A lawyer urges the EFCC to cease criminalizing civil transactional matters that are not within its purview

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In order to avoid more judicial fury, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been told to stop criminalizing civil transaction issues that fall outside of its purview.

The anti-graft agency was specifically urged to reconsider how it handles cases involving civil transactions and to confine its operations to those covered by the law that established it.

Pelumi Olajengbesi, an attorney based in Abuja, issued the warning in a statement on Saturday in response to the Supreme Court decision that overturned Senator Peter Nwaoboshi’s conviction for an alleged over N800M fraud.

Senator Nwaoboshi was detained and later arraigned before the Federal High Court in Lagos after the EFCC accused him of illegally acquiring property.

The EFCC’s right to intervene in such circumstances was called into question by the court, which determined that the transaction was of a civil character. As a result, the defendants were released and found not guilty.

However, the Court of Appeal took a different stance, leading Senator Peter Nwaoboshi to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

The indictment, conviction, and sentence were all based on civil transactions, the Supreme Court stressed in its ruling.

It emphasized that the EFCC lacks the legal jurisdiction and power to intervene in civil proceedings as an organization tasked with reducing financial crimes and related offenses.

Olajengbesi responded to the ruling of the Apex Court by saying, “Unfortunately, this experience is not unique to Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, but rather resonates with many Nigerians and stakeholders who have met the EFCC’s operations.

“The agency has deviated from its goal and is now acting as a debt recovery agency, using its power against alleged enemies. The agency was formed to detect and combat financial crimes both inside and outside the government.

It is imperative to stress that the EFCC, like other law enforcement organizations, lacks the legal authority to meddle in private business dealings between individuals and corporations. Its function does not include debt collection or economic dispute arbitration.

This legal theory is well-established in Nigerian law, such as the EFCC Act and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA), and it has been upheld by judges in several cases, including those heard by the Supreme Court.

Therefore, we immediately request that the EFCC’s leadership change its operating model to better reflect its role as a commission. The EFCC must refrain from interfering in civil cases that are best left to arbitration panels or competent courts.

“Such a course of action would not only preserve the integrity and reputation of the Commission, which have been painstakingly built over the years, but also restore the public’s faith in the anti-graft agency,” he said.

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