Is ‘Media Trial’ On Alleged Corruption Cases Good For Our Democracy?

By Musa Ilallah

No one doubts the fact that media as the fourth estate of the realm today, faces quite a number of challenges including it being used by politicians, anti corruption agencies among others to drag some prominent persons reputation and integrity to the dogs through media trial.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been fingered as prominent in this enterprise. It recently issued a statement allegedly accusing a minister of laundering N37bn during her tenure in office without a prior formal notification to the ex Minister concerned.

This was subsequently followed by a publicly released fresh 72-hour ultimatum to former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq to appear before its investigator for an ongoing probe into the N37.1bn fraud allegedly laundered during her tenure in office.

Sadiya, had on hearing these developments through social media wrote a letter through her lawyer, Sir Oladipo Okpeseyi, SAN, for a three-week extension to her summon due to health challenges.

As a patriotic law abiding citizen, the ex Minister escorted by her lawyer at her behest stormed the EFCC headquarters on Monday to clear her name of all the fabricated and malicious accusations unjustifiably levelled against her.

The key accusation was that the ex-minister was invited over alleged laundering of N37, 170,855,753.44 in her ministry during her tenure through a contractor, James Okwete.

Although the ex-minister had denied having any link with the implicated contractor, the anti-graft commission insisted that she should come for questioning.

Despite her letter to EFCC asking for 3 weeks to enable her recuperate and be in a position to fully face the investigators, it gave the ex-minister three days to appear or risk being declared wanted.

In his defence of the EFCC invitation to the ex Minister, it’s spokesman, Dele Oyewale stoutly defended it saying: “it is made pursuant to Section 38 (I) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Section 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.”

Disturbed by the frequency with which the EFCC potrays the ex Minister and other public figures in the public domain as outright corrupt persons before giving her an opportunity to hear her side of the story, a Civil Society Organisation, CSO ‘The Legends Mandate, TLM called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission not to be carried away by the ‘salacious and sensational reports’ around the alleged diversion of funds by the former Minister Sadiya Umar-Farouq and her ministry.

The President of the group, Dr. Isaiah Adamu, in a statement said that the billions of Naira being bandied around is not enough to assume that funds had been misappropriated, “especially if we consider the predominance of poverty in the land, which the ministry was set up to resolve.”

“I am assured that Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq did her best despite all the abuses, the name-calling, and the antics of naysayers. Hajiya Umar-Farouq did her best and should not be unnecessarily vilified for projects that were executed with a chain of people and officers being responsible.

One has no option but to agree with attemots to disparage and disgrace our role models by mischief-makers who take delight in defaming our leaders at all costs.

Records contained in her handover note showed that the former minister left more than N50 billion for Covid 19, Geep and Npower funds in the coffers of the ministry which her successor, Beta squandered in less than 5 months.

Farouq took to social media on Monday morning to announce her presence at the EFCC headquarters saying “I have, at my behest, arrived at the headquarters of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to honour it’s invitation to offer clarifications in respect of some issues on her stewardship.

I think the anti corruption agencies in the country need to revisit their strategy of going public first before formally inviting public office holders to appear before their investigative teams. There’s need for more friendly approaches to replace the current odd and outdated practice.

Media trial for the anti corruption guests is provocactive, unfriendly and too primitive. It’s indeed a cog in the wheel of progress of our nascent democracy.

It is commendable that the current Acting Chairman of the EFCC has publicly acknowledged that the practice of holding ‘invited guests’ to the Commission to face investigators for more than 48 hours is no longer the vogue. More of such human face reforms are needed in interacting with its guests. .


Tunde Alade

Tunde is a political Enthusiast who loves using technology to impact his immediate community by providing accurate data and news items for the good of the country.

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