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Lawyer flays EFCC, U.S senator’s spat over recovered Abacha loot

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A Nigerian lawyer, Mr. Martin Okpalaeke has criticised the recent altercation between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a prominent United States of America’s Senator, Charles Grassley, over the recovered Sani Abacha’s loot.

The lawyer expressed serious concerns at the exchanges of words in strong language between the EFCC and the U.S Senator, who is the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Finance.

Senator Grassley reportedly wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in which he called for the stoppage of the repatriation of all funds running into over $300 million recovered from bank accounts said to be connected to Nigeria’s late Military Head of State, General Abacha.

The senator accused the EFCC and its acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, (SAN), of being biased against critics and political opponents of the incumbent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the fight against corruption and of being “agents of oppression.”

The EFCC, in its response by its acting Spokesperson, Mr. Tony Orilade, was quite robust and vehement in its defense, insisting that there was no iota of bias in the Commission’s handling of criminal cases under Magu, particularly corruption cases, and that the anti-corruption battle being fought by the Commission has been “impartial, objective and non-discriminatory.”

The Commission’s statement concluded by asserting that the U.S. Senator’s accusations failed to address the painstaking efforts of the acting Chairman, Magu, in tackling corruption without fear or favour, cooperating with the U.S. in fighting cyber crimes, and in the transparent and accountable handling of recovered funds.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Malami, on his part, dismissed the U.S. Senator’s assertions as baseless.

Okpaleke, called for the de-escalation of the apparent tension by toning down of the rhetoric by both sides.

While commending the U.S Senator and the U.S government for their consistent interest in the work of Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies, particularly the EFCC, Okpaleke was of the view that the concerns raised in the U.S. Senator’s letter and the accusations contained in it are not sufficient grounds for the Senator or anybody to call for the money not to be returned to Nigeria through the normal processes and channels considering, according to him, that there is no dispute that the monies are Nigeria’s public funds that were unlawfully taken out of Nigeria and unlawfully domiciled in bank accounts within U.S. jurisdiction.

He added that it was important that attention should be on the totality of EFCC’s work in combating economic and specialized and sophisticated crimes and not be unfairly and narrowly focused on corruption cases involving politically exposed persons. He contended that any fair-minded person would score the Commission’s performance under Magu creditably well based on publicly available information about the Commission’s work.

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