Hon Kayode Oladele represents Egbado North/ Imeko Afon Federal Constituency of Ogun State in the House of Representatives. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the chairman, house committee on financial crime opined that the EFCC is not witch hunting the opposition. He also spoke on some other issues.
What are the challenges you have encountered since you took over the committee on financial crime?
I have not encountered much challenges because what we do is already contained in our legislative agenda. One of the house mantra for this session is the fight against corruption. From time to time, we sit with the EFCC to discuss their challenges which has become our challenges. We have a tremendous support from the speaker as well as the members of the committee.
Some Nigerians believe the EFCC has been polarised, do you share such sentiments?
No, I disagree with that view because from time to time, what people say depends on what side of the divide they are in. If they are on the other side of the law, then it is witch-hunting, but the EFCC is doing its job and so far, they have been doing very well. Nobody is using them to witch-hunt anybody.
Since the coming of this administration, the EFCC has not successful gotten a conviction of any person accused of treasury looting, don’t you think this is sending the wrong signal?
People feel that, the EFCC should be the prosecutor, judge and everything in a case which cannot be. The EFFC, under the mandate given to it, investigates any report or any form of abuse of public trust. When it is complete, and they feel there is a prima facie case against a person, they refer the case to its prosecutor who will now file a case in the court. The EFCC does not control the docket or the judiciary. So whatever the judiciary wants to do with the case depends on individual judges whether they want to accede to the antics of the defence which is why from time to time, you will be hearing of unnecessary court adjournment upon adjournment, just to frustrate the case.
Most times, when we look at the activities of the EFCC, what we use to gauge their performance is the political prosecution, but it goes beyond that. We have the cybercrime act which is being handled by the EFCC. We have the money laundering act which is being enforced by the EFCC. People have been taken to court and even convicted by the EFCC within this same period but because they are not politically exposed persons, people feel, that is not much. If you know the bad image those who engage in cybercrime give this country, it is worse than those of politically exposed persons. Because it affects foreign direct investment. It affects our image all over the world. So if you assess the activities of the EFCC, it should be in the light of what I have just said, the buck does not stop at the EFCC when it comes to cases. As you know, the judiciary is under scrutiny because of corruption. You cannot prosecute a corrupt case effectively without support of the judiciary.
Still on witch hunting, the PDP has accused the EFCC of targeting their members, how true is this?
It is not true, I appeared before a TV program recently and they asked me this same question. I sited some instances where right now, some perceived friends of the president are with the EFCC and nobody is talking. The EFCC is concerned with the case on corruption and it doesn’t matter whether the person belongs to the APC or PDP. They use this politically motivated cases as a form of propaganda. Let me give you one instance. Somebody who was a part of the arms procurement committee is in detention for some time now and he still hasn’t been released. He was very close to the president before otherwise he couldn’t have been appointed by the president. And today, he has spent about two months there, being investigated on corruption and nobody is talking. The former deputy speaker of the house who was in the PDP but defected to the APC was also detained by the EFCC before he was released. So we have a lot of people like that. It doesn’t really matter which party the person belongs to, as long as there is a case of corruption against that person, the commission must move against the person.
There seems to be the issue of over lapping of duties between the EFCC and ICPC. Is that being looked into and should the two agencies be merged as some are suggesting?
It is not the first time that the issue of the merger is coming up. A committee was set up by the last administration and it came out with a recommendation that they should be merged but the government white paper on merging disagreed with that. The white paper said they should function separately. I also agree with that position. I also remember that the former chairman of the ICPC, Aniola was also of the opinion that, the two agencies be allowed to perform their functions independently because no one steps on the function of the other. They have different mandates, I can tell you that. If you look at the enabling law, you will discover that their mandates are not the same. The EFCC is supposed to handle economic and financial crime, regardless of whether you are in the private or public sector while the ICPC looks at only public officers. The EFCC handles the issue of money laundering. We also have the financial intelligence unit which is under the EFCC. So, if you look at the enabling laws, they are different. I have worked with the EFCC before and I can tell you that, we never had any clash in our duties. But when you look at the current economic situation, you might be inclined to say, why don’t we merge the two so that we can minimise cost and all that? Beyond that, I don’t think they pose any threat in their duties.
Some are of the opinion that Mr President should allow the national assembly appoint the head agencies like the EFCC instead of the current trend we have now?
Some people have said that but all appointments are actually done by Mr. President, it is only concerning the control that questions may arise. Right now, the EFCC is not in the first line charge like the ICPC. The EFCC is under the presidency. Whatever budget they have is controlled by the presidency unlike the ICPC that has control over its budget. When we were working on the 2016 budget, after we collated everything, we gave it to the chairman, committee on appropriation then and when the final papers came out, we started looking at the headings and at some point, the speaker was asking, ‘where is EFCC budget?’ because he saw the ICPC BUDGET and didn’t see the EFCC’s own. I knew that their budget was under the presidency. The chairman of the appropriation committee hard earlier told me before Mr. Speaker pointed it out that the EFCC budget was imbedded in the presidency budget. So it was imbedded in the Presidency budget. This is because the enabling law has not been reviewed to give them first line charge.
But do you think it is good for a country like Nigeria to have its anti-crime agency like EFCC under the presidency?
We need to amend the laws so that it can come out of that incubator. The EFCC must come out on its own, so that, it will be independent. Sometimes the chairman can be fired without completing his term because he is working directly under the person that appointed him. This is not healthy. We have seen that happen in the past. Their activities can be tinkered with by the presidency. So, in order to ensure fairness to all, for people not to say the president is using it to witch-hunt anybody, the law has to be amended. I have spoken to the other members of the committee, I don’t have any problem with that, and I believe that before the end of this session, there will be an amendment to that effect.
There have been rumours of corruption within the commission concerning its officers. Has the committee received such allegation?
The committee has not received such petitions. Under the constitution, we are their supervisors. We have oversight responsibility over the EFCC and if there is such concerns, it can be sent to the committee and we will invite the commission or officers affected to come to us but so far, we have not received such petitions. I am also aware that the EFCC has an internal affairs department headed by a director. It investigates cases of this nature against an officer. It was established under the former chairman, Lamorde. If anybody has any news or information with facts, they should file a petition and submit it to the office closer to them. People that work in the EFCC did not drop from heaven. If there is somebody they feel should not be there, they should bring their petitions with facts and it will be looked into.
You mentioned petition, what it will take for one to petition the EFCC because most people are afraid to come out with information due of the cumbersome process involved?
It is very easy, people can write petitions to the commission or the commission itself can investigate people who they think are living above their means. EFCC has branches all over the country now so that they can be very close to the people. You don’t have to come to Abuja with your petition. They are still opening more offices to make it easier for Nigerians to access them. All people need is to write a petition to the zonal head who will act on it. People must know that no matter how powerful the eye of the eagle is, it cannot see everywhere. Nigerians must bring information without fear.