A human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, has said that the appointment of the chairmen of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission from the same geopolitical zone is unlawful and violates the Federal Character Principle.
Falana made this assertion on Monday during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.
He argued that the Federal Character Principle, which is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and the Federal Character Commission Act, requires that appointments to public service institutions reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country.
He said, “If you are going to have the EFCC and the ICPC, the heads cannot come from same zone. If there are two positions in the public service, one must go to the North, and one must go to the South. If there are four, two must go to the South, and two must go to the North. If there are six, one must go to each geopolitical zone. That is the law in Nigeria today.”
Falana noted that the recently appointed chairman of EFCC, Mr Ola Olukoyede and the ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye are both from the South-West geopolitical zone.
He said that although Olukoyede is qualified to head the EFCC, he is not comfortable with the fact that both anti-graft agencies are headed by people from the same zone.
“So, I am not comfortable with the fact that the heads of the EFCC and the ICPC are from the same zone. Apart from that, Mr Ola Olukoyede is eminently qualified to head the EFCC. My colleagues who have criticised the appointment have not looked at the relevant provisions of the EFCC which is Section 2”, he said.
Falana also condemned President Bola Tinubu for suspending Abdulrasheed Bawa as EFCC chairman on June 14, 2023 and detaining him without trial by the Department of State Services.
He said that Bawa’s suspension and arrest were arbitrary and unconstitutional, as he was not given a fair hearing or charged with any offence.
He called on Tinubu to release Bawa immediately and respect his fundamental human rights.
Bawa resigned as EFCC chairman on October 12, 2023 after spending four months in detention by the DSS.
His resignation was announced by Tinubu in a statement that also named Olukoyede as his successor.
Bawa was appointed by former President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2021 following the suspension of Ibrahim Magu over allegations of corruption.