Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), published a list of its most wanted persons. Interestingly, some former state governors featured in the list. Also, unexpectedly, some of the cases deemed to have been adjudged postponed sine die started resurfacing in courts. Regardless of the time lag, we are pleased that at least the anti-graft agency is taking positive steps in resolving matters of criminal indictment against these ex-governors. We hold the view that no one must confuse immunity with impunity. It is a notorious fact that most of the former governors abused their offices, looted their state treasuries and engaged in unprecedented money laundering while functioning as the chief executive and security officers in their various states.
We recall that the pioneer chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, had investigated, indicted and openly revealed mind-boggling discoveries of fraud and barefaced looting of public treasuries by some of these governors. Save for former Delta State governor, James Ibori, who was jailed for money laundering in the United Kingdom and his Edo state counterpart, Lucky Igbinedion, who entered a plea bargain and escaped with a slap on the wrist in a Nigerian court, no former governor has accounted for alleged heists committed by them while in office.
The EFCC has said it is ready to reopen investigation into alleged fraud cases that have been put on hold because of subsisting permanent injunctions secured by the accused. It also said that it was going to rely on Section 15 of the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act to investigate all such cases. We are not impressed by unfulfilled threats and promises. The reeling out of names, sloppy prosecution and media trial of these ex-governors have made incumbent office holders more daring. We reckon that it is a disservice to the nation if prosecution is not diligently carried out. It amounts to mere grandstanding, political vendetta and propaganda to heap allegations without proving them beyond reasonable doubt in courts of competent jurisdiction. It serves no public or moral interest to churn out unsubstantiated allegations. Rather, it garbs the accused persons with a halo of saintliness when they walk in and out of the court rooms and EFCC cannot justify why they have been taken to court. Therefore, we call on EFCC to go a step further to prosecute the high-profile cases.
If the challenge is capacity, we would enjoin the agency to join forces with other security and intelligence agencies and strengthen its financial intelligence unit, its foreign desk, which is said to comprise internal operatives, personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS), International Police Organisation (INTERPOL), as well as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to gather hard facts and go to court with verifiable links of these former governors to the humongous wealth they are believed to have stashed in local and foreign havens. If legislations are the constraints, they should highlight how the National Assembly and possibly, the judiciary hamper and filibuster their genuine quest for justice. We are aware of existing treaties between Nigeria and a number of Western countries, including the United Arab Emirates, which is the latest destination for the country’s looted funds, which can facilitate the seizure process and expose offshore companies deemed to have been incorporated under oblique ownership.
Equally important is for the current leadership of the EFCC to avoid the banana peels that derailed its predecessors. It has been said that some of these former governors have penetrated the commission to spy on their cases. The Acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, himself was said to have been surprised to discover that a former Aide-De-Camp to an ex-governor from a North-Central State, who is undergoing trial for alleged corruption, was working at a sensitive position in the commission. This is objectionable. Where such aberration is suspected or spotted, Magu must order that the affected officers be transferred out of the agency. There is no way a former boss, whom an officer had been loyal and probably still loyal to, could be undergoing trial for corruption and the officer will objectively investigate.