola Olukoyede’s appointment

The ICIR reported that Tinubu appointed Olukoyede as the EFCC chairman on Thursday.

The appointment was contained in a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale.

Olukoyede’s appointment follows the resignation of the suspended Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa.

He is the first head of the EFCC from Nigeria’s South since its creation 20 years ago.

The ICIR reports that none of the previous five substantive Chairmen of the Commission finished their tenure. 

Ajuri also disclosed that Tinubu approved the appointment of Muhammad Hassan Hammajoda to serve as the Commission’s Secretary pending Senate confirmation.

The ICIR reported in June that the DSS detained Bawa and the suspended governor of the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.

While Emiefele, who was arrested about the same time as Bawa by the Secret Service, was charged to court, Bawa has not been seen in any court of law since his arrest.

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