When former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2003, partially in response to pressures from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, which then had named Nigeria as one of the 23 countries that were not cooperating with the international community’s efforts to fight money laundering, his action received more knocks than praises.
While some saw the antigraft agency as more or less a toothless bull dog, modelled to witch-hunt ‘used and dumped’ friends or allies of the former President, others saw the development as a good step in the right direction in curbing the activities of corrupt politicians and fraudulent Nigerians who had succeeded in giving the country a very bad image internationally.
Some of its earlier victims were a former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, after his first term in office; former governors of Plateau, Jigawa, Bayelsa and Taraba states; Joshua Dariye, Saminu Turaki, late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Bola Tinubu, and Revd. Jolly Nyame, among others.
Former governors of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala also had cases of corrupt practices in their records. But apart from Balogun’s case, which many perceived as a witch-hunt, none of these high profile cases has been prosecuted to a conclusive end.
Most people, who welcomed the establishment of the EFCC, believed that its fear was the beginning of wisdom for corrupt leaders and politicians, who wanted to explore some lapses created by military dictatorship in their 16-year reign.
Corruption had become a menace that had a damning effect on Nigerians who traveled out of the country for business and tourism. So, many of them praised the efforts of the EFCC to rid or drastically reduce the increasing rate of corrupt practices in the country, especially on the political and financial turfs.
Since its formation, the agency had been superintended over by a number of heads, including Nuhu Ribadu, who was in charge between 2003 and 2007 and considered by many as the most successful of EFCC chairmen. Others were the controversial Ibrahim Lamorde, who acted as chairman after Ribadu from January to May 2008 and was reappointed on November 23, 2011 till November 9, 2015; Ms. Farida Waziri, May 2008 to November 2011; and Ibrahim Magu, who took over from Lamorde last year.
Under Magu’s watch, Nigeria has seen interesting activities, almost like what was witnessed under Ribadu. The determination to excel in a short period could also be felt from his body language, right from day one.
But the insinuation in some quarters that the anti-graft agency had hardly successfully prosecuted any case of alleged corrupt practice against any public officer since the advent of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, has been a source of concern. This is in spite of so many high profile cases involving “the very big men” in the society.
Over 140 convictions, Magu said, were recorded in the last one year, while several billions of dollars of stolen funds had been recovered.
With reference to the 140 convictions, however, some cases have been based on mere speculations even though a good percentage was fact-based.
In spIte of the fact that the efcc boss has a lot of admIrers, those on the other sIde of the dIvIde have crItIcIsed what they descrIbe as “tryIng suspects on the pages of newspapers
In spite of the fact that the EFCC boss has a lot of admirers, those on the other side of the divide have criticised what they describe as “trying suspects on the pages of newspapers, long before their arraignment,” saying it is unethical, especially before commencing investigations.
We have nothing against the Buhari administration confirming Magu, particularly for productive continuity. But the EFCC must redefine its war against corruption to ensure that those who have been confirmed as corrupt in the real sense are the ones who are disgraced. We must also prevent what happened in Kenya, where President Uhuru Kenyata appeared to be more into the fight against corruption than the chairman of its Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Mr. Mumo Matemu. Matemu had been shocked by the President, who apparently dissatisfied with EACC’s progress, had to announce names of some corrupt officials and governors himself.
The allegation against the commission was that Kenyans were being treated to theatrics of unparalleled proportions, while the boardroom war between Matemu and EACC’s Chief Executive, Mr. Halakhe Waqo, slowed down actual work. The infighting was believed to have been at the behest of powerful individuals within and outside government and part of a wider scheme to derail the war against corruption.
In Nigeria, there are also concerns that the EFCC lacks the required human capacity and commitment to prosecute the important anti-corruption assignment the way it would want to. To redress these concerns, we urge the agency to appoint lawyers whose capacities to successfully secure convictions are not questionable.
To be sure, it is often embarrassing seeing and listening to EFCC’s witnesses, who seem not to have been prepared to face the rigours of cross examinations in the court rooms. The anti-corruption struggle is one area this administration has scored above average, at least, in the opinion of many. It cannot, therefore, afford to spoil the goodwill.