By Simeon Nwakaudu
I watched with sadness the report of Professor Itse Sagay criticising the 2007 Judgment barring EFCC from investigating Rivers State Government and her officials. As expected, the story aired on Channels Television quoted Sagay as heaping insults on Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike over his insistence on the rule of law in the fight against corruption.
Forget the media packaging, Itse Sagay is a man of low moral standing. He is a notice-me political trader, a sycophant and a politician who thrives on lies and irresponsible misinterpretation of the law. This is one of the leaders of a failed generation that speaks from all sides of their mouth. Their interpretation of truth is usually influenced by their source of upkeep.
It is embarrassing that the leaders of APC still gather to discuss corruption. After four years, the entire country is aware that we are experiencing the most corrupt era. An era of excess noise and no productivity at the Federal Level. Academics like Sagay are hired to distract the suffering citizenry through falsehood and unprofessional interpretation of the law.
They are paid to cast aspersions on opposition states, which are the only productive states under the current dispensation. In that ill-fated face saving gathering, no focus was placed on Osun State where several petitions were written against the former Governor, but no action taken by the EFCC. They suffered selective amnesia on the situation in Edo State where civil society groups are insisting on the investigation and prosecution of Adams Oshiomhole, for which the EFCC has remained deaf and dumb.
I must very quickly add that I am not a lawyer. But the facts of the 2007 Judgment against the EFCC are known to all Nigerians.
First, the judgment was delivered 12 years ago when Governor Wike was not the Governor of Rivers State. Sagay worked as a legal consultant for Rotimi Amaechi between 2007 and 2015. He saw nothing wrong with that judgment.
For the 8 years of Amaechi, Sagay and other Amaechi associates defended the judgement.
On 15 September, 2010, Former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi relied on the same judgment to ward of the EFCC. The link below recounts what took place on that day.
2010/09/15/thousands-of- supporters-of-rivers-govt- stage-public-protest-against- efcc/
PM News on 15 September, 2010 reported the Former Rivers State Governor in the following words:
“Governor Amaechi had protested the attempt by EFCC to arrest some commissioners and local government council chairmen in the state.He disclosed his displeasure during the Summit on Information at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt two weeks ago, that there is a subsisting court order against EFCC from arresting any official of the Rivers State government. He urged the agency to vacate the court orders first in line with the rule of law.”
The judgement is based on the law and cannot be questioned at a politically tainted anti-corruption gathering. Only the courts can decide issues of the constitution.
The Federal High Court was emphatic about the position of the law. The EFCC lacks the power to investigate state governments. That power resides with the State Houses of Assembly. By any stretch of imagination, the EFCC is not a State House of Assembly.
On the powers of EFCC to look into the books of the Rivers State Government, Justice I. Buba in the March 20, 2007 judgment had this to say: “I declare that under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the 1st defendant (EFCC) is not entitled to share in the power of the House of Assembly for Rivers State, vested on it by virtue of section 188 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and accordingly is not entitled to coerce, induce, intimidate or in any manner whatsoever influence the House of Assembly for Rivers State into removing or causing to be removed, or into taking any steps whatsoever towards removing the Governor of Rivers State or the Deputy Governor of Rivers State from office.”
The 2007 Jugdment added: “An order of injunction restraining the 1st defendant (EFCC) by itself or by its servants or agents or in any manner however from disseminating, publishing or circulating to any government, government agency, the news media, or members of the public or in any manner at all, purported findings in respect of any investigation or inquiry into the appropriation, disbursing, administering or management of the funds of Rivers State or putting the said report or finding to any use whatsoever is hereby made.”
Understanding the quoted aspects of the 2007 Federal High Court Judgement does not require legal expertise. It is straightforward and based on constitutional provisions.
What is on the table is beyond Governor Wike. We are talking about the fundamentals of constitutional engagement. We are talking about the illegal powers of a federal agency that acts with impunity for the advantage of any Government in Power.
Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Chief OCJ Okocha captures the illegality of EFCC investigating states thus:
“The State House of Assembly has oversight functions over the governor of Rivers State. What is the business of the EFCC in a state when we are in a federation? We are not a primary school administered by a headmaster. It is totally unlawful. What economic misfortune will the spending of Rivers State money bring or visit on the federal government? It is totally unlawful”.
I have asked and I will continue to ask, what is true federalism if the Federal Government continues to use agencies like the EFCC, Police and the Armed Forces as instruments of Federal Might to coerce and intimidate the Federating Units. Since its formation as Agency instituted by the National Assembly, when has the EFCC investigated a sitting President or his office? Is there any time that the EFCC has taken a holistic look at the finances of a super ministries under any serving Administration at the Federal Government?
Even during the recently concluded elections, the EFCC was simply used as a tool against opposition politicians and states. It was never used to serve the interest of the nation. The cases of Benue and Akwa Ibom States come to mind.
It is comical that Itse Sagay imagines that he can still be taken seriously on the issue of corruption. It is even more heartrending that officials of the APC Federal Government still have the courage (bold face) to discuss corruption. It is a case of playing the Ostrich.
Itse Sagay is still weeping from the reality that he no longer enjoys the huge handouts he got from Rivers State Government as was the case when he was the legal consultant to Rotimi Amaechi.
Otherwise, Itse Sagay ought to be calling for the prosecution of his benefactor, Rotimi Amaechi, who was indicted by a court-ordered Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Sagay ought to be calling for the probe of the Rivers funds illegally deployed by his benefactor, Rotimi Amaechi to fund the APC National Campaign in 2015.
Like Governor Wike, the Rivers State Government has nothing to hide. However, due process of law must be followed in all actions.
Sagay chairs the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, a patently partisan group, that promotes the obvious pro-corruption actions of the APC.
Rivers State under the leadership of Governor Wike is one of the few performing states of the country. It was on this premise that Rivers people staked their lives to resist the corrupt rigging mechanism of Federal Might.
Sagay is a personification of what is wrong with our society. A society that is fast becoming bereft of academics of repute and integrity. A society where senior academics are pocketed by Federal Might to justify illegality and circumvent due process.
I am not surprised that Channels Television gave Sagay prominence to insult the Rivers State Governor. But when a response comes, Channels Television will start looking for the book on Broadcast Ethics to justify their failure to air a “right of reply”.
Sagay’s despicable dance is yet another manifestation of the failure of the APC Federal Government. The Federal system since 2015 has weakened the intellectual base of lilly-livered academics, who now boot-lick for survival. Sagay is a grandfather of this ugly trend.