The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in very recent times, is getting a lot of flack and negative press from Nigerians, most of them, as it has turned out, and from personal observation, unnecessary, unwarranted and unfair. Nigerians are very angry about the news they are hearing about the anti-graft organisation, and there have been one or two extreme calls for the head of the organisation to resign or be removed. This is very understandable, as Nigerians have invested a lot of hope in the organisation and look up to it as a way of getting redress and vengeance on the people who have made their lives that of poverty, hopelessness, underdevelopment and misery.
However, such unfounded rumours and misinformation are not only distracting, but is very discouraging and debilitating to the Commission, and may negatively affect their performance. Most importantly and instructively, all these biased and negative perception of the Commission as blared out by the Media is a victory for the very set of people that the Commission was formed to fight – the corrupt politicians and government officials. I could picture these people gloating and congratulating themselves for a job well done to discredit the EFCC and its officials, especially putting the credibility of its top officials in doubt, and fanning the embers of dissatisfaction with the Commission’s performance among the general Nigerian public, who are very keen to see their corrupt ex-Governors and other public officials brought to face justice.
On the issue of the ex-Governors, as far as I could learn, the EFCC under the current Chairmanship of Mrs. Farida Waziri inherited some dodgy ex-Governor investigations from Nuhu Ribadu. (Let me remind readers here that I was, and indeed, still remain, one of the staunch supporters of Nuhu Ribadu and his EFCC during Obasanjo’s Administration, and I am not going to take anything away from his success as the EFCC Czar and his pioneering feat)
When, towards the twilight of the Obasanjo Administration, Nuhu Ribadu was invited by the then Senate President, Ken Nnamani (despite my respect for Ken Nnamani, he was trying to use the EFCC to wage a war against his namesake and now, ex-Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani) to do a presentation in the Senate, Ribadu, either not sensing he was being used, not only by Obasanjo himself, but also by some other politicians for their own selfish ends or merely being naïve and power-drunk, declared that 31 Governors are being investigated. Before he was removed as EFCC Chairman, eight of these evil men were arraigned before the courts. What about the rest 23?
The fact is, Mallam Ribadu had already proclaimed these ex-Governors guilty, without any evidence or even proper investigation. Meanwhile, all these devious thieves, (execu-thieves, as I like to call them) have had ample time to destroy evidence, bribe judges, employ the best lawyers, even make witnesses to disappear, etc in order to evade justice, hence you see them all over Abuja, swaggering around, and boasting to their friends and whoever will listen, that they are untouchable. Why, some of them are even now having the guts to threaten to sue the EFCC. Some of them are also in the Senate, and the most powerful and corrupt of these ex-governors are also pulling a lot of strings in the ruling party and perhaps in the Government itself.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Waziri was misquoted or deliberately misrepresented by the Nigerian media recently and what was reported in the press was that she said files on the ex-governors have disappeared and that there was no petition against ex-President Obasanjo. She never said that. I do not think she’s that daft to say such a thing in public, even if that was true. What she said was that there were either no files in the first place or that existing files were grossly incomplete or distorted, lacking in substance and evidence and cannot be used to prosecute these high placed criminals.
The EFCC has a very difficult and unenviable job from most agencies involved in the governance of Nigeria. They have a thankless and definitely, very dangerous job. And believe me, anybody that wishes or is paid to take on the monster that is institutionalised corruption in Nigeria must be a brave person who, despite pressures from all sides, is determined to succeed and put his or life at risk at all times. The majority of Nigerians, understandably sick and frustrated by the excesses of their political and military leaders want fast prosecution and justice, while others, highly placed people in government, are doing their best to subvert the course of justice, including character assassination of EFCC officials, lobbying, murder attempts of both witnesses and investigators, bribery, even “juju”, you name it. These ex-Governors are very powerful people; they have corruptly enriched themselves, so they have vast amount of money to use to subvert the course of justice; they are devious; they are clever; and a lot of them are still within the government or party system or hierarchy; they also have a lot of thugs ready to kill for them.
And the EFCC? It is always going to be a Herculean task and struggle for them, I am afraid, as long as they are not totally independent and autonomous of the Nigerian Government; under-funding ( if external organizations such as UN, Transparency International, EU, etc solely funds the EFCC, they might perform better); gross under-staffing; government and political interference. However, I am very confident that the current officials are of the utmost good intentions, integrity, capabilities and abilities; highly focused, committed to fighting and reducing corruption by any means in Nigeria, despite all the efforts by their detractors to destabilize and ridicule them.
Since her appointment just over five months ago, there has been renewed vigour in investigating several corrupt former governors and Mrs. Waziri has arraigned at least three ex-Governors before the courts, charged with unlawful enrichment of themselves whilst in office, money laundering and corruption: Michael Botmang, who hardly spent 6 months as Governor of Plateau State (that means as soon as he was sworn in to temporarily replace Dariye, he just went straight to the state coffers and started dipping his dirty finger in; what a bastard?); Boni Haruna of Adamawa State; and Rasheed Ladoja of my state of Oyo, a very silly idiot, who could have been a hero, but decided not to tread on the path of righteousness at the very last minute, thereby ruining his name forever).
The Chairman is vigorously pursing the Asset Forfeiture law to be passed by the Senate (But since the Senators are themselves highly compromised and corrupt, they are using delayed tactics not to pass the bill) which will enable the EFCC to seize assets suspected to be the proceeds of corruption, even if they cannot prove such asset belong to the suspect. However, the plan here is to make the asset unavailable to the suspect, and also to draw them out. If an asset is seized, the EFCC simply asks the owner to come forward and prove ownership and source of funds used to acquire the asset. If anybody comes forward and is a front-person for the corrupt government official, such person has to prove his source of income or face jail. This, I think, is an excellent bill put forward by the current Chairman to deny access to the proceeds of corruption. She is also vigorously pursuing the enactment of a law which will allow setting up of special courts to take on cases of economic and financial crimes. This clearly shows that Mrs. Waziri is very much worried about the slowness of the Nigerian judicial system in dispensing justice and meting out punishment to the corrupt.
We should therefore be calling on the legislative arms of government to expedite the passing of these laws, in order to make the EFCC more powerful and effective.
Also don’t forget that Mrs. Waziri had also since she was appointed, been calling for the removal of the immunity clause from the constitution. This writer has always been advocating for the removal of this clause, via championsfornigeria.org and other means as I see that this singular issue of immunity from prosecution for executive office holders in Nigeria is a great impediment to the fight against corruption. It seems as if Mrs. Waziri supports our views and position on the issue of immunity clause, as well as the hundreds of Nigerians who have signed, and continue to sign, our petition to the National Assembly to remove it, in order to encourage and promote the war against corruption, on our website above.
And just recently, in fact while I was in Abuja, was the announcement by the EFCC of ANCOR (Anti-Corruption Revolution) campaign, dubbed “See Something, Say Something” aimed at making all Nigerians take ownership of the anti-graft campaign, hence the message here is that the EFCC cannot fight this battle alone, otherwise the fight against corruption will never be won. ANCOR, supported by many organisations such as Champions For Nigeria (CFN), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG, led by Moshood Erubami), the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Association of Local Government Officers of Nigeria (ALGON), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS); Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL, led by that indefatigable man, Comrade Debo Adeniran), Movement Against Corruption (MAC), Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) and with resources contribution and input by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is going to be initially launched in Abuja on 9th December 2008, and then rolled out across the 36 states later in the new year. An Anti-Corruption Volunteer Corps will also be formed and will constitute the nucleus and drivers of the Anti-Corruption Revolution. The Anti-Corruption Volunteer Corps will be constituted of Nigerians of integrity from all walks of live who subscribe and adhere to the Revolutionary Principles. It is open to all, provided you are committed to fighting and eradicating corruption in the Nigerian n society
And perhaps the most audacious and revolutionary of her moves is her call for the EFCC Act to be amended, which will allow the Commission to investigate and prosecute persons suspected to be living above their means. This will be the greatest threat to the fortress of our evil and corrupt leaders and their ilk that thrive on corruption. This is supposed to put a fear in the corrupt elite, so that they know that it is not possible for them to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth and not be asked how they got it.
To my mind, I think this woman called Farida Waziri has started very well indeed and what she deserves is greater support and encouragement from the grassroots of Nigerians; greater support from the ordinary citizenry and well-meaning people, who must take the comments from some sponsored media with a grain of salt every time and seek to sift the lies from the truth, in order to best judge the EFCC’s performance, and not ill-founded accusations and propaganda that will cause her to be distracted from the difficult task she already has.
At the same time, let us constructively criticize Mrs. Waziri and her officials when they err, or if they should seem to be detracting from their work, or if we see them being partisan and colluding with the people they are supposed to bring to justice. I personally will be the first to do this.
The fight against corruption is not an easy fight, as I have observed and noted during my travel to Nigeria and interaction with the main players of the fight. The officials charged with this task are forever wary of threats to their lives and the threat of removal if the corrupt persons have their way through lobbying. I personally do not see a scenario where Mrs. Waziri will be having night sessions and cavorting with the very people she is supposed to be investigating and bring to justice, and I honestly hope she does not descend into this, as we will be watching her.
Of course, having written this article, I do not expect all Nigerians to agree with my thoughts, observations and support for the EFCC, but like I always say, I shall always remain standing when the dust settles.
I say, let the truth be said always.
About Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Akintokunbo Adejumo, a social and political commentator on Nigerian issues, lives and works in London, UK. He is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1979) and University of Manitoba, Canada (1985). He also writes on topical issues for Nigerians In America and other newspapers and internet media including Nigeriaworld, Nigeria Today Online, Washington Nigerian Times, Wise News Today, etc. He coordinates Champions for Nigeria.