EFCC Biting More Than It Can Swallow | Independent Newspapers Limited
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EFCC Biting More Than It Can Swallow

Posted: Jul 10, 2016 at 3:22 am   /   by   /   comments (0)





The current crusade against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration cuts across virtually all the states as there hardly anywhere that the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), does not have cases against one high profile politically exposed persons or top civil servant.

Conservatively, the agency presently has over 200 undecided cases since the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo till date. What this has clearly shown is that the agency is heavily burdened and may be just a tracking tool for the Buhari’s anti-corruption war.

Besides, there is the fear of the reality that since EFCC began operation, most of the cases may have remained undecided, and may still remain so until the end of the Buhari administration. With this scenario, observers begin to worry if the EFCC can achieve much success. Apart from the media blitz that goes with its arrests and arraignment of high profile suspects, one wonders if the agency can record tangible breakthroughs in its anti-corruption drive.

EFCC Fighting Corruption The Buhari, APC Way

Jezie Nzomiwu, Executive Secretary, Social Engineering Research Initiative (SERI) and member, Coalition of Civil Societies Organisation in Niger state (COCSIN), maintains that some people who lied their way to power are just deceiving Nigerians.

According to him, he is yet to see anything like anti-corruption crusade, rather the administration has just been using the EFCC as a cover to settle ethno-political and religious scores with some, ‘enemies’, adding that if Buhari is sincerely fighting corruption, most members of his cabinet should have been in jail.

He stressed: “Buhari should candidly tell Nigerians the source of the billions of Naira expended for his electioneering campaigns. Or, is the money from his cattle rearing business in Daura? If this administration has good conscience, they will stop the deceit game and go ahead to tackle series of socio-economic challenges facing our country.”

Emeka Alaneme, a clergyman, maintained that the Buhari administration cannot be said to be fighting corruption, “but it is more of trying to reward the boys or to get rid of perceived political opponents with the intent of silencing them completely to make Nigeria a one party state.

“The APC government is only using EFCC to fight political enemies and to silence the voice of opposition and this was illustrated in the sealing of Silverbird business conglomerates, the freezing of the Zenith Bank accounts of Governor Ayo Fayose, Femi Fani-Kayode’s detention and several others.

“If this government is fighting corruption then the likes of Rotimi Amechi will not be in his cabinet with a White Paper indictment again Halliburton scandal which his wife, Aisha Buhari, was fingered will not be swept under the carpet.”

The cleric maintained that the fight against corruption that has increased hunger, inflation and loss of jobs has turned the country into mourning. He said: “You don’t fight corruption with lies and falsehood. For instance, the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in institutionally fighting corruption, fought against his party members like Adolphos Nwagbara and Lawal, who were in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“Tarfa Balogun a Yoruba man, went to jail and lost his IGP position when he was indicted in corruption. But this government will be fighting corruption lopsidedly and on the pages of newspapers. I wonder why the likes of Chief Obasanjo, who is also a military man like him (Buhari) never deemed it fit to draw Buhari’s attention to the damage he is doing to Nigeria and the north in particular under the guise of fighting corruption because of appointments made so far which is virtually centred to north.

EFCC’s Cases Not Properly Coordinated

Dr. Philips Okolo, a don, believes that the EFCC is engaged in too many corruption battles which have resulted in improper co-ordination, thereby making it difficult for one to measure its successes.

Okolo stated that apart from ‘biting more than it can chew’, the commission is also facing serious integrity challenge as its fight against corruption seems lopsided and inequitable.

According to him, “The battle fronts are too numerous and therefore lacks proper co-ordination and measurable results in clear terms.”

Okolo, a Political Science lecturer at the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, said the anti-graft agency is very far from achieving the desired results due to its current style, particularly when juxtaposed with the gains the government and the agency claim to have recorded.

He stated that the EFCC appears to be securing convictions of corrupt suspects in the media than in the courts of law, stressing that the scenario is not adding value to the anti-corruption war.

“The commission needs to streamline its current battles and remains focused. It has to live above board, treat all suspects equally and above all balance its fight against corruption,” Okolo said.

He maintained that in the last six years, the EFCC has beamed its search light on Bayelsa and arrested some suspects in connection with fraud, but none has been successfully prosecuted and convicted.

“In 2010, for instance, the EFCC declared Dr. Silva Opuala-Charles, former Governor Timipre Sylva’s Commissioner for Finance, wanted over corruption charges amounting to N4.5billion. He turned himself in after a long period of hide and seek, but the charges were suddenly dropped by the commission.

“In May 2013, the EFCC went after Sylva and arrested him in a dingy corner in his palatial Abuja residence in connection with fresh evidence linking him with a bouquet of fraudulent transactions that border on money laundering. The court, in 2015, freed Sylva of all corruption charges.

“Recently in April 2016, the EFCC announced the arrest of Governor Seriake Dickson’s former Senior Adviser on Public Affairs and Orientation, Abednego Don-Evarada, for allegedly offering N10 million bribe to Mr. Ishaq Salihu, the commission’s Zonal Head in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in a case involving the governor’s former Senior Special Assistant on MDGs, Apere Embelakpo, and his wife, Beauty, both of whom reportedly laundered N200 million. But, the matter appears to have been swept under the carpet,” he lamented.

EFCC Deserves Some Kudos

Alhaji Waheed Lawal said the anti-graft should be given some commendation on its efforts in stamping out corruption out of the Nigeria system.

Lawal, a human rights activist and National Executive Secretary, Justice Now Foundation (JNF), said the commission has been doing its best in the anti-graft crusade and should be commended rather than criticised Nigerians.

He noted the EFCC was able to do what it is doing through the political will of the presidency, adding that past administrations did not give the agency the needed impetus to perform effectively.

He stressed that if past administrations had given the agency such political will, it will not be fighting corruption on a million fronts and it would have recorded more successes.

In Osun State, EFCC has investigated lot of personalities and government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. It recently arrested Senator Christopher Iyiola Omisore, former Deputy Governor of the state under Chief Adebisi Akande and Senator representing Osun East Senatorial District between 2003 and 2011, for allegedly obtaining N700 million from former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd).

The money is believed to be part of alleged $15 billion arms procurement scam for which many Nigerians are currently being prosecuted. Omisore is still in EFCC custody for failure to meet his bail conditions.

He had earlier been invited by the EFCC before he was declared wanted. He rather approached court demanding N500 million damages from the commission for declaring him wanted.

EFCC Must Stop Witch Hunting, Says Activist

The EFCC has been enjoined to refrain from playing to the gallery and cleanse the country of corruption rather being used as a political tool to witch-hunt politicians.

A Port Harcourt based human rights activist, Comrade Lekia Christian in an interview in the state capital stated that he was yet to see one person that has been properly investigated and sent to jail by the Commission especially under the present dispensation.

Lekia wondered why the anti-graft agency has suddenly become so vibrant to the extent that it goes after members of the opposition political parties while some of those who have been indicted of corrupt practices but are members of the ruling party are moving about freely.

He warned that with the multiple fight it has gotten involved in, “there is no way the Commission can do a thorough job of prosecuting and sending corrupt people to jail. Many Nigerians are not happy the way EFCC is going chasing members of the opposition party in the country.

“Are they telling us that only PDP members are corrupt? That is not possible. They should look inward and they will be shocked to see real corruption in the system. Besides that, what is the staff strength of the EFCC that it will involve itself in multiple fight at the same time?

“I want to see an EFCC that deliberately prosecutes a corrupt person and successfully sends such person to jail. People believe that what we are seeing today is a political witch-hunt. That is not how it supposed to be. The commission must be independent and not a tool in the hand of the government.

“EFCC does not enjoy institutional immunity. They should look at the Act that created it and ensure that their work and operations conform with that Act. It should be seen as mad dog unleashed by the government in power to intimidate and harass the people.

“I think that the present EFCC is lopsided. It should be restructured in a way that it can function properly. I don’t support the way the commission carries out its operations. We have seen a situation where EFCC will keep people in custody for weeks and months. That is bad”.