Nigerians raise concerns over midnight EFCC’s Gestapo raids, extrajudicial actions

August 24, 2021

9.1 min readCategories: News
  •  EFCC now power-drunk under 41-year-old Bawa –Activist
  •  Bawa should call his men to order now, says Adegboruwa

Nigerians have raised concerns over the midnight Gestapo raids and extrajudicial actions deployed by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the last six months since the appointment of 41-year-old Abdulrasheed Bawa as chairman of the commission.

The EFCC was established in the early 2000s during the administration of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to combat economic and financial crimes like advance fee fraud (419), money laundering, terrorism financing and miscellaneous offences.

Following the corruption allegations levelled against embattled ex-acting EFCC chair, Ibrahim Magu, and his subsequent suspension, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on February 16, 2021 named Bawa as the fourth chairman of EFCC. The Senate swiftly confirmed Bawa’s appointment on February 24, 2021.

Many Nigerians and not-too-young-to-rule proponents had hailed Bawa’s appointment and anticipated the injection of youthful vigour, innovation and civility in the country’s anti-corruption fight.

Many had also expected precision and meticulousness in the investigation and intelligence gathering methods of the agency before inviting or arresting suspects, as professionally done by EFCC’s equivalent in the United States – the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But many Nigerians did not foresee that EFCC operatives, under Bawa, would begin to break into their homes in the dead of the night under the pretext of going after suspected internet fraudsters.

A chain of midnight invasions and Gestapo raids
The latest in the series of midnight raids by EFCC officials happened on Monday, July 23, 2021 when armed anti-graft operatives invaded the Lekki residence of Big Brother Naija Lockdown housemate, Dorathy Bachor.

The former housemate in the 2020 edition of BBNaija television reality show had taken to her Instastory on Monday, to reveal that EFCC operatives broke into her Lekki residence in Lagos around 5am.

According to the star, the anti-graft officials broke into her house, saying they were after a suspected internet fraudster.

The EFCC later confirmed the invasion in a statement on Monday, stating that “operatives from the Lagos Command of the Commission, acting on verified intelligence, executed a Search Warrant at a block of flats located in the Lekki area of Lagos on Monday, 23rd August, 2021 during which nine internet fraud suspects were arrested.

“Ms. Bachor’s apartment happened to be one of the flats in the building.

“EFCC operatives had knocked on her (Dorathy’s) entrance door, identified themselves as being from the Commission on a mission to execute a Search Warrant. But they were refused entry, for several minutes by Bachor’s sister.

“The operatives were left with no choice than to force their way in, lest suspects escape or destroy vital evidence.”

Though the EFCC claimed nine suspected internet fraudsters were arrested in the building housing Dorathy’s flat, no suspect was specifically arrested in the BBN star’s apartment. The agency did not also release the details of the suspect arrested in the other flats in the building.

Hours later, EFCC officials returned to whisk Dorathy away for interrogation.

Dorathy’s sister, Cynthia Bachor told The PUNCH on Tuesday that the BBN star was subsequently released.

Cynthia, however, declined further comments on the matter but said, “She (Dorathy) is now fine”.

Efforts to reach spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, proved abortive as of the time of filing this report.

This is not the first time the anti-graft agency would be accused of random highhandedness or breaking into people’s homes and hotel rooms in the dead of the night, without showing a warrant.

On July 13, 2021, EFCC operatives broke into Parktonian Hotel in the Lekki area of Lagos. During the raid, the operatives were alleged to have gained entry into the occupants’ rooms by seizing the master cards from the management of the hotel at gunpoint.

When the EFCC operatives gained entry into the rooms, it was learnt that some of the occupants were naked under the duvet as the operatives interrogated the occupants.

They broke into the hotel and threatened to shoot the receptionists and management workers if they didn’t immediately release the master access card to them. So, the hotel workers had to comply immediately,” an eyewitness reportedly said.

Barely a week after, a Nollywood filmmaker, Biodun Stephen, alleged that armed EFCC officials broke into her hotel room in Lagos but apologised to her when they realised that she was not the one they were after.

“They just burst into hotel rooms in the middle of the night, not caring who you are or what state you are in,” Stephen had lamented.

Beaten and battered by EFCC officials

Also, on Thursday, July 1, 2021, EFCC operatives allegedly brutalised the Executive Director, Divine Rice Producers, Divine Nwonye; and an official of the Federal Road Safety Corps in Enugu State, Sunday Odo, during a midnight raid on their residences.

Both men were hospitalised after the incident and had described the attack as ‘wicked and unprofessional,’ adding that until date, they had not been told their offences or why their apartments were raided and the doors and windows destroyed.

On June 7, 2021, EFCC operatives reportedly beat up the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi chapter, Justin Gbagir.

The NBA chairman had visited the office of the anti-graft agency to secure the release of one of his members, Mrs Ave Shima, who was being detained by the commission.

Gbagir was admitted at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, after the severe beating.

Recounting the horrific encounter, the NBA chair, said he went to the EFCC office in Benue State with the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Michael Gusa, and Solicitor-General.

“As we entered the office, the Solicitor-General introduced me to the head of the EFCC that I am the Chairman, NBA, Makurdi banch, and offered his seat to me. And as I made to sit down, the EFCC Head, Oseni Kassim, said I could not sit down, because I am an agitator.

“As I made to leave, the personnel of the EFCC numbering about seven pounced on me and started beating me. They broke my recommended eye glasses in the process and pushed me out of the premises,” Gbagir had explained.

On April 21, 2021 the EFCC arrested popular Instagram comedian and social media influencer, Nwagbo Chidera (aka Pankeeroy), for alleged Internet fraud. A photo post by the EFCC on social media showed the comedian bearing the charges levelled against him.

According to the EFCC, the comedian posed as a vendor who redeems bitcoin vouchers using a platform to defraud his unsuspecting victims.

However, on May 27, 2021, barely a month after his arrest, the comedian was released. according to a statement by his legal team, there was no petition against him prior to his arrest.

Also, in April 2021, an Ondo State Youths Representative, Oluyemi Fasipe, lambasted the EFCC for allegedly vandalising properties worth millions of naira while reportedly arresting suspected internet fraudsters who were later released hours later –upon proving their innocence.

Earlier, in March 2021, an Uyo-based businessman, Ubong Williams, dragged the EFCC before Justice Charles Ikpe of the Akwa Ibom State High Court. Williams had accused the anti-graft agency of breaking into his home and prayed the court to declare his arrest and detention as a violation of his fundamental rights.

Bawa should call his men to order now, says Adegboruwa

Meanwhile, Human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, said there was the need to call the EFCC to order, adding that the anti-graft agency was beginning to act like the Department of State Services, while trampling upon the fundamental rights of citizens.

Adegboruwa, who is a member of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry probing alleged killing of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate, urged Dorathy to approach the court to seek redress.

The senior advocate told The PUNCH on Tuesday that the EFCC should not unleash horror on our citizens in an attempt to justify performance, adding that the invasion of the homes of innocent people was becoming rampant under 41-year-old EFCC new chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa.

Commenting on the raid of Dorathy’s house, Adegboruwa said, “It is the same reaction that Nigerians gave in respect of the DSS invasion of the home of Chief Sunday Adeyemo. In light of the insecurity pervading the country, the DSS should not continue to issue search warrants and invade people’s homes in the dead of the night because armed robbers can take advantage of this to harm citizens.

“Under the constitution, citizens’ privacy, their homes, phones and others are guaranteed and the EFCC should not be trampling on people’s fundamental human rights.

There is nothing so sacrosanct about the arrest of internet fraudsters that cannot happen during the day. No circumstance warrants the display of gangsterism by the EFCC.

“In the case of the lady (Dorathy) whose house was invaded, it later turned out that she was not the one they were looking for. It also later almost turned out that her mother almost had a cardiac arrest. I don’t think we should unleash horror on our citizens in an attempt to justify performance.

“The chairman of the EFCC is somebody we respect so much and I least expect this from him at all. It is being recurring since he came into office. He should rein in and stop this; we cannot have this in a democratic government.”

EFCC now power-drunk under 41-year-old Bawa –Activist

Activist Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigerians, said, “On one hand, I commend the EFCC for going after internet fraudsters but on the other hand, you cannot use lawlessness to solve illegality. Our laws make provisions for how arrests and investigations should be done.

“What the EFCC is doing under Bawa is unlawful because you don’t break into people’s homes in the middle of the night no matter the suspected charges. People have fundamental human rights and you don’t break into the homes of people who are presumed innocent.

“The EFCC is obviously acting outside the law. Bawa must call his men to order. The EFCC is becoming a power-drunk and a lawless organisation. The young EFCC chair should know better and call his men to order.”

Also, civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, in a statement on Tuesday signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, lamented the “increasing spate of absolute lawlessness by operatives and officers of the various law enforcement agencies” in the country.

“There is a sharp rise in the use of Gestapo type operations by the EFCC and the DSS…the EFCC and DSS now use the same style like armed kidnappers, breaking down people’s doors just to effect arrests and most had ended up as mistakes.

HURIWA called on the “National Assembly to adopt the codes of conducts contained in the 2020 Police Act to be applied to all law enforcement authorities and there should be consequences for abuses of these laws”.

Credit: The Punch

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