OAU: Aggrieved parents chide EFCC, demand justice over alleged criminalization of innocent students

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*Photo: Some of the parents at a press briefing in Lagos *

By Shakirudeen Bankole

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Parents of Obafemi Awolowo University Students (OAU), Ile-Ife, under the auspices of the Parents’ Coalition Against the Invasion of O.A.U Students’ Hostels by the EFCC, have demanded justice for the criminalization of their “innocent children” by the operatives of the nation’s anti-corruption agency.

It would be recalled that on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, the Economic and Financial Crime Commissiom, in one of its controversial sting operations, clamped down on one of the hostels of OAU students to arrest a total of 69 students on the allegation of Cybercrime.

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The public outcry that followed the incident, in addition to the school management’s insistence on the illegality of the operation, led to the release of 58 out of the lots.

The remaining 11 students are currently facing trial before the Federal High Court, Osogbo Division, under Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel.

At a Press Conference on Friday in Lagos, the group, expressed shock at the development and demanded justice.

Speaking through one of them, Mr. Yinka Junaid, the parents said the EFCC’s invasion in such a gestapo-like manner was a gross violation of their children’s rights to privacy.

In a communique released after the briefing, the group said such actions, without
any prior investigation, concrete evidence or reasonable suspicion, are unacceptable and can never be justified.

He said by the virtue of the operation and the broadcast of it across the media, EFCC has irreparably tarnished their hard-earned reputations, integrity, and as well subjected them to criminalization and public humiliation without any iota of “evidence.”

Calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,Mr. Lateef Fagbemi SAN , and the Chairman EFCC, Mr. Ola Olukoyede, the group said the trios are also father’s and can relate to the injustice and trauma, hence the need for them to intervene.

Junaid said justice is required to assuage them over the violatiom of their fundamental human rights and that of their children’s who, like them, are also suffering Post Traumatic Stress from the incident.

The parents accused and demanded answers from EFCC for failing to adhere to established protocols and legal procedures in conducting
the operation, as there was no record of issuance of Search Warrant before the children were invaded and psychologically brutalised.

“Our children were arrested without any
proper explanation or justification, and treated with such shame and disdain. In fact, we strongly believe that no prior investigation, as dictated by law, was conducted sequel to the operation. Conversely, it was a case of the students already presumed and labelled guilty, and each one having to prove his innocence.”

The protesting parents also called on the members of the public and civil society organizations to stand with them in solidarity and fight the injustice.

“We call upon the Nigerian Bar Association, human rights organizations, and relevant stakeholders to join us in our pursuit of justice and the protection of our children’s
rights.

” It is crucial that we collectively raise our voices to safeguard the rights and dignity of every
Nigerian citizen, especially our youths, who represent the future of our great nation. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”

The Communique, continued:
“We, as parents, stand firmly in defence of our children’s rights and demand the following:

  1. Unconditional release and Clearance: We call on the EFCC to completely release all our children on
    whom nothing has been found unconditionally, and without delay. We also demand that the agency
    expunge their names, pictures, identities, biometrics and everything pertaining to them from all EFCC
    records and all social media platforms. To this end, we expect the announcement of the removal of
    their names followed by the issuance of a public apology. The public apology must be adver^sed in
    leading na^onal newspapers and circulated on all its (EFCC)social media handles, websites, independent
    online media outlets, and all news agencies in the country. We also call on the agency to speedily conclude its investigations on students who have been released
    but whose devices including academic tools are still being held.
  2. Accountability and investigation: We demand a thorough and impartial investigation into the
    circumstances surrounding this operation. We make an outcry to the Chief Law Officer, Honourable
    Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi SAN and the Chairman EFCC Mr. Ola Olukoyede
    in this regard. It is worthy of mention that during the Honourable A.G’s screening exercise on the Floor
    of the Senate, he had condemned EFCC’s unfashionable mode of operation.
  3. Reform and safeguards: Once more, we call on the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation in
    particular, and urge the government to implement reforms within law enforcement agencies, including
    the EFCC, to prevent similar incidents in the future. Strengthening legal safeguards, oversight
    mechanisms, and training programs is essential to protect the rights of Nigerian citizens.”

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