Undoubtedly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is primarily responsible for investigation of economic and financial crimes in the country.
The functions of the EFCC by the provisions of Part 11, Section 6 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (establishment etc), 2004 are as follows thus: The Commission shall be responsible for -
(a) the enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of this Act;
(b) the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc.;
(c) the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority;
(d) the adoption of measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crimes related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds;
(e) the adoption of measures to eradicate the commission of economic and financial crimes;
(f) the adoption of measures which includes coordinated preventive and regulatory actions, introduction and maintenance of investigative and control techniques on the prevention of economic and financial related crimes;
(g) the facilitation of rapid exchange of scientific and technical information and the conduct of joint operations geared towards the eradication of economic and financial crimes;
(h) the examination and investigation of all reported cases of economic and financial crimes with a view to identifying individuals, corporate bodies or groups involved;
(i) the determination of the extent of financial loss and such other losses by government, private individuals or organizations;
(j) collaborating with government bodies both within and outside Nigeria carrying on functions wholly or in part analogous with those of the Commission concerning -
(i) the identification, determination, of the whereabouts and activities of persons suspected of being involved in economic and financial crimes,
(ii) the movement of proceeds or properties derived from the commission of economic and financial and other related crimes;
(iii) the exchange of personnel or other experts,
(iv) the establishment and maintenance of a system for monitoring international economic and financial crimes in order to identify suspicious transactions and persons involved,
(v) maintaining data, statistics, records and reports on person, organizations, proceeds, properties, documents or other items or assets involved in economic and financial crimes;
(vi) undertaking research and similar works with a view to determining the manifestation, extent, magnitude, and effects of economic and financial crimes and advising government on appropriate intervention measures for combating same
(k) dealing with matters connected with the extradition, deportation and mutual legal or other assistance between Nigeria and any other country involving Economic and Financial Crimes;
(l) The collection of all reports relating suspicious financial transactions, analyse and disseminate to all relevant Government agencies;
(m) taking charge of, supervising, controlling, coordinating all the responsibilities, functions and activities relating to the current investigation and prosecution of all offenses connected with or relating to economic and financial crimes;
(n) the coordination of all existing economic and financial crimes, investigating units in Nigeria;
(o) maintaining a liaison with office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Immigration and Prison Service Board, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, all government security and law enforcement agencies and such other financial supervisory institutions in the eradication of economic and financial crimes;
(p) carrying out and sustaining rigorous public and enlightenment campaign against economic and financial crimes within and outside Nigeria and;
(q) carrying out such other activities as are necessary or expedient for the full discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on it under this Act.
Recently, the EFCC in exercise of its statutory powers has frozen the accounts of the former First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs Patience Jonathan in Skye Bank where a whopping $15, 591, 700 Million was found.
However, Mrs Jonathan has filed an action in the Federal High Court challenging the power of the EFCC to freeze her account. She boldly admitted in an affidavit filed in the court that the money belongs to her.
The pertinent question is: How did Mrs Jonathan came by ownership of such a large sum of money in view of the fact that she was had never being a business woman; she had never held a government appointment but was a civil servant in Bayelsa State.
Surely the sudden and huge wealth of Mrs Jonathan needs to be investigated!
I submit that the EFCC has special power under Section 7 (1) (b) of the EFCC Act (supra) to investigate and seize a property belonging to somebody whose lifestyle and extent of the property does not justify his or her income.
For the avoidance of any doubt and purpose of clarity, it is pertinent to reproduce Section 7 (1) (b) of the EFCC Act (supra) thus:
‘’cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income’’.
So, those who live lavish life styles or acquire properties that are beyond their income should better watch out.