If the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the leadership of acting chairman Ibrahim Magu thought it was going to receive accolades over its latest exploits, it must have been jolted by the negative reactions that followed. After the initial kudos of finding the money, it has been knocks all the way for EFCC owing to the lousy job the agency has made of its operations lately. The EFCC discovered a huge amount of money in three denominations of $43.4 million, N23 million and 27,000 pounds in an apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, last week. Ordinarily this should be celebrated as part of the successes of the whistle-blowing policy of the government. Sadly, EFCC in its wisdom has bungled their best effort so far. Indeed, locating money without its source or owner is to make nonsense of a very serious business of nipping corruption in the bud. Shrouding the sordid details in secrecy is a national disgrace, an embarrassment to this government, and a way to ridicule ourselves in the eyes of the international community.
This alone has rubbished all the gains of the anti-graft war in recent past. Handling this issue shoddily and with levity is tantamount to trivializing the main crux of this government’s policy and casts doubts on the sincerity of the EFCC or the very government it works for. At best, EFCC did a haphazard and incomplete job and dished out half truths to Nigerians. How can an agency of government with instrument of investigations and covert operation to gather evidence, just swoop on a house to recover money without knowing the identity of the owner? Who is the EFCC going to arrest and prosecute? Who are the occupants of the house? Can the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) keep money for covert projects in a private home? Could the owner be an individual claiming association with NIA? Here is a prestigious and respectable organization; why is it being dragged to the mud this way? What are TSA and BVN for? NIA’s acceptance of responsibility may be a gimmick after all. Who knows? This is a classical case of underrating the intelligence of Nigerians with the aim to pull the wool over their eyes. Come on, Nigerians are not dumb.
The pretention on the part of government and lack of transparency by EFCC have pushed the issue to the realm of speculation and raising more questions than answers. Who owns the house? If EFCC is not forthcoming, the Lagos state government can help with information on this. Why did EFCC suddenly develop cold feet after the discovery? Was there an instruction from above to shield the owner who may either be a chieftain of the party in government, a top functionary or an associate of people in government? Conversely, if the government is serious, getting to the root of the matter will not be rocket science it has become. And Nigerians are inclined to think that the owner of the money must be an influential fellow known to the high echelon of government, someone too important to be exposed to public ridicule. These are needless speculations if a thorough job had been done.
Following the denial of the first two persons speculated to have owned the money, supporters of the government started pointing accusing fingers in the direction of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Considering the antecedent of the APC government in attributing all the present ills to the past, rightly or wrongly; the assumed persecution, investigation, prosecution and trial of the appointees and officials of that government, it should not be hard to hang this on their neck. So why is the government dithering? And why has ex-president Jonathan not spoken out if he was not complicit?
Notwithstanding his latest haul, I’m worried for Magu and the legacy he will leave behind in EFCC. So much mess has been created around him or by him, and so many controversies have arisen from his work. Some are self inflicted, while some are foisted on him by the government he serves in. The joke these days, is that Magu is looking for stolen money, just to convince the Senate that he is worthy of the job. I hope not, because despite his many slips, errors of judgment and misdemeanours, Magu is not markedly different from others before him or other Nigerians for that matter.
Public scrutiny, good governance and democracy go hand in hand and the government cannot achieve its goal of stamping out corruption if transparency and accountability are not embedded in the war.
Besides the discovery of the now infamous ‘orphaned’ money, the EFCC must have been scandalized by the losses it suffered in court recently. The anti-corruption agency and the government are always eager to return guilty verdict on alleged offenders but in most cases fails to establish prima facie cases against them. No wonder they lost their cases against Justice Ademola and his wife, former first lady, Patience Jonathan, former minister, Godswill Orubebe and Mr Mike Ozekhome, because there was no due diligence in the prosecution of the cases.
The EFCC needs to redeem itself. It might never recover if in the end it is unable to prove or unmask all issues agitating the minds of Nigerians over the highest amount of cash so far found, and stashed outside the banking system.