Lawyers warn against turning EFCC into SARS

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Human rights lawyers, Tolu Babaleye and Inibehe Effiong, have expressed their concerns about the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) conducting operations reminiscent of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police.

Their statements come in response to the recent arrest of over 60 students from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, during a midnight raid on off-campus hostels by EFCC officials. This incident triggered a protest by the university’s students, prompting the EFCC to instruct its operatives to cease nighttime sting operations.

Babaleye, in an interview, cautioned the EFCC against actions that could incite anger among young people, potentially leading to an anti-EFCC protest similar to the #EndSARS movement. He also called on the Federal Government to instruct the EFCC to refrain from engaging with tertiary institutions.

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He stated, “The EFCC should focus on high-profile cases instead of targeting easy-to-arrest individuals while allowing major fraudsters to evade capture. They should maintain their elite status as a well-trained force and avoid behaving like the disbanded SARS. Mistreatment of young people on campuses may lead to future protests. While we acknowledge that some students may not be well-behaved, violating the sanctity of campus life is not the solution. The EFCC should make it mandatory to inform the institution’s management before conducting on-campus arrests, establishing clear rules of engagement.”

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Effiong also emphasized that the EFCC has no business with students and should instead notify the school’s management when a suspect is identified. He added, “Simply discontinuing nighttime operations is insufficient; the EFCC should stay away from campuses. Their actions have been a source of embarrassment and must cease. Armed operatives invading higher education institutions in search of internet fraudsters is indefensible. The affected OAU students deserve a formal apology and compensation from the EFCC, as they not only arrested them but also publicly disclosed their names and images on the internet. The EFCC’s behavior parallels that of the disbanded SARS and must be rectified. Incidents like this have occurred in other institutions as well.”

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