EFCC Gestapo raids on hotels and residences

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THE show of shame qualified as legitimate operations which is gradually becoming a pastime of the agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has cast a worrying veil over all the exploits recorded by the Commission in the past. It’s a throwback to the brutal underhand tactics of the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret police against perceived enemies.

Like a commando, EFCC agents developed a penchant for storming hotels and recreation centers at odd hours and breaking into the rooms of nearly naked and sleeping tenants. They are doing this ostensibly in pursuit of Internet fraudsters, otherwise known as “Yahoo Boys”. The residences are not spared either. The resulting childish statements to explain the oddity exacerbate the provocation. They describe the commission as out of step with global best practices in the fight against financial fraud. Intelligence gathering – surveillance, control and research – drives the operations of anti-corruption agencies globally, not the muscles. Unlike here, law enforcement agencies elsewhere do not apprehend suspects first and then seek evidence to prosecute them. Investigation and evidence gathering precede arrests.

This current EFCC operating style is ludicrous, dull and hideous. It’s a crass way to gather intelligence by tapping hotel guests and everyone in an apartment with the same paintbrush. The commission seems in a hurry to carry out its objectives but ends up sabotaging the heavy task incumbent upon it. This explains why he is losing celebrity business for lack of compelling evidence. Treating tenants in this blunt manner discourages businesses, which the country does not need in these tough economic times.

A Nollywood actress recounted on her Instagram page in July how EFCC officials broke into her hotel room in Lagos at 3 a.m. while she was sleeping soundly, expressing shock that one of the ‘them had the temerity to ask where his partner was. She said they later apologized and left the room, observing that she was not the one they were looking for.

A similar incident occurred on the penultimate Monday as commission officers broke into the residence in Lagos of a former Big Brother roommate Naija Lockdown. The lady accused the invaders of entering her room at around 4:45 a.m. that day. She expressed her anger by recounting the incident on her social media platform almost immediately after the raid.

If the two stories seem bearable to the victims of this fashion, it was not the same for a man, who lost his life during an EFCC invasion in February 2021. The victim jumped to his death. ‘an apartment at 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos, when commission agents stormed the building looking for suspected internet fraudsters.

A man also recounted how EFCC agents arrested his Italy-based client when they raided a hotel in Ibadan, Oyo state, where he had been staying with his children in sight. of his return to Italy. He said the man’s arguments that he had to take the COVID-19 test to allow him and his family to return to Italy fell on deaf ears until ‘they miss their flight. It was alleged that the man was then called into the ‘boss’ office who gave him two bottles of wine, a clock and a card to say they were sorry. It is simply unfair. It is absurd to treat with civility the personalities accused of financial crimes but to brutalize others because they have no political connection.

Indeed, the dust raised by Abdulrasheed Bawa’s appointment as EFCC chairman was settled with the consolation that his youth and knowledge would inject new ideas into the commission to vigorously embrace and deepen investigative techniques. and fulfill its core mandate. It was believed that his arrival on board would change the story. But the bad start has ended the achievement of any milestone so far.

The committee should be reminded that the modern way of tackling economic crimes is primarily through the use of the brain, not brute force. It requires precise intelligence and investigation, not gut-wrenching operations. In 2019, the Office of Public Affairs of the United States Department of Justice announced that a coordinated law enforcement effort against commercial email compromise programs (cyber financial fraud) by the Department of Justice , the United States Department of Homeland Security, the United States Department of the Treasury, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Department of State, conducted over a period of four months, resulted in 281 arrests in the United States and abroad, including 167 in Nigeria, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana. Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. The arrests led to the seizure of nearly $ 3.7 million. The operation was deliberate, precise and thorough. Above all, it was undertaken clandestinely; electronic monitoring and control tools were used. The EFCC has a lot to learn from this if it is to make major strides in its fight against financial crime.

He must quickly retrace his steps and get out of the path of other Nigerian security agencies that operate dishonourably with impunity and draw outrage from inside and outside the country. Invariably, they have not been effective. The EFCC can also set itself up for failure and create more problems if it continues to indulge in recklessness. Victims must cry out and seek legal redress for violating their rights. Civil society organizations should fight back by resisting the commission’s new appetite for illegality and helping victims who cannot afford their litigation. Bawa should instill sanity into EFCC operations.

Stakeholders, especially CSOs, should remember that, as is the case with many public security agencies in Nigeria, the abuse of power by commission agents through overzealous acts ‘will worsen, unless the class action cures them of their unruly conduct. Furthermore, those whose rights have been violated by commission officials should not hesitate to go to court to seek redress and stop the envenomation of the chaotic operating style.

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