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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday punctured the argument of the Department of State Services that corruption was a threat to national security, the reason the latter gave to justify the raids it carried out on the homes of some judges across the country last month.
The stance of the anti-graft agency is a manifestation of the rivalry among security agencies, particularly between the DSS and the current leadership of the EFCC.
The two agencies had appeared before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives in Abuja to testify in respect of the invasion of the homes of some judges and their subsequent arrest by the DSS over alleged corrupt acts.
The committee, which is chaired by a former House Deputy Minority Whip, Mr. Garba Dhatti, is investigating all cases of invasion of property and arrest of persons by the DSS “outside its purview” from May 2015 to date.
The EFCC categorically told the committee that the alleged offences of the judges were financial crimes and did not constitute a threat to national security.
The commission’s acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had sent an Assistant Director (Prosecution), Mr. Ojogbane Jonson, to represent him at the sitting of the committee.
According to him, the EFCC Act, clearly covers the alleged offences of the judges, adding that it was a duty the DSS should have left for the former to execute.
He stated that the EFCC was not involved in the raids on the judges’ homes, though he admitted that corruption was an economic crime.
Magu noted, “It is a crime (corruption) motivated by greed, but it is within the purview of the EFCC.
“Bribery and corruption are for personal gain, and what it has affected in my view is not security, but development.
“It is not about the internal security, which the DSS runs, what it does is to rob us of our commonwealth…
“I am not aware of any issue they (DSS) have been involved in that has elicited as much criticism as this one. It is not much because people are against them fighting corruption but the methodology.”
He added that the best approach would have been to invite the judges for a chat during the day, following which they would be arraigned before a competent court of jurisdiction.
Magu explained further, “Most of these people (fraudsters) are not violent on their own, and when we put them before a compromised judge, and they are set free, they go back to do the same things, like duping people. That has nothing to do with internal security.”
In his testimony, the Chairman of the ICPC, Mr. Ekpo Nta, supported the DSS, saying that the National Security Agencies Act conferred powers on the agency to raid any property in the country.
He explained that the two agencies could perform their duties and one did not function for another, except in cases involving “inter-agency cooperation.”
Nta also said the ICPC had similar powers, just like the Nigeria Police to gain entry into any facility in the course of investigation.
He said, “The DSS, like the ICPC, have been conferred with the powers of the police.
“Section 6 of the ICPC Act, it is there. Just like the police, as they have it in the Police Act, these powers are there.”
Meanwhile, the committee on Thursday threatened to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), for shunning its invitations.
At the opening of the hearing earlier on Wednesday, Malami was absent and he sent no representations.
Members did not take kindly to the absence of the minister and his “failure” to forward any memoranda to the committee.
He was summoned to appear on Thursday (yesterday), but he failed to turn up again.
Dhatti, while complaining about the attitude of the AGF at the resumed sitting of the committee, stated that he was the only official among the key persons invited, who had ignored the committee.
After a brief consultation with other members of the committee, it was resolved that Malami should appear unfailingly on Tuesday, next week, or he would risk being arrested.
Dhatti stated, “All the persons we invited have submitted their memoranda and they also appeared before the committees.
“The affected judges submitted their memoranda and some of them even came here. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, the Code of Conduct Bureau, they came.
“The DSS Director-General (Lawal Daura) is here with us and the EFCC has made an appearance too.
“But, the committee is disturbed by the failure of the AGF to appear or to deem it fit to reply us by sending a memorandum to the committee.
“As the chief law officer of the country, he should know the consequences of his actions. We wrote him and we also summoned him, but he has ignored the committee.
“Under Section 89(1) (d) of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, this committee will issue a warrant for his arrest if he fails to appear here on Tuesday, next week.”
But, when it was time to grill Daura, the committee opted for a closed-door meeting.