EFCC’s Aggressive Raid on Public Spaces as Trigger for Public Outcry

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s, EFCC, ongoing crackdown on public spaces across Nigeria has sparked widespread outrage and anger, with the latest raid on Signatures Elixir Club and Shaunz Royale Club in Ondo state being the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As Nigerians condemn the agency’s aggressive tactics, Sunday Ehigiator writes on the growing backlash and calls on EFCC Chairman, Olanipekun Olukoyede, to take immediate action to address the situation and restore public trust and accountability

“At about 1:30 am on Saturday, June 8, 2024, the men of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came into our premises. There were about 40 of them and they came with about 10 unregistered Toyota buses.

“The only thing that could be used to identify them was their red jackets and the guns. The introduction they gave to the security men at our gate who couldn’t identify them immediately was beatings and some of them sustained injuries in the process.

“After gaining access into our premises they rounded everybody up and instructed them to lie down on the floor. They were using snooker sticks to beat people to comply. Both male and female customers were dealt with mercilessly.

“Other members of their team went into the club and rounded everyone up and released tear gas in the process. We were lucky to have adequate first aid materials on the premises that were used by our staff to rescue some of the customers who had various forms of medical emergencies.

“While they identified some of our staff and allowed them to go, others were still beaten after identification. The CCTV engine room was completely turned upside down and the CCTV engine was taken away.

“The Ondo State chairman of the medical association was on the premises and was maltreated even after identifying himself. An international footballer, known as Tiger, who played for Super Eagles identified himself with video evidence as a footballer.

“He was arrested and only took the serious intervention of men at the gate before he was released. Yet they took away his white colour G-wagon with the customized number plate ‘Tiger’ to Ibadan and told him to come and collect it in Ibadan.

“This vehicle is still with them as we speak. Lots of phones were confiscated from people and they asked the owners to come and collect them at Ibadan. Three Laptops belonging to our DJs were taken from the DJs even with the DJ stickers on the laptops.

“A lot of damages were done to our premises and a huge loss was recorded during the period of the raid.

“We wish to make very clear that no one reserved our premises for any kind of party as we are just a business entity carrying out the business we duly registered with the government of Nigeria to do. All over the world people set aside weekends to unwind and this is exactly what was happening in our business premises.

“Finally, we wish to apologize to all our customers who witnessed this unfortunate incident and promise to lawfully engage all relevant authorities to prevent such incidents from reoccurring. This incident will not deter us from serving you better. Thank you, Signed: Signatures Elixir Management”

Victims Account

One of the victims, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared her ordeal in a post on X. She wrote: “At the EFCC office, they asked if I was associated with Yemi Fash, and I confirmed. They then asked me to write a statement, and I showed them my injuries. I mentioned that I was with my cousin Niyi, Deji Olateru-Olagbegi, and our friend Seun Alabi.

“However, they refused to let me write my statement, instead providing a generic one. They also didn’t allow me to mention the physical harm I suffered, including a dislocated bone and muscle pull. I had a visa appointment scheduled for Monday, June 10, at 10 am, which I missed due to their actions.

“They went through my phone and asked if I sold clothes, and I explained that I’m a fashion designer specializing in Agbada, Sokoto, and Buba. They mocked me, calling me an ashewo (prostitute) because I often worked with men. I provided my home address in Lagos and explained that I was in Akure for business.

“They demanded that I write down my name, age, background, and family information. One of them sneered, ‘You’re a princess? Why didn’t you identify yourself?’ I replied that they hadn’t given me the chance to speak. They intimidated me, threatening to confiscate my phone if I didn’t write what they dictated.

“I eventually returned to Lagos by 11 pm, traumatised and unable to stay in a hotel in Ibadan. The experience was worse than an accident.”

Another victim wrote, “On June 8, 2024, I had a distressing experience at Signatures. I was there with friends, celebrating one of our birthdays when the EFCC operatives stormed in. Initially, we thought they weren’t targeting us, but our relief was short-lived.

“They began beating a woman, shattering our calm and sending us into a panic. We shouted in alarm as the situation escalated “They herded us into a single room, tear-gassed us, and people started suffocating.

“Some had an asthma attack, but they showed no concern for the welfare of those affected, instead continuing to beat and confiscate our phones.

“We were held in custody for four hours, sitting on the ground like criminals. Only after they left did people rush the injured to the hospital. Our ordeal didn’t end there; on our way back from Ibadan, we were involved in an accident while trying to retrieve our phones, and we didn’t get home until 11:23 pm. It was a harrowing experience.

“My visit to the Ibadan EFCC office was equally unpleasant. Due to traffic and bad roads, I arrived at 2:00 pm. After searching us, we were made to wait for an hour before writing a statement, and another hour before being attended to.

“They thoroughly searched our phones, invading my privacy, but I couldn’t protest as I was in their office. After waiting for three hours, my phone was returned, and we left around 5:20 pm.

“Unfortunately, our tyre burst on the way back to Akure, and we were caught in the rain, arriving very late. I’m still recovering from the cold and cough I developed that day.”

A brother of another victim wrote: “Good morning, bro. I want to commend you for your efforts, especially in Akure. My sister was at Signatures on Friday when the EFCC seized her iPhone 15. She went to Ibadan yesterday, but they couldn’t locate her phone.

“She’s returning to the UK tomorrow and is unsure if she’ll ever see her phone again. To be honest, that’s not even the main reason I’m so angry. I’m fuming because the EFCC released a false statement denying everything and, worse still, they’ve destroyed someone’s business without justification.”

EFCC Reacts

Following public outcry after EFCC had earlier tagged the 127 persons it admitted arresting as “Suspected Internet Fraudsters,” the commission in another statement signed by its Head of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, said, “The Operatives executed a classical sting operation at two Clubs simultaneously in Akure based on credible intelligence, leading to the arrest of the suspected fraudsters.

“The operation, in line with the established ground norm for such engagement, was devoid of any incident as the Operatives conducted themselves professionally.

“It was therefore shocking to be confronted with narratives, particularly from the social media about brutalisation, including a trending video of two ladies showing bodies lacerated by whips.

“The Commission wants the public to discountenance this video as it may have been stage-managed to achieve unclear motives. The Commission will subject this video to forensic analysis to establish its falsehood and prepare a case against the purveyors of this distasteful stunt.

“The Commission wishes to state that no suspect was assaulted, brutalised or subjected to any dehumanising treatment during the Saturday operation. It is also false that tear gas was fired at the crime scene.

“Those familiar with the Commission’s operations know that EFCC personnel do not use tear gas during sting operations. The officers that carried out the arrests neither came to the scene of crime with canister or tear gas nor whips, to inflict bodily injuries on suspects.

“It is also important to state that no damage was done to the CCTV facility at the scene of the arrest. The device was removed by a staff of the Club at the instance of operatives of the Commission to preserve the footage for further analysis of the role of each of the arrested suspects in the alleged crime.

“Specifically, one of the arrested suspects, the manager of the Club, who confessed to the crime and directed the removal of the CCTV device for further investigative works by the Commission, is in the custody of the EFCC with the CCTV. He is assisting in the investigation of the crime.

“It is needful to state, for the umpteenth time, that the Standard Operating Procedure of the EFCC forecloses the use of brute force or unprofessional conduct in the course of any operation. The EFCC is a civilized law enforcement agency with optimal respect for human dignity and the rule of law.

“Meanwhile, profiling of suspects arrested at the scene of the crime has been completed. They will be prosecuted accordingly.”

EFCC Flouts Ban on Nocturnal Operations

But while the commission may have issued it’s defence, what they were however silent on was why they chose to disregard the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, November 1, 2023 directive banning nighttime sting operations across all EFCC commands.

This decision came in response to the arrest of 69 suspected internet fraudsters in Ile-Ife, Osun State, by the Ibadan zonal command.

According to a statement released by EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, the chairman’s directive aims to ensure adherence to the rule of law in the commission’s operations.

“The chairman gave the directive in Abuja on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, in reaction to the arrest of 69 suspected internet fraudsters in Ile-Ife, Osun State, by operatives of the Ibadan zonal command of the commission.

“Already, many of the suspects duly profiled by the command have been released, while profiling of suspects yet unreleased will be completed, without further delay.

“The commission wishes to assure the public that it will not relent in its adherence to the rule of law, in the exercise of its mandate,” Oyewale said.

Despite the clear directive issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to cease nighttime sting operations, the agency has brazenly flouted its own rule, persisting in the practice of conducting raids on public spaces under the cover of darkness.

This blatant disregard for their protocol has raised eyebrows and sparked outrage, as the commission’s actions seemingly contradict their earlier declaration.

By continuing to carry out these nocturnal raids, the EFCC has effectively rendered its ban null and void, eroding trust and fueling criticism from those who question the agency’s commitment to upholding the rule of law and respecting the rights of citizens.

The commission’s defiance of its directive has not only undermined its credibility but also perpetuated a culture of impunity, suggesting that the EFCC operates above the law and is unaccountable to the very people it purports to serve and protect.

Alleged Selective Raids by EFCC

In an X post titled ‘EFCC is a Criminal Organisation/Anti-South’, @PIDOMNIGERIA accused the agency of only carrying out raids in the Southern part of the country and never in the North.

The post read, “Show me just one hotel or relaxation spot in Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa, Niger, Borno, Yobe or any of the core-northern Muslim states that EFCC @officialEFCC has raided before. But it’s a daily occurrence in the southern parts of Nigeria.

“They are intentionally killing the hospitality businesses over there, and yet our leaders cannot see the handwriting on the wall.

“EFCC @officialEFCC is a criminal organization, and that is the truth. It is only a criminal that will break into your house or business by the middle of the night without any notice, and cart away your properties.

“It is only a criminal that will invade your house by the middle of the night, and first destroy your CCTV cameras, so he or she is not identified, or actions recorded. It is only criminals that will invade your home by the middle of the night and whisk you away without telling you where they are taking you, or the reason.

“Even in the US, UK, Germany etc with advanced technologies and investigative prowess, you will never see them parade 15, 20, 35, 40, 67, 90, 110, or the so-called 127 Fraudsters in one day.

“Like how on earth is that possible? How can you arrest 127 fraudsters in one day? But it’s a daily occurrence in the south, and no one is saying anything. Even in Hushpuppi and Woodberry’s case, it took the FBI almost 4 years to investigate and track them, to get undeniable evidence against them.

“But EFCC on every eke market day will parade 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, from lbadan zonal command, Port Harcourt zonal command, Lagos zonal command, Enugu zonal command, Anambra zonal command etc, as if fraudsters are now like sardines flooding the streets of southern Nigeria. How on earth can they claim to have arrested 127 fraudsters in one night, in one location?

“This goes to show that what EFCC has been doing is simply raiding selected locations and arresting random people, both the guilty and innocent and then tagging them as fraudsters; snapping them together in groups, and then circulating their photos on the internet for our lazy blogger’s journalists and media houses to share without confirmation or private investigation to confirm the truth behind the story.

“EFCC will beat, intimidate, torture and force innocent people to agree or confess to be fraudsters. In most cases, they will offer you a plea bargain deal, so they can confiscate your money, property or properties that they had seized. Because they know if they charge you to court, they can’t prove any case against you, because they have no case against you.

“But because of your money and properties, they will kill your spirit by traumatizing you. They will detain you for 3 weeks or a month without taking you to court, with a daily barrage of threats.

“They will now offer you a plea bargain deal if you accept to be a fraudster and put it down in your statement. They will then charge you before a special judge, who is in bed with them, and ask the judge to temper justice with mercy with a lighter sentence, as you are a first-time offender who is now remorseful.

“The judge will grant their plea, and sentence you to one-year imprisonment, with an option of 20k, 50k, or 100k naira fine without further conditions to the bail. You can now gain your much-awaited freedom, why does EFCC confiscate your money, cars, houses or houses, jewellery, phones and laptops, in the name of forfeiting it to the federal government, it’s a lie.

“They will not remit what you forfeited, or they will underreport the actual forfeitures from you. With that, they have succeeded in rendering you useless with the name tag, ex-convict, even if you didn’t serve prison time.

“The question is, where are all the properties and monies EFCC claimed to have recovered from fraudsters? Can they be seen and verified? Can they be audited to ascertain their true figures? How do they forfeit proceeds of fraud to FG? Who receives them on FG’s behalf? What happens next?”

 In fact, the EFCC’s disobedience of their ban on night raids is reminiscent of the infamous End SARS era, where Nigerian authorities similarly disregarded citizens’ rights and ignored calls for reform.

Just as the EFCC’s nocturnal raids evoke fears and memories of the brutality and intimidation tactics employed by the now-disbanded SARS unit, the commission’s defiance of its directive echoes the government’s refusal to heed the demands of End SARS protesters, who sought to end police brutality and impunity.

The parallels between these two scenarios underscore the persistent struggles with accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights in Nigeria, highlighting the need for sustained advocacy and reform efforts to ensure justice and protection for all citizens.

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