At midnight on November 1, 2023, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, carried out a sting operation in hostels occupied by students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Osun State. Sunday Ehigiator writes that the invasion, arbitrary arrest of 69 students, detention and public shaming without due profiling, fell short of global best practices
“My name is Junaid Hafiz Adeyinka. I’m a part-5 student of Computer Science and Mathematics in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in Osun State.
“In the early hours of Wednesday, November 1st, 2023, I was woken up by several shouts and loud banging noises I immediately thought to be gunshots. I was almost very certain we were being robbed at gunpoint due to the nature of the act and the time it was carried out.
“I peeped from the slits in my door to try to get any information on what was going on, but I didn’t see much, but that also let me know that they were not near my door at that moment. I cracked the door of my room open a little bit for better visual analysis and saw my fellow tenants lying face down on the ground surrounded by several gunmen.
“I stepped back into my room, locked the door and started thinking of how to escape the premises. I grabbed my cell phone and texted my family members and friends to let them know that my hostel was being invaded and raided. After that, the only feasible means of escape I could think of was through the roof, so I attempted it.
“In the process of trying to leave, a pipe burst open and began to leak water heavily into my bedroom that still didn’t deter me though as I still lunged into the roof, but after being electrocuted by something up there, I decided it was best to stay and avoid dying.
“At this point, I just lay in my room as the water from the burst pipe continued to flood the room. I remained until the invaders reached my room, after which I was taken out with my cell phone to the courtyard downstairs with other abducted students. It was at this point that I found out it was the EFCC that was carrying out the raid guessing from the jackets they wore.
“It was a harrowing experience as these gun-wielding men surrounded us as I was asked to lay down with my face against the floor, beating us for several minutes before being escorted into the vehicles holding one another like criminals. We were packed tightly into the bus I was taken away with, with several people having to lap others, myself included.
“At this point, I had no idea where I was being taken to, or why I was taken away from my home. Shortly after we started to drive off, we were continuously warned and threatened to keep our heads down and not look up. Not too long after, we stopped, and from the look of things, we had stopped at another hostel within the same estate where, at that moment, I could only imagine that the same actions that were carried out in my hostel, were about to be repeated.
“This was the case, as several other students and young men joined us. As we departed, another threat was issued, this time it was to give a bullet to anyone who tried to run.
“I am not a fraudster. I have never been into cybercrime and never will. I am just a student with several hobbies and skills all technology-related. I am a software engineer, with a diploma in Software engineering and also a technical writer with a blog where I publish content, I also have several work experiences where I have completed internships, some of these companies are EDFIN Microfinance Bank, Lagos, Mark Calthers Consulting Limited and Flosoft. I have undergone several courses on different platforms including AltSchool, Freecode Camp and Udemy and I’m currently undergoing Harvard CS50.
“EFCC, please clear my name. Do not destroy my future. I am a clean Nigerian young student with the vision and potential to be a pride of my family, my country and my world.”
If you are any surprised on why Adeyinka is begging EFCC to clear his name and not destroy his future, what about Nasiru Saidu Ali who faced a similar ordeal since 2019 and is yet to recover from the tag.
Saidu on November 1, 2023, tweeted at the EFCC saying, “My image and Government name, ‘Nasiru Saidu Ali’ are still on your page and many blogs as a Yahoo boy since 2019.
“I wrote to your then chairman to take it down but no response. Your lawyers don’t even show up in court. I have lost a lot of opportunities at home and abroad because of this defamation.”
Hasn’t EFCC just created more Ali’s to the detriment of Nigeri’s economy, image and integrity? A simple Google search on one of the names of the students arrested by EFCC, among other things they have accomplished, revealed conspicuously news links showing that they were arrested by the EFCC for suspected internet fraud.
In the early hours of Wednesday, November 1, some operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invaded some student hostels in Oduduwa Estate near the Obafemi Awolowo University in Osun State and arrested 69 students.
According to an occupant who stays in one of the hostels, the officials came with official vehicles and EFCC jackets. The raiding started around 1 a.m. as they forcefully entered rooms and went away with a total of 69 students.
The students were ferried to the EFCC zonal office in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, under the suspicion by the commission that they were into internet fraud.
Even before profiling the students, the EFCC had issued a press release that went viral and posted the students on their official social media platforms tagging them fraudsters. They also included their names in the press release.
The incident was immediately followed by public outcry and protest led by the Student Union Government (SUG) of the school. People that identified those arrested began to post testimonials of their good character and academic prowess.
Among the 69 persons who were arrested by EFCC was Kolawole Alao, a bright Nigerian Student who won the first place position at the University project exhibition for Digital Nigeria Day with our Design and Development of a 3-axis CNC Milling Machine on October 27, 2023; just four days before EFCC’s raid.
Alao on his X page, @akonml, wrote, “I’m thrilled to announce that my team won 1st place at the University project exhibition for Digital Nigeria Day with our Design and Development of a 3-axis CNC Milling Machine!
“This victory is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of my team members: @logic_QX, @Marvellous_Faw, @ayomidelasaki16, and @skywealt01”
Also among the 69 persons arrested by EFCC was Oluwaseun Owolabi who just got inducted into the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria on October 5, 2023, just 16 days before EFCC’s raid.
The President of the OAU Students’ Union, Abass Ojo, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he was informed that EFCC officials stormed two off-campus hostels in Ile-Ife between 1:40 a.m. and 4:00 a.m to arrest the students.
“But the question remains: how can you arrest people for using iPhones, laptops, and cars?” Mr Abass queried.
The arrest sparked online protests on social media platforms by users who believed the action of the EFCC operatives was baseless.
Using #FreeOAUStudents on X, formerly Twitter, online protesters called for the release of the suspects.
NAN also reported that OAU students, led by the officials of the Students’ Union, also stormed the Ibadan Zonal Command of EFCC in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to protest against the arrest.
Speaking with pressmen, the Public Relations Officer of OAU, Abiodun Olarewaju, said the university would protect the interest of innocent students. He also promised to cooperate with the anti-graft agency to successfully prosecute whoever was culpable among the suspects.
The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) condemned the EFCC’s action in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement, which was signed by the Chairman of the Osun State Axis of Joint Campus Committee of NANS, Ogungbe Adedamola, described the arrest as an “unlawful invasion of the students’ hostels.”
Profiling and Release of Only 58
With the hubris the incident generated, the commission finally did profiling and last and Wednesday, the commission unconditionally released 58 of the 69 students arrested, leaving 11 students still in their custody.
The 11 students still in EFCC custody includes Oluwasakin Moyosore Favour (QTS, A4OOL), Busari Abdulazeez Ayodeji (QTS, 4OOL), Okeke Ifeanyi Success (Pharmacy graduate), Olombeni Micah (FNA graduate), Okesipe Tobiloba(ME 500), Olashile Daniel, Adeleye Olumuyiwa (Pharmacy Graduate), Ayodeji Olumose Ayoudeji, Adesina Gbolahan Adedeji, Oluwadare Abiola Emmanuel (a graduate), and Komolafe Tosin Isaac (500 Civil Engineering).
The commission also pulled down the story from its social media platforms but blogs and national dailies that carried the stories were yet to pull theirs down, thus, still reflecting the fraud tag on their names.
Reacting to the incident, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke posited that the anti-graft agency must always adhere to due process and the rule of law, adding that he has instructed the state’s Attorney General and the school students union and authorities to ensure the protection of the rights of students on campus.
“I have just received a briefing indicating that @officialEFCC has initiated the process of releasing the students from @OAUniversity who were arrested during the morning raid. I have strongly emphasized that strict adherence to due process and the rule of law must be maintained.
“I have instructed the state’s Attorney General to work with the school administration, leadership of the Student Union, and the @officialEFCC to safeguard the rights of the students and ensure that due process is meticulously adhered to. I will continue to keep a close watch.”
Following heavy public criticisms, EFCC announced a ban on sting operations at night by its officers.
The anti-corruption agency issued the new directive on Wednesday, in the aftermath of its operatives’ raid on off-campus hostels in the wee hours of Wednesday.
Announcing the decision of the agency to ban night sting operations in a statement on Wednesday, EFCC’s spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, said “Many of the suspects duly profiled by the Command have been released”.
This happened on a day EFCC announced it had reviewed its operational procedure to align it with the rule of law and international best practices.
“In line with the newly-revised procedures on arrest and bail of suspects by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Executive Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ola Olukoyede has directed that sting operations at night time be stopped in all the Commands of the EFCC,” Mr Oyewale stated.
The agency had in an earlier statement, on Wednesday, announced the arrest of 69 suspects at Oduduwa Estate, Ile-Ife, based on “actionable intelligence on their suspected involvement in fraudulent internet-related activities.”
The agency said “credible intelligence linked Oduduwa Estate with activities of suspected internet fraudsters,” hence the raid.
Disregard for Human Rights
It appears that EFCC failed to do their due diligence or proper investigation, while also going through the right process before proceeding to invade the hostels of the students illegally, thereby disregarding the rights of the students.
Eventually, 58 of the students have been released after being found innocent. It is a case of mistaken identity and breach of their rights as a citizen of Nigeria.
Interestingly, the actions of the EFCC go beyond issues relating to breach of human rights, it goes a long way to further discourage Nigerian Youth, some of the best brains the country has, from never considering staying back in the country and instead joining the ‘Japa’ syndrome.
After all, they have once been regarded as ‘Lazy Youth’ by former president Muhammadu Buhari; so why should they stay back and join in rebuilding Nigeria, when any successful-looking youth is now tagged as a fraudster by the EFCC and his home illegally raided, and he is arrested just for been able to afford an iPhone, a good car, good wears, and smells nice?
Will They Be Suing?
As the deed has been done, and nothing can undo the unwarranted actions of the anti-graft agency, there is room for necessary palliation to ease the future of the affected students.
It has been suggested that the commission must first accept the incident as an abnormality and desist from further similar behaviours. This has been adhered to following the placing of a ban on sting operations at night by officers of the commission.
Similarly, it has been suggested that the commission must tender an unreserved apology to the affected students, take down the post about them on their site, offer a retraction, and plead or pay (if need be) blogs to take down the posts on their page.
While all these may not save the commission from the legal actions predicted to follow their actions, however, it may grant them little empathy in demand for compensation by the affected students.
Meanwhile, a legal practitioner identified as Festus Ogun has advised the student to resist filing a joint suit against the EFCC if they ever consider filing a suit.
In his tweet on the X platform, he wrote, “If the OAU students are considering filing a fundamental rights lawsuit, please resist the urge to file a “joint” suit. File separately and bring an application for consolidation. Those whom you defeated on the street should not use technicality to defeat you in court.”
He revealed that ‘Class Action’ does not work “in fundamental rights cases. It will be thrown out through the window, unfortunately.”
He went further to reveal that, “Under Section 34(2) of the NDPA, 2023, the wrongly arrested Great Ife students have a right of erasure of their data which are damaged with EFCC fraud-related publications.
“EFCC has destroyed the digital footprints of the promising undergraduates arrested at OAU, Ile-Ife. In this age, digital identity goes a long way in career pursuit, especially in the Western world where they are likely to seek better fortune. One of those things Nigeria does to you.
“Our team at @FOLEGAL has volunteered, alongside other lawyers, to assist the OAU students in seeking legal redress at the appropriate court of law, pro-bono-publico.
“The arrest and subsequent detention of those promising OAU students was illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary and unreasonable. Suspending night sting operations is a loud admission that the invasion was wrongful. Next is to make EFCC pay for its crimes. Wait for it. EFCC will pay for its crimes in the fullness of time.”
However, it is yet unclear how many of the aggrieved students have taken up the offer to sue the EFCC for tainting their names.
The arrest and subsequent detention of those promising OAU students was illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary and unreasonable. Suspending night sting operations is a loud admission that the invasion was wrongful. Next is to make EFCC pay for its crimes. Wait for it. EFCC will pay for its crimes in the fullness of time