EFCC; Few days ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) released a statement that it would be seeking to vacate the Perpetual Injunction obtained on the 23rd of March, 2007, by then Governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, eternally restraining the anti-graft agency from investigating him, Rivers State government and its officials. As expected, that announcement has generated so much interest among Rivers people and indeed Nigerians.
That Perpetual Injunction granted by Justice Ibrahim Buba on the aforesaid date is arguably the most heated and most debated judicial orders in Nigeria, and a lot of strictures have been laid against it by lawyers and non lawyers alike as “unconscionable judicial immunity for acts of corruption”, “act of judicial indiscretion” amongst other scathing criticisms.
Dr. Peter Odili, however, sought to justify why he obtained the Perpetual Injunction in his celebrated autobiography titled “Conscience and History”, where he weaved a narrative that the injunction was necessary to protect himself and other government officials from politically influenced persecution which they were subjected to at the time. Not many buy that alibi though.
The most astonishing thing about this Perpetual Injunction, however, is that even people who had tended to portray a persona of probity and integrity in public office had quickly resorted to hiding under the umbrella of this perpetual order whenever issues of accountability and giving account of their stewardship propped up.
There is absolutely no governor of Rivers State since 2007 who has not happily deployed this Perpetual Injunction obtained by Dr Peter Odili as a defensive shield against the sniffing of EFCC on the heels their financial transactions.
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor of Rivers State from 2007-2015 took maximum advantage of this Perpetual Injunction, even went to court to reaffirm it and organized massive street protests against EFCC to stay clear of Rivers State in which many persons who criticized Dr Odili for obtaining the order participated, brandishing the Perpetual Injunction as raison d’être for the protest while bellowing “respect for rule of law”.
Governor Nyesom Wike, the incumbent, following the footsteps of his predecessor, is also clinging menacingly to the Perpetual Injunction like an endangered boat passenger at sea clings to his life jacket. There were insinuations that he has also gone to court to remind the EFCC and other federal anti-graft agencies of the efficacy and subsistence of this much maligned Perpetual Injunction.
As you can now see, even though Dr. Peter Odili has always been the fall guy in the court of public opinion and is the one who has taken and continues to take a deluge of withering punches on his face for obtaining this injunction, succeeding governors and administrations have all ingeniously exploited this order to the fullest, magnifying it into a gargantuan fortress against probity and anything that tends to ask for account of their stewardship.
There is no saint in Brick House, nor has there been any devil or villain, who has distanced himself and his administration from benefiting from that Order. The “gain” for that order, which is essentially like “nobody, no authority from outside Rivers State can question what I do with Rivers resources, so I can do as I like” has been carefully appropriated by all, reserving the blame solely for Sir Dr. Peter Odili.
If the EFCC succeeds to set aside this Order, all that may change. Dr Odili could be called to give account of his stewardship to Rivers people. But it may not stop with him and his government. His successors too, who have also happily took advantage of the blanket Order may also have their own day in court. And cans of worms may be opened.
I have always craved for a society where people are not afraid to give account of their stewardship, a society where institutions are not fettered and ambushed from carrying out their lawful duties in a lawful manner. Those who have served us should not loath it when questions of accountability are raised. Rivers State will better for it.
If EFCC can, let the veil be torn down, and let those who have served give account. The culture of accountability will benefit Rivers people.
Wrote this from Port Harcourt.