Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of only respecting the rights of influential criminal suspects.
Presenting a paper on Wednesday at the 2019 law week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Epe branch, Lagos state, Falana said Nigeria operates a double criminal justice system, one for the rich and the other for the poor.
The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said corrupt politicians and some senior lawyers have hijacked the criminal justice system, working together to frustrate the effective prosecution of corruption cases pending in several courts.
Falana urged “progressive lawyers” to team up with other patriotic forces to promote equal justice system in the country.
“Apart from two former governors, namely Messrs Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, the list of convicted persons is made of lowly-placed individuals in the society,” Falana said.
“Owing to abuse of court process, rich defendants have continued to frustrate their prosecution with the connivance of some senior lawyers.
“By virtue of section 17 (2) (a) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law. But in practice, the rich and poor defendants are not treated equally by Nigerian courts. Apart from the fact that rich litigants have the means to hire the services of the best lawyers in any area of the law, the courts are manned by judges who are not neutral in the class struggle being waged daily by the Nigerian people.
“Notwithstanding that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been accused by the bourgeois media of engaging in Gestapo tactics with respect to the treatment of suspects, it cannot be denied that the rights of influential criminal suspects are well respected by the commission.
“The big men and women implicated in allegations of serious economic crimes being investigated by the commission usually receive polite letters of invitation, telephone calls or text messages advising them to contact named investigators whose telephone numbers are supplied.”
Falana said rich suspects always apply to be kept in EFCC’s cells since they are much more comfortable than police and prison cells.
“If and whenever influential criminal suspects report themselves they are treated with utmost courtesy by the investigators. Since they are presumed innocent until they are proved guilty by the State they are never paraded before the media, regardless of the gravity of the offence committed by them,” Falana said.
“Unlike what obtains in western countries it is infra dignitate to subject big men and women to the restraint of handcuff in Nigeria. Hence, hell was let loose when a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party on trial for money laundering was recently handcuffed by the Kuje prison authorities.
“A few years ago, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration apologized in writing to a former police chief who was handcuffed by the EFCC while he was on trial for money laundering and corrupt practices to the tune of N17 billion.”