As we approach another election cycle, it is expected that the antics of political actors would increase. As they seek to gain the upper hand in the power play, it is almost a given, if the pattern is anything to go by, for the polity to witness the filing of petitions as well as legal suits.
The recent saga involving the former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) tells this much.
Shortly after the EFCC tracked down and arrested the former governor, Nigerians were greeted to the commonplace response from his media team that he was being persecuted by his successor, Senator Hope Uzodimma.
As much as the response was typical of our political elite, the intent, it would seem, is to drag the institution into the cesspit of a power tussle in the state.
The intent of projecting the EFCC in this light might not be far from previous allegations by persons being tried for corruption claiming that the institution is being used to hound them for political reasons. Indeed, the news archives are replete with such claims by political actors.
While the validity or otherwise of such claims is open to debate, with the unfolding Okorocha saga, we might be approaching the same scenario again where political actors would seek to drag the EFCC into their political battles. But the polity can’t afford such a scenario.
Not long after, the former commissioner for information in Edo State, Prince Kassim Afegbua, filed a petition with the EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) asking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to account for N10 billion raised by the party during the 2019 election cycle.
Although the party denied raising such an amount, it has instead accused the petitioner of blackmail, disclosing that the amount raised was N4.6billion.
This unfolding tussle also underscored the intrigues of the times as we enter another intense electoral cycle.
Being mindful of the season we are approaching and the tendency for politicians to seek to manipulate the anti-corruption agencies, it is expedient that they become more discerning so as not to be hoodwinked by desperate political actors.
However, as a paper, we believe, and strongly too, that the EFCC and ICPC, as institutions saddled with a prime responsibility of tackling financial crimes, which have remained a major burden in our society, should not shy away from investigating and prosecuting any persons accused of dipping their hands into the public till illegally.
We do not subscribe to the commission backing down from doing its job for fear of being blackmailed or intimidated by political actors.
If anything, the need for the anti-graft agencies to live above board cannot be over emphasised. We encourage the commissions to do their jobs professionally and not, by default, sabotage their own cases because proper and diligent investigation was not carried out.
This charge comes against the backdrop of the fresh revelations recently that over 800 properties worth $400 million in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been traced to politically exposed persons (PEPs) in Nigeria.
Thanks to Matthew Page, an associate fellow, Chatham House, who stated this while delivering a paper entitled ‘Illicit Fnancial Flows (IFFs) in Real Estate and Education Sector: Implications for Investigators’ at a two-day capacity building for investigators of IFFs, organised by the ICPC.
He further disclosed that 35 state governors had acquired a total of 69 properties, five presidency staff members are controlling 13 properties, while 16 lawmakers are in possession of 45 properties.
According to the findings, 15 ministers have 25 properties, 158 suspected politicians’ proxies are in control of 226 properties, 14 security sector leaders – 71, 50 PEPs-linked business persons – 91, 13 known Nigerian law enforcement agency suspects – 216, 16 heads of departments and agencies – 25, 11 NNPC officials -19, and a judge – one.
He also revealed that Nigerian politicians spend over $30 million annually on UK education.
With revelations like these, the task for the anti-graft commissions cannot be more demanding.
Still, the call for government institutions to operate above board and be insulated from the whims and caprices of politicians can never be overemphasised.
In any case, it is heartwarming that the young and vibrant chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, has made his stance known on how he intends to execute the mandate of his office.
We expect also that the chairman of ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, would steer the commission to keep to the provisions of its constitutionally delegated responsibilities.