Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Femi Falana, says it is against the federal character principle for the chairmen of the two anti-graft federal agencies in Nigeria to come from the same geopolitical zone.
The senior lawyer said if the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is from the northern region, the southern region should produce the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
“If you are going to have the EFCC and the ICPC, the heads cannot come from same zone,” Mr Falana said during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Monday.
Mr Falana also said the recently appointed chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ola Olukoyede, is “eminently qualified” to head the anti-graft agency having previously served as Chief of Staff to the EFCC Chairman (2016-2018) and Secretary to the Commission (2018-2023) as well as having 22 years cognate experience.
Both Mr Olukoyede and ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN), who has been in office since February 2019, are from the South-West geopolitical zone.
On October 12, 2023, President Bola Tinubu has appointed Mr Olukoyede as the new EFCC boss for a renewable term of four years in the first instance, pending Senate confirmation.
Mr Olukoyede’s resignation followed the controversial resignation of embattled ex-EFCC boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who was suspended on June 14, 2023 and detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) over “weighty” allegations of abuse of office levelled against him.
Many lawyers and analysts have criticised the appointment of Mr Olukoyede, saying he is not an Assistant Commissioner of Police and not qualified to lead the EFCC.
However, Mr Falana said there Mr Olukoyede is qualified to lead the anti-graft commission having previously served in some high capacity in the agency.
“There is no issue; the only issue that has been raised has to be considered by the government is that we have in this country, the Federal Character Commission Act and also by the virtue of Section 14 of the constitution, appointments must reflect Federal Character.
“If you are going to have the EFCC and the ICPC, the heads cannot come from same zone. If there are two positions in the public service, one must go to the North, one must go to the South. If there are four, two must go to the South, two must go to the North. If there are six, one must go to each geopolitical zone. That is the law in Nigeria today.
“So, I am not comfortable with the fact that the heads of the EFCC and the ICPC are from the same zone. Apart from that, Mr Ola Olukoyede, is eminently qualified to head the EFCC. My colleagues who have criticised the appointment have not looked at the relevant provisions of the EFCC which is Section 2.”