By Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, like many other Nigerians is apprehensive of the recommendation of Stephen Oronsaye-led Presidential Commission on the Rationalization and Restructuring of Federal Government Agencies be reduced from the present figure of 216 to 114 to reduce the exorbitant cost of governance.
While we see some sense in cutting down unnecessary expenditure, we find the listing of the two anti-corruption agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), among the agencies recommended for rationalizations rather unsettling.
CISLAC views this recommendation to scrap the anti-graft agencies as a wrong step in the wrong direction and one that will greatly destabilize the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It is unthinkable to (imagine) a Nigeria as we know it today, without specialized agencies to lead the fight against corruption. This would translate into letting loose our pathologically corrupt public servants over unguarded public coffers. Every now and then, Nigerians are treated to odious stories of how evil-minded politicians and heartless civil servants connive to dip their corrupt hands deep into the public pool to enrich themselves to the detriment of millions of hungry Nigerians. This ugly practice has become alarmingly recurrent in spite of these Agencies that one wonders what happens if they were to be scrapped.
CISLAC notes the reason of the Oransaye’s committee that the two are performing the traditional functions of the police. The chairman however also admitted that the two commissions were established separately to address corruption, which the Police appeared to have failed to do. CISLAC and all Nigerians know as a matter of fact that the police did not just appear to have failed to address corruption but actually had failed to do so. This reason is therefore not tenable. The question to be asked ask is if the police with its antecedents and all its present challenges is different from what we had then when the establishment of the EFCC and the ICPC became a fait accompli?
CISLAC reminds Nigerians that the fight against corruption and peacekeeping are two different things requiring specialized skills which the Police, as presently constituted – as before, lacks. To justify the scraping of the two agencies on the basis of members of the Nigerian police having won laurels in international peace keeping is like asking the DSS to be scrapped because the police had succeeded in successfully investigating one case of high profile murder. As we speak the DSS is achieving more results in the fight against terrorism than the police. It is common knowledge that over the years, the police have failed to rise even to their rudimentary duty of effective law enforcement in the country.
We are aware that the nation and development partners have invested enormously into the EFCC and ICPC in the areas of developing institutional and technical capacity with many more in the pipeline and to scrap them now will amount to the truncation of a process with potential future benefit for the nation. To imagine that such support will be channeled into support for the police will be mere wishful thinking. We are also concerned about the fate of many high profile cases being prosecuted and or investigated by these agencies in the event they are scrapped.
CISLAC expresses doubts that the wisdom of the Orosanye Panel can surpass that of the international community demonstrated through such international treaties like the United Nations Convention against Corruption who resolved that the fight against corruption requires the establishment of specialized anti-corruption bodies other than the police force and wonders why such a recommendation which clearly contradicts international trends in the fight against corruption should come at this time from a nation which is almost permanently rooted at the bottom of the corruption perception index.
We are strongly opposed to the recommendation by the Oronsaye committee. Rather we call on the Federal Government to demonstrate a stronger commitment to the fight against corruption. As opposed to the proposed scrap of the ant-graft agencies, we advocate that steps be taken to strengthen them in accordance with international standards and best practices. This is by granting them independence and immunity from every form of political influence, funding them adequately to facilitate access to resources for training and specialization so they can undertake the broader anti corruption functions of Policy development, research, monitoring and co-ordination, prevention of corruption, education and awareness raising, investigation and prosecution and probably the establishment of special courts to try cases of corruption. Of these functions only the latter falls within the work of the police.
CISLAC believes that this will reposition them for proactive engagement and prevention of corruption which is the future of the fight against corruption being embraced by civilized societies. While we agree that the EFCC and ICPC have their own flaws and are not a silver bullet to the problem of corruption in our nation, we are convinced that, if strengthened, they have major roles to play in curbing the scourge that cannot be achieved if they are scrapped. The procedure for appointing an inspector-general of police and the security of his tenure is antithetical to all known models for fighting corruption. Hence, the scrapping of these Agencies will be the death blow to the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
CISLAC cautions that our commitment to the fight against corruption as a country, already brought to question by such instances as our attitude to such incidence as the Halliburton case, our handling of several high profile corruption cases and some judicial pronouncements we have had in recent past, will be further dented by the scrapping of the two Agencies at this time of our national life and portray us as unserious within the comity of nations. We must therefore not sacrifice the sanity of our nation at the altar of saving cost as corruption has done more to make us underdeveloped as a nation than whatever resources we are expending sustaining these two Agencies.
We therefore call on the federal government not to allow its insatiable quest for additional funding which led it to impose hardship on Nigerian Citizens through the withdrawal of fuel subsidies to also blind it into scrapping these Agencies which are perceived to proffer some measure of deterrence to corruption. We recollect that Nigeria’s best showing on the anti corruption index was achieved at the time the EFCC was most vibrant.
We call on all well meaning Nigerians, including the National Assembly which passed into law the Act by which these two Agencies exist to prevail on the Presidency not to implement this aspect of the Committee recommendations and take Nigeria 10 years backward.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC