Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) having the responsibility to investigate and prosecute economic and financial crimes, sometimes operate outside its statutory rights and powers. EFCC is seen delving into pure civil transactions, seeking to recover debts and investigate civil contracts with state funds and resources. This problem does not start with EFCC, rather with us, the people. Often, people file petitions over civil transactions merely seeking for recovery of debt but under the disguise of criminal breach of trust, misrepresentation and other similar charges. In some circumstances, such cases may be rejected by EFCC, while some may slip through and climb to the courts; may be where there are elements willing to look away. Below is a brief quotation from a recent judgement of the Supreme Court, wherein the Supreme Court warned EFCC, Police and other security agencies in Nigeria to desist from such conducts.
“It is important for me to pause and say here that the powers conferred on the Appellant, i.e. the EFCC to receive complaints and prevent and/or fight the commission of financial crimes in Nigeria pursuant to Section 6(b) of the EFCC Act (Supra) does not extend to the investigation and/or resolution of disputes arising or resulting from simple contracts or civil transactions as in this case. The EFCC has an inherent duty to scrutinize all complaints that it receives carefully, no matter how carefully crafted by the complaining party, and be bold enough to counsel such complainants to seek appropriate/lawful means to resolve their disputes. Alas! the EFCC is not a debt recovery agency and should refrain from being used as such.
What is even more disturbing in recent times is the way and manner the Police and some other security agencies, rather than focus squarely on their statutory functions of investigation, preventing and prosecuting crimes, allow themselves to be used by overzealous and/or unscrupulous characters for the recovery of debts arising from simple contracts, loans or purely civil transactions. our security agencies, particularly the police, must know that the citizenry’s confidence in them ought to first be ensured by the agencies themselves by jealously guarding the integrity of the uniform and powers conferred on them. The beauty of salt is in its taste. Once salt loses its own taste, its value is irredeemably lost. I say this now and again, our security agencies, particularly the police, are not debt recovery agencies. The agencies themselves need to first come to this realization, shun all entreaties in this regard and they will see confidence gradually restored in them. Where we are now in this country is that place where our “Men – in black & blue” command almost no respect from the citizenry because of how low we have sunk. But it is my belief, which belief I must say I hold very dearly, that all hope is not lost, many women and men of deep integrity are in our security agencies, and they only need to rise now to the occasion.” Per BAGE, J.S.C. (Pp. 21-29, Paras. A-B)
My authority is the decision of Supreme Court in the case of ECONOMIC & FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC) V. DIAMOND BANK PLC, PETRO CONTINENTAL (NIG) LTD AND H.R.H. EZE (DR) PETER OPARA (2018) LPELR-44217(SC).
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