*CAUTION AGAINST POLITICAL WITCH-HUNT
Cautioning that federal agencies of law enforcement need to exercise greater restraint, follow legal steps and imperatives and be alive to certain sensitivities, prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the practice by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to invite for interrogation suspects on Sunday which is officially a non- working day.
Besides, the Right group has counselled hierarchy of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be professional and not continue the unconstitutional practice of media trial of accused persons and involvement in political persecution. HURIWA said the persistent flouting by statutes and provisions of the constitution is capable of truncating effective crusade against Economic crimes.
The Rights group spoke against the backdrops of reports that erstwhile secretary to the Government of the Federation and former Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, was invited, questioned and then detained on a Sunday, just as the group said the tendency to violate sanctity of such a day like Sunday that is not an official working day is insensitive, provocative and divisive.
HURIWA said however, that it is not saying that law enforcement agencies can’t enforce the law on any specific publicly recognised non working day because the end needs to justify the means, but the Rights group said the Sunday-Sunday invitation questions the essence of why Sunday is work free.
In a media release, by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) affirmed that inviting suspects on a Sunday violates an extant Public Holiday Act and amounts to denying such persons invited or detained their freedom of Religion.
HURIWA cited the the implications of Sunday invitations as adumbrated by legal expert says: “The nation of Nigeria, public holidays have the same status for workers as the weekly Sunday day-off. Employers may generally not compel work on Sundays or public holidays in Nigeria. The law that establishes public holidays in Nigeria is the Public Holiday Act. The Public Holiday Act creates public holidays for the entire Nation of Nigeria. The holidays are of three types: Christian holidays such as Christmas, Muslim Holidays such as the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and general holidays such as Labour Day. The Public Holiday Act was enacted on 1st January 1979. It abolished previous public holidays and set the process for making public holidays for the nation, states, and local areas. The President has the power to declare holidays for the entire nation or any state or part of the country. Governors have the power to declare public holidays in their states or for any part of their states. The Minister for Internal Affairs has powers to change designated holiday dates when he or she determines it necessary or appropriate. Nigerian workers have a right to a day rest on Sundays, and no work on public holidays. Employers and employees must negotiate and agree on pay for holidays and Sundays. This agreement can be in a labour contract, Union agreement, or public employee contract.”
“Sincerely, this attitude of the officials of EFCC of always inviting suspects for interrogation on Sundays is toxic and dangerous. We are not saying that if an offence is committed on public holidays that the accused person be let off the hook, what we are saying is that it is insensitive to invite someone who is not a flight risk and who in any case is a politically exposed person such as Anyim Pius Anyim, on a Sunday of all days when it is known that he can not possibly escape from Nigeria before Monday. By the way, is it not better to maintain surveillance around the person the EFCC plans to invite till a working day so the agency is not described as being anti- Christianity?’
HURIWA recalled that Former Senate President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim had spoken on his two day detention by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. He claimed he was not arrested and that he was the one who voluntarily went to the commission to clarify his role in a petition, being investigated. Anyim was mentioned in connection with some N780m, diverted by Senator Stella Oduah when she was the Minister for Aviation.
HURIWA quoted the former Senate President through his, Anyim’s Media Adviser, Sam Nwaobasi issued a clarification in a statement Tuesday night. He titled it Senator Anyim Pius Anyim’s Visit To The EFCC thus: “We have been inundated with inquiries from friends, associates, PDP faithfuls and the general public with regard to media reports since Sunday the 24th of October 202q, on Senator Anyim’s detention by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which according to the reports “was part of investigation in a case of an alleged corruption and diversion of public funds.”
Anyim Pius Anyim spoke further on his ordeals: “It has, therefore, become necessary to put the record straight on what went on between Sunday, the 24th to Tuesday, the 26th of October as follows:“Senator Anyim got information that some person invited by the EFCC, in connection with some matter it was investigating mentioned his name in the statement made to the EFCC. Determined, as always, to ensure that the truth prevails, Senator Anyim reached out to the officer handling the matter, and offered, on his own volition, to come over to the EFCC to clarify any issues around which his name was mentioned. The officer was delighted, and they agreed to meet in his office at the EFCC by 3pm on Sunday, the 24th of October, 2021. “At the agreed time, Senator Anyim arrived at the EFCC office. He was never invited by the EFCC.”
Senator Anyim continued: “After his engagement during which Senator Anyim was as candid as could be, to his utter surprise, he was told he would not be going home that day. By the next day, the EFCC gave the conditions for his release which were met promptly. It took up to Tuesday, the 26th for the EFCC to complete the processes after which he was allowed to go home.”
The former Senate President said too: “Senator Anyim, as a law abiding citizen, will always submit himself to any process required by any agency of the government in the discharge of its duties. Senator Anyim, though not disturbed or worried by his encounter with the EFCC, after all, he went to their office by himself, has however noted some reports in some social media platforms that deliberately distorted the facts just to call his integrity to question.“Senator Anyim remains steadfast in his commitment to join hands with men and women of goodwill to unite, heal and advance the cause of our dear country, Nigeria, and will continue to offer himself and services to the pursuit of same, notwithstanding the blackmail, falsehood and misinformation and misrepresentations that some opportunists will seek to make out of such episodes like his recent encounter with the EFCC. He believes that together, we shall all build a better Nigeria.”
HURIWA has therefore called on the EFCC not to make herself available to the powers that be and the All Progressives Congress to be used for political mischief and calculated witch-hunt against members of the political opposition in Nigeria.