The hope of Nigerians lies in a new invigorated EFCC! It is apparent that corruption is not resting, so those who fight it should not rest at all! Arguably, corruption is actually on the rise with public officers freely romancing the public till in a manner that is regarded as audacious, impudent and atrocious!
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established in 2003, partially in response to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which named Nigeria as one of 23 countries non-cooperative in the international community’s effort to fight money laundering. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act 2004, mandates the EFCC to combat financial and economic crimes.
The Commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes.
It was established under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo to ostensibly lead the charge against corruption in the country. It was the former president’s response to the monumental corruption that had characterized political, economic and social conduct of Nigerians for decades even though there were other laws within our penal code to deal with issues of corruption.
Corruption had grown from the 1960’s when the spokesman of the military coup plotters of 1966, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, accused officials of collecting ten per cent from contract awards to the return of democracy in 1999 when contracts were awarded and never executed while politicians pocketed the whole contract sum. Things degenerated to the level that even the money that was budgeted to fight Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the country estimated to be about $2.1billion was pocketed by top government and party officials of the erstwhile administration. The soldiers were left to fight the terrorists with their bare hands. It was a monumental disaster for which the country is still paying the price in lives, destruction of properties, millions of internally displaced persons and other social dislocations.
While corruption walks in all fours in the country the EFCC that ought to lead the charge have often been found wanting. This is either because of those appointed to head the organization or the lack of political will to drive the process. We would not belabour ourselves with all the things that happened during the leadership of the pioneer chairman of the EFCC, Malam Nuhu Ribadu who played his part in the war against corruption but was literarily pushed out of the system by the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration. Here were are more concern about the recent happenings in the EFCC that had questioned the seriousness of the war against corruption in the country.
Many Nigerians would not forget in a hurry how the former acting chairman of the EFCC Mr Ibrahim Magu was disgraced out of office. For about six years the government failed to confirm him as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency. While the presidency nominated him for the position, the officials of the DSS wrote damning memos against him to the Senate which stalled his confirmation. It was a clear sign that there were no synergy between the presidency and those in DSS who assessed him for the job. However it was a clear indication that the political will was not there to fight corruption.
Because if the will was there the presidency would not allow the man in charge of such a body to be standing on one leg for almost six years.
Besides, the former acting EFCC chairman was not able to extricate himself from the allegation leveled against his predecessor that he was the attack dog of the government that appointed him and was only after the opponents of the government in power. More cases were won on the pages of newspapers than on the courts. The open hugging of the media was a far cry from what is obtainable in other climes where similar organisations first do thorough investigations and have watertight case before heading to the courts. Here the practice is to head to the media first, then investigate, which often left much to be desired, before heading to the court. It was all these kind of shenanigans that made many Nigerians not to lose sleep over the disgraceful way Magu was shown the way out. A very controversial way that Nigerians are yet to be told what actually happened. Since we are a nation of collective amnesia, we have moved on.
We have new substantive chairman of the EFCC, chosen from the rank and file. Abdulrasheed Bawa, a detective and law enforcement agent is currently serving as the chairman of EFCC. Bawa was nominated as substantive Chairman of EFCC on 16 February 2021, and on 24 February 2021 he was confirmed by the National Assembly as the executive chairman and officially took over from the Mr Ibrahim Magu, the former acting chairman of the commission. The new chairman is young, intelligent and is expected to have known the pitfalls that consumed other chairmen of the EFCC and try as much as possible to avoid them.
Interestingly, another alumni of the EFCC, Barr. Ekpungu, has also been appointed as Secretary. Expungu is a lawyer and an expert in financial crimes. With the duo at the helm, one expects a robust onslaught on corruption!
Bawa said recently that a serving Nigerian governor has allegedly withdrawn N60billion from his state’s purse. The EFCC boss said that he has lifted about N60 billion cash from state coffers in about his six years in office. In the latest edition of its in-house magazine named “EFCC Alert”, the agency’s czar, was quoted as saying that Nigerians would soon hear more, about the developing sleaze story. Bawa’s interview, originally given to TVC, was published under the “Setting the records straight” column of the monthly e-magazine, by the agency’s media unit. He said, “Very soon, Nigerians are going to see some of the things that we are doing. I can tell you for free that the new Department of Intelligence that we have created is working wonders. They have come up with a lot of intelligence. “In one of them, a governor in a North-Central state within the last six years (one individual) has withdrawn over N60 billion in cash. “We are looking at all of that, and I assure you that at the end of all of our investigations, Nigerians are going to be briefed of what we are doing behind the scene on cybercrime, politically-exposed persons, as well as engaging government agencies to ensure that we have better processes and procedures on how to do government business. “We are not setting out to be engaging with people on the pages of newspapers or press conferences. We are working hard trying to see what we can do behind the scenes to eradicate corruption.”
While this column appreciates the new EFCC chairman’s effort to be different from his predecessors by “not setting out to be engaging with people on the pages of newspapers or press conferences”, he did the exact thing by making his allegations against the unnamed governor in the media. Worse still he failed to name the governor, thereby raising questions on the desirability of making the unconcluded investigation public at this stage.
While all these are happening Nigeria’s ranking on Transparency International (TI) corruption perception index in 2021 is nothing to write home about. In TI’s corruption perception index, Nigeria is ranked 149 out of 183 countries and the country is now the second most corrupt country in West Africa. This should worry our leaders, especially leaders that were elected because they promised to fight corruption in all ramifications. It should also bother the new EFCC chairman as he tries to create a new EFCC that would be more thorough in its investigations before heading to the court. A new EFCC where the media would get their news from the courts and not from press statements from the EFCC! An EFCC that would go after the big fishes in government and elsewhere and not fingerlings with laptops.