By Tony Idoko Esq
Ever since the news filtered out that Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede would be appointed as the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), some faceless disgruntled elements have decided to misinform the public about his person and credentials to be appointed to that important office.
First came an article published by Premium Times Online News medium by someone who wrote that Mr. Olukoyede once worked with the former Vice-President. This is far from the truth as this has never been the case.
Similarly someone wrongly wrote that he worked with Mr. Femi Falana (SAN). Though these are very revered legal luminaries, he has never worked in the offices of either of them.
I am obliged to make this rejoinder because of another article published by the THISDAY Newspaper written by a self-obsessed group that calls itself “ALLIANCE FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE AND DUE PROCESS’. One Mr. Ayelabola Hussain who claimed to be the Group’s Coordinator deliberately made very false and misleading statements about Mr. Olukoyede and other matters he had little or no knowledge of at all. He erroneously claimed that Mr Olukoyede’s bank account was under investigation and frozen and also made allusions to the fact that this was public knowledge. I was really aghast to read that falsehood especially at the length some people can go to design falsehood at inhibiting the progress of innocent people.
The purveyor of that falsehood never gave details of the bank account and the bank it is domiciled. I followed the case closely and never found or read at any time that this happened. In fact, it is completely false. He is still operating his bank accounts without let or hindrance. I await Mr Ayelabola Hussain to prove otherwise.
Let it also be put on record that Mr Olukoyede was not suspended because of any wrongdoing or crime he committed. Note also that he was not suspended on the recommendation of the Justice Isa Ayo Salami’s Panel of Inquiry. Rather, he was amongst other staff of the EFCC who were suspended as administrative protocol demanded because the Panel claimed that it wanted unhindered access to documents in the offices of the affected officers. It is also very instructive to state that the Presidency lifted the suspension after he was cleared of any wrong doing by the Panel. He was also further issued with a clearance letter to that effect.
ON HIS QUALIFATIONS:
Mr Olukoyede is a Trained Lawyer, Attorney and Regulatory Compliance Consultant, Specialist in fraud management, compliance management and corporate intelligence. offered more than 20 years of Leadership expertise, a certified Fraud examiner, Led and managed as an Attorney and consultant, investigation and civil litigation of fraud and financial crimes in International development projects, Consultant on manpower development for law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies. he has also carried out system study review for a number of Financial crime law enforcement agencies, Government institutions and corporate organizations both locally and Internationally.
Being a former Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman of EFCC with fathom of experience in managing high and low level personnel to ensure high performance, his responsibilities included Coordination and Analysis of Reports from all the directorates in EFCC, Supervision of the conduct of investigations involving all suspects, politically exposed persons and other high profile cases also analysis of updates on prosecution of all cases handled by the Commission.
Also as the Secretary to the Commission EFCC ,he had the statutory responsibilities of being the head of the secretariat of the commission in charge of developing, implementing and coordinating compliance with Strategic Policy documents for OPERATIONS, LEGAL and ADMINISTRATIVE sections of EFCC. What else does he need to bring in terms of qualifications, experience and proficiency to prove he is duly qualified for the office?
Analysis of the relevant sections of the EFCC Act in respect of the appointment of EFCC Chairman:
I begin with the question of what is the intendment and interpretation of sections 2(1)(a)(i)-(iii), (p), 2(2), 3(1)-(3) and 8(5) of the EFCC Act which deals with eligibility and qualifications of the Chairman of the EFCC? I will begin my answer by making reference to the guiding principles for the interpretation of statutes (i.e. laws) as established in a long line of settled Judicial Authorities laid down by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In the recent Supreme Court decision in Nigerian Army v. Abuo (2022) LPELR-57980 (SC), at Pg. 35, the apex Court held that:
The guiding principle in the interpretation of statutes is well settled – see Amaechi V. INEC (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1080) 227, wherein this Court observed: The primary concern of the Judge is the attainment or ascertainment of the intention of the Legislature by examination of the language used therein.
Where the language used in the legislation or statute or Constitution is clear, explicit, and unambiguous, the Judge must give effect to it as the words used speak for themselves.
The Supreme Court further held in the case of Ejuetami v. Olaiya & Anor (2001) LPELR-1072 (SC) at Pg.23-24, that:
That the words used are to be given their ‘ordinary and natural sense’ i.e., the legislature is to be presumed not to have put a special meaning on words… that the Court is not concerned with the result of its interpretation: it is not the Court’s province to pronounce on the wisdom or otherwise of the Act but only to determine its meaning. (See Pearce, Statutory Interpretation page 13).
Therefore the clear, explicit and unambiguous words used in sections 2(1)(a)(i)-(iii), (p), 2(2), 3(1)-(3) and 8(5) of the EFCC Act must be given their ordinary and natural sense in line with the above guidelines set by the Supreme Court in its long line of undisturbed judicial precedents. Therefore, it is apt to reproduce the wordings of those sections so as to unveil their ‘ordinary and natural sense’. Section 2(1) of the EFCC Act states thus:
2(1) The Commission shall consist of the following members-
(a) A chairman, who shall-
(i) Be the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Commission.
(ii) Be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent; and
(iii) Possess not less than 15 years cognate experience.
It is clear from the above provisions that a person must be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police before he can qualify to be the Chairman of the EFCC. Furthermore, the person must have possessed not less than fifteen (15) years cognate experience. What then is the meaning of the word “member” as used in sub-paragraph (ii) above? The Black’s Law Dictionary (9th Edition) at Pg.1073 defines the word “member” as “one of the individuals of whom an organisation or a deliberative assembly consists.” It therefore goes without doubt that once you are or were a member (i.e. serving or retired) of a government security or law enforcement agency, then you have satisfied the provisions of section 2(1)(a)(ii) of the EFCC Act.
The second question is what is the meaning of the phrase “cognate experience” as used in sub-paragraph (iii) above? The Black’s Law Dictionary (9th Edition) at Pg. 295 defines the word “cognate” as simply “one who is kin to another.” In other words, it means “something that is same or similar or alike to another.” The same Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd Edition) also defines the word “experience” as “time spent learning a skill or field of knowledge.” However, the provision of sub-paragraph (iii) did not state the nature of the experience which a person is required to possess its similar or alike for fifteen (15) years! That lacuna notwithstanding, it is only logical to imply that such cognate (i.e. similar) experience is presumed to be that of the work or functions of the EFCC acquired anywhere since the EFCC Act did not state the specific place where it must be acquired and the intention of the law makers is clear that it can be acquired anywhere which is why they did not narrow the place of its acquisition to a specific place or organisation. It is also unambiguous by the provisions of sub-paragraph (iii) that once a person possessed fifteen (15) years of such cognate (i.e. similar or alike) experience, then he has satisfied the provisions of sub-paragraph (iii) of section 2(1)(a) of the EFCC Act. Section 2(1)(p) of the EFCC Act plainly, ordinarily and unambiguously established the Secretary to the Commission (i.e. EFCC) as its member and head of its administration.
The ordinary meaning of section 2(2) of the EFCC Act is that all the members of the EFCC as provided in section 2(1)(a)-(o) are part time members except the Chairman and the Secretary who are full time members.
The ordinary meaning conveyed by the provisions of section 3(1)(2)(3) of the EFCC Act are that:
(1) The Chairman of the EFCC shall hold office for a period of four (4) years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years only.
(2) the Chairman and any member of the Commission can be removed by the President for sickness of body or mind which hampers the discharge of his functions or for misconduct or where the President forms the opinion that it is not in the interest of the public that the member (including the Chairman) should continue in office.
(3) a member (including the Chairman) may resign his membership by notice in writing addressed to the President and that member shall cease to be a member on the date the President received his notice of resignation.
The provisions of section 11 of the Interpretation Act also reinforced the power of the President to appoint, suspend and remove the Chairman of the EFCC. It also reinforces his power to appoint a person in acting capacity up to such time as considered expedient by the President and may also seek for his confirmation by the Senate.
Section 8(5) of the EFCC Act provides that:
For the purpose of carrying out or enforcing the provisions of this act, all officers of the Commission involved in the enforcement of the provisions of this act shall have the same powers, authorities, privileges (including power to bear arms) as are given by law to members of the Nigerian Police.
The ordinary meaning and sense of the above provision is that all officers of the Commission (whether engaged in prosecution, administration or investigation who are engaged in the enforcement of the provisions of the EFCC Act) must equally have the same powers, authorities and privileges as are given by law to members of the Nigerian Police.
Any other interpretation of the provisions of sections 2(1)(a)(i)-(iii), (p), 2(2), 3(1)-(3) and 8(5) of the EFCC Act different from the above is not in line with the guiding principles of interpretation of statutes established in the above cited Supreme Court cases and therefore erroneous, misleading and probably self-serving.
Tony Idoko Esq