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A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has condemned the face-off between officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and those of the State Security Service (SSS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) over the foiled attempt to arrest the former heads of SSS and NIA, Ita Ekpeyong and Ayo Oke respectively.

In a statement signed and issued Wednesday by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, SERAP described the face-off as counter-productive to the fight against corruption.

The group urged “the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently instruct the leadership of the SSS and NIA to allow anti-corruption agencies to carry out their mandate without any interference whatsoever.”

It added that, “Preventing the arrest of a former Director-General of the Department of State Services, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong; and a former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke so that they are unavailable to answer the charges of corruption against them amounts to abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

“It is patently contrary to Nigerian law and international standards such as the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.

“Nothing more fundamentally undermines public confidence in the fight against grand corruption and trust in government than to see state security agencies paid for by public funds apparently aiding and abetting those suspected of engaging in corruption to escape justice.

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“Obstructing the work of anti-corruption agencies is a text-book case of interference with the orderly administration of law and justice, which can send a particularly damaging message that the government may not be truly committed to the fight against corruption.

“This may in turn affect the government’s whistle-blower policy and discourage the public from coming forward and providing the authorities with useful evidence of grand corruption.

“By moving speedily to stop this kind of behaviour by the SSS and NIA officials, Buhari would be making clear that under his watch those accused of grand corruption would not be allowed to circumvent the law no matter their status in the society.

“Protecting suspected perpetrators from facing justice for corruption may suggest that officials of SSS and NIA are trying to cover up allegations of corruption against those involved.

“Fighting corruption is not just for the EFCC alone or any corruption-specific mandate agencies but it is for all state security officials and law enforcement agencies to cooperate and work together to support the government to achieve its oft-repeated commitment to combat grand corruption and impunity of perpetrators.

“Buhari must wade in to end this face-off if his government is to successfully stop the spread of corruption in the country and protect the integrity and authority of anti-corruption agencies.

“According reports, the EFCC officials tried to arrest the former head of the NIA, Ayo Oke, and former head of the SSS, Ita Ekpeyong, from their homes on Mamman Nasir Street in the Asokoro district of Abuja but were resisted by armed security agents of the two agencies.”

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