The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken former Minister of Power and Steel, Mr. Olu Agunloye, to court on charges of fraud. Appearing before Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court on Wednesday, Agunloye pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.
Following his plea, the judge ordered his remand at the Kuje Correctional Center until the bail proceedings are completed.
The EFCC had declared Agunloye wanted in December 2023, citing allegations of forgery and corruption. The former minister’s image was publicized with a call for information leading to his arrest.
After the EFCC’s alert, Agunloye was arrested and detained. The case is related to the Mambilla project, and Agunloye, who served under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government (1999-2003), is under scrutiny for allegedly awarding the contract for the project without Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval. Agunloye denies the accusations, countering that the former president is distorting facts.
Rights, and the pursuit of Justice
Agunloye’s travails generated a lot of reactions from Nigerians. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka while weighing-in on the matter, questioned the EFCC’s action.
In his statement titled – “In pursuit of justice, productivity, under the rule of law,” Soyinka argued that the practice of citizen detention at the whim of either religious blackmail or secular arrogation demands curtailment at source, most especially when exercised in defiance of the law, and the pronouncements of its agencies.
“The immediate provocation for these reflections is the ongoing predicament of a former Minister of Power, Dr. Olu Agunloye, currently detained by the EFCC, in total contempt of sense and justice, or indeed, basic humane considerations. We shall not go into the merit or demerits of the charges raised against him over a 16-year-old project that bears the name Mambilla. –that is the business of the law courts,” Soyinka wrote.
“Our concern at this moment is however only partially on the basis of individual fundamental human rights. Most fortuitously, the detention of any former public servant under circumstances such as Agunloye also provokes the question: how is public interest – such as the pursuit of justice – served by such an arbitrary exercise of power?’’