Sunday Akpotor is a professor of Political Science at Delta State University, Abraka. In this interview with MARK ITSIBOR, he speaks on ways of improving the efficiency of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in the light of recent events in both commissions.
What is your comment on the allegations against the immediate past EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu?
Corruption is endemic in Nigeria. There is no institution that is free of corruption here because of the way our laws and operations are written. When you say corruption, it is so common in Nigeria. The way the rules are written in every office creates room for public servants to always steal money. Whether you like it or not, you will find that previous EFCC chairpersons may have been stealing without pub-lic knowledge. But this time around, by way of Buhari, he has made it public.
Do you think the current process of appointing a Police officer to head EFCC should continue or what should be the ideal way of appointing a head for EFCC?
We have to think of other ways to find impeccable characters in Nigeria – either retired Judges who are still strong or credible people to do the job? Not Policemen, they cannot. We need renowned people with clean credentials. There are people we know can fight corruption. But people who appoint heads for the anti-graft agencies also want to eat from the sys-tem. A retired professor who is known for discipline or a retired Judge who will not be moved by money and seen to be ready to help the system; those who have clean hands are the kind of people that should be allowed to head EFCC. Not even lawyers because they are also looking for money. If you put them, they will steal the money and use the law to cover it.
Are you by that stance advocating for a review of the EFCC Act?
Yes. The Act should be amended to address the flaws in the appointment of a serving policeman as head for the Commission. The review should also ad-dress other grey areas that can give strength to the ability of the EFCC to fight corruption. It shouldn’t be only a Policeman that should head EFCC, review it. The appointment should also reflect federal character. All the EFCC chairmen came from the North. That alone is a problem.
But what do you make of the argument that there are some incorruptible characters in the Police force?
It’s hard to believe that. There is no policeman that has not taken a bribe in one place or the other; either at a roadblock or in some other form. Nobody can say that. When you are there, you are infected. Just like those days when we were in the University of Ibadan. If you are in a Zik hall, you behave like a Zikite. So, the Police uniform thought them to be-come that. Why would they continue to collect money for bail for instance? I don’t like it.
Are you optimistic that the ongoing investigation of Magu’s stint in EFCC will produce any good results?
Yes. But my fear is that Buhari is not an active man. If it was when he was very active, he would sack them if the probe doesn’t come out well. The allegations against Magu are too strong. There is no way he can be exonerated in all the charges. I expect the probe panel to carry out due diligence of the matter. From what has been raised so far, there is no smoke without fire. The report may be fine, but prosecution is the problem. Implementation of the findings may be the challenge. I cannot predict Buhari on any heavy sanctions on anybody.
How would you assess the Police and their activities on Nigerian roads, with regard to roadblocks?
There is so much extortion going on in our roads by uniformed Policemen. I think it should be checked. I strongly believe that if you want to secure this country you should police all the roads with a combined task force of armed Police and Soldiers. In Nigeria, the Police have failed completely. However, it will be good if you mix them up with the Army and deploy them to highways to secure our roads. The army respects your rights. There should be constant patrolling of the roads.
What would you say is responsible for the controversies and alleged official corruption in NDDC?
The stealing in NDDC is guaranteed by the Nigerian laws which allow people to steal. The lack of checks on their activities is majorly responsible for the failure of the Commission. If not, how do you explain a situation where the NNDC will take a regional project outside of its jurisdiction? How do you comfortably send children on scholarship abroad and refuse to fund their education and stay in those places? How can you give N200 million to Police? Is that Niger Delta affair? How do you pay people to go and inspect projects you executed? They want to steal money, that’s why. People who are supposed to oversight the programme and projects of the NDDC are shielded from doing. So the whole place is rot-ten. The place is totally messed up. Look at several deplorable roads across Delta or other parts of the region; they cannot fix them despite the funds given to them.
What is the solution?
We need constant monitoring of NDDC programmes. The government should appoint another secret monitoring group like NGOs who will go there and oversee their programmes. Dissolve the board and bring back the former board as a substantive board for the commission.
Do you support those who say the NDDC should be scrapped and the funds for it be shared among the states and LGAs in the region?
That’s a good suggestion. But the challenge is that we are not transparent in this country. Project tied funds should be released directly to local governments, indicating a detailed amount for such projects and the specific benefiting communities. Why should an NDDC project be located in Nsukka? That’s appalling. The governors may not apply the funds well. So, let the monies go to the oil communities. Then appoint a very strict body to supervise the application of the funds in the execution of projects. You will see better peace in this country.
Do you see hope in the NDDC probe with accusing fingers between the NDDC management and the National Assembly members?
Most of them in the National Assembly, including Akpabio, are involved in the contract scam going on in NDDC. Governors in the region are also involved. That’s why they are always interested in who is appointed to head the NDDC because of the contracts that are awarded from there. That’s why I said give the monies to the communities and you will see a good result.
Kindly rate the NDDC’s performance in the Delta region.
Considering the amount of money they have got so far and the job done, they have failed. You need to see the poor state of infrastructure across the region. It could have been better. There is a need to get everything right with NDDC for the actual benefit of the region.
How can the NDDC better perform?
The bottom line is that: if the government wants NDDC to work, it will work. The President will look for the best hands to manage the Commission and the allocations to the region. Don’t appoint politicians to the board and management of NDDC be-cause they will go and pay their masters.