EFCC-NAF Face-off and the Worrisome Media Trial By Saleh Labaran

It is very worrisome how the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has so far handled its alleged fracas with Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel in Kaduna. One doesn’t need to be a security expert to frown at how EFCC resorted to seeming media trial, in this past and in this case with another government agency, without exploiting other channels or avenues available to resolving the matter.

No matter the issue at stake, the EFCC should have engaged the leadership of the NAF at Kaduna and if that failed reached out to the NAF leadership at their headquarters in Abuja, rather than seeking public sympathy even before the matter is being thoroughly investigated.

The EFCC and the NAF are both government institutions with key roles to play in the security architecture of our country. Therefore, it does not augur well for the Federal Government for them to be seen bickering over an issue that could have been easily managed.

While EFCC has succeeded in its war against corruption and cybercrimes, its tactics of media trial and judgement has not in any way helped its cause and, in some instances, dent its image. This has been the general opinions of security experts and media professional. For instance writing in the Guardian on November 24, 2021 titled, ‘The EFCC gaffes, media trials and politics,’ Sulaiman Aledeh attributed EFCC’s style of media trial to either, ‘distrust in Nigeria’s judiciary or the absence of enough facts and evidence to charge the alleged people.’

The writer wrote that “Latching on to pent-up emotions from the Nigerian public would not give the EFCC the respect and attention it desires. Instead, winning cases by thoroughly going through the court processes will earn the Commission the respect it deserves.”

There was a similar case regarding students of Obafemi Awolowo University that was poorly handled by operatives of the EFCC. Here, the EFCC media trial style was dissected by Sunday Ehigiator in a piece published in ThisDay Newspaper of 13 November 2023, where he noted that the Commission’s strategy of public shaming without due profiling, fell short of global best practices. Writing under the banner, ‘OAU Invasion and EFCC’s Penchant for Arbitrary Raids, Media Trials’ Mr Ehigiator stated that “Even before profiling the students, the EFCC had issued a press release that went viral and posted the students on their official social media platforms tagging them fraudsters. They also included their names in the press release.”

While the EFCC has the right to feel embittered by the allegation that NAF personnel stormed their office in Kaduna and attempted to release their colleagues, irrespective of what occurred, the approach adopted by the graft agency was uncalled for and unnecessary, because it would merely create needless inter-agency rivalry.

I strongly believe that critical government agencies must learn to find amicable ways of solving issues involving their staff and operatives. While one must commend the NAF and its leadership for their maturity and dignified silence on the matter, it is nevertheless necessary that it investigated the incident and take appropriate punitive measures if its personnel conduct themselves in most inappropriate manners.

As agencies within the security sectors their bosses and especially the spokespersons should iron out their differences and nip the public altercation in the bud.

Saleh Labaran writes from Kofar Dukawuya, Kano.

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