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Rethinking EFCC’s tactics

The recent raid on nightclubs in Akure by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has raised serious concerns about the agency’s methods and potential violations of citizens’ rights.

While the EFCC’s mandate to combat financial crimes is crucial, its heavy-handed approach in this instance appears to have crossed ethical and legal boundaries.

Operatives of the commission raided two nightclubs in Akure, the Ondo state capital. No fewer than fifty suspected internet fraudsters, including a groom-to-be, were arrested by the operatives of the commission over the weekend.

The groom-to-be and his friends, who were at one of the nightclubs for his bachelor’s eve, were arrested and whisked away by the security operatives.

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One of the eyewitnesses present at one of the raided nightclubs told newsmen that “they entered the nightclubs and lounges, tear-gassing people, beating them up, and arresting them. They don’t care who you are. Many people, including security personnel, were injured as they shot tear gas canisters inside one of the clubs.

“They also took away a groom and his friends from a club. He was there for his bachelor’s eve, and it was so sad as they profiled everyone as Internet fraudsters.”

According to various eyewitness accounts and pictures on social media, the operatives of the commission dehumanised ladies during the nightclub raid.

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In their defence, the EFCC in an update alleged that the suspects were attending a gathering related to internet fraud.

Eyewitness accounts paint a disturbing picture of indiscriminate tear-gassing, physical assaults, and mass arrests, with no regard for due process or presumption of innocence.

The fact that a groom-to-be and his friends were swept up in this dragnet, simply for celebrating at a nightclub, is a reminder of the potential for abuse when law enforcement agencies operate with unchecked power.

The EFCC’s justification that the raids targeted a “Yahoo Party” related to internet fraud does little to assuage these concerns.

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Even if some attendees were suspected of cybercrime, the broad-brush approach of treating every patron as a criminal is a flagrant violation of civil liberties.

No doubt, there is a rise in cybercrimes in the country which should be condemned by every right-thinking Nigerian. There is a culture of get-rich-quick syndrome. Everyone wants to live the fast life, and hard work is seen as primitive. Youths see celebrities and politicians posting collections of exotic cars and private jets and want to live like that.

But raiding a nightclub and harassing everyone there should be roundly condemned. No matter the spin and explanation they want to give.

Where is the place of intelligence? There may be some internet fraudsters at the club, but not everyone there that day is a fraudster.

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Not everyone who goes to a club or hotel is an internet fraudster. That was what gave rise to the #EndSARS protest, where any young man with a laptop is seen as a fraudster and arrested. We are in an age of the digital economy where people are making millions of dollars from remote jobs and digital skills.

Moreover, reports of women being dehumanised during the raids raise deeply troubling questions about the EFCC’s conduct and adherence to basic human rights principles.

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Law enforcement agencies must be held to the highest standards of professionalism and respect for the dignity of all citizens, regardless of the alleged crimes being investigated.

It is worth noting that the EFCC’s chairman had previously banned nighttime sting operations, a policy that appears to have been disregarded in this case.

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Such disregard for established protocols further undermines public trust in the agency’s commitment to due process and the rule of law.

While the scourge of cybercrime must be addressed, the methods employed by the EFCC in this instance are counterproductive and antithetical to the principles of a just and democratic society.

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Indiscriminate raids, physical violence, and mass arrests without due process only serve to alienate the public and erode confidence in law enforcement agencies.

Also, harassing innocent citizens in the club is a breach of their fundamental human rights. This primitive method of raiding clubs, hotels, and breaking down doors should be stopped.

The operatives seem to get their mojo when they are after internet fraudsters and are meek when it comes to chasing politically exposed persons.

The EFCC must urgently reevaluate its tactics and prioritise intelligence-led operations that target specific individuals based on credible evidence, rather than resorting to blanket crackdowns that violate the rights of innocent citizens.

Failure to do so will only perpetuate the perception that the agency’s zeal for pursuing internet fraudsters far outweighs its commitment to upholding the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our constitution.

In a nation grappling with the delicate balance between security and civil liberties, the EFCC’s actions in Akure represent a concerning overreach.

It is our duty to shine a light on such excesses and hold those in power accountable, lest we slide further down a slippery slope towards a society where the rights of the individual are sacrificed at the altar of expediency.



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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