EFCC: Not yet the end of history, By Issa Aremu

My reflections on anti-corruption campaign or war against economic crimes in the past two decades could make a monograph, if not a book. Which is quite regrettable! I have never, for once, been  excited ruminating  on how or how not to catch  thieves and scammers. Of course, this additional reflection on the twin-crisis of leadership and confidence currently rocking of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), under the former acting Chairman Mr Ibrahim Magu is an unpleasant distraction from other critical national success issues begging for attention. It would certainly be more spiritually fulfilling to burn expensive deregulated diesel (no thanks to DISCOs of power failure!) on how to compliment the good work of the two Honorable Ministers of Education    protecting our children against the menacing opportunistic virus without putting a zeal on continuous learning. This for me is better than agonizing over what is turning out to be   “Magu’s Bermuda Triangle” which from the terms of reference of the Presidential Investigation Committee on the EFCC headed by retired Justice Ayo Salami, look like Federal Government’s  Recovered Assets and Finances  disappearing into the triumvirate of EFCC custody, Bureau De Change operators, and allegedly to the pockets of Magu as well as some of his associates.  

NAN reported that the panel’s findings have  “seriously indicted and implicated Magu”.  May be latest EFCC further shows that the war against corruption is yielding results underscoring that all of us should prepare to account. So ably claimed by Garba Shehu, President’s spokesman. But what is clear is that it’s time we rethink the strategy  against because corruption is already killing those paid to fight it. Apparently, he “that has to do with what is foul, never comes away clean”. Magu’s travails show also that he “ that keeps company with the wolf, will learn to howl”. I loath corruption discourse precisely because I grew up in a Developmentalist Nigeria. I learned almost by rote as an Economics undergraduate in the 70s/ 80s  and post graduate Development student in  early 90s,  about Development Plans, Monetary and Fiscal polices, Gross Domestic Product,(GDP), Growth, productivity and wealth generation, External Reserves, income redistribution, national budgeting, value addition, beneficiation, Manufacturing Value Added (MVA) and Industrialization, NOT “looted , re-looted funds”! Paul Baran’s  Political Economy of Growth, Claude Ake’s Democracy and Development in Africa, Karl Marx das Kapital, Adams Smith’s Wealth of Nations still resonate with me than EFCC’s Advisory roll call of suspected  corrupt elements under it’s second equaled disgraced Chairman Mrs Waziri Farida.  But don’t get me wrong. I agree with Louis Fourie, South African Economist who once observed that “ Let’s be honest …you won’t put your money in a company scoring an “average” in corruption. The same applies to investment in a country…any corruption is too much””..  

However all said,  critical question begging for answer is:  what manner of war is it that the more you fight the more the corruption is getting arrogant and carrying on even with its fighters? It is time to rethink this war. We must come to the basic truth that it is the absence of development and development agenda that nurture corruption while corruption in turn perpetuates vicious cycles of underdevelopment. In the immediate post-independent Nigeria corruption did not assume the dimension it is associated with today. This was because development was on the national agenda. The first, second and third National development plans left little room for graft and theft. Let’s delist corruption and return to development. It was good that we have identified corruption and put in place institutions such as Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)  to frontally combat the scourge of corruption. We can debate about the effectiveness of these institutions but no one is in doubt about the need for anti-corruption efforts. The current anti-corruption efforts have promoted anti-graft awareness and this is increasingly being promoted by government agencies as well as the private sector. Nonetheless we must think beyond corruption and anti-corruption paradigm that tends to legitimise corruption to real Development that focuses on real development of the society and people.

This then raises the question about Nigeria’s strategy to fight corruption since President Buhari was sworn in a year ago. Why should EFCC be manned by officers from the police generally perceived to be a corrupt outpost? And why according chairmanship to an Assistant commissioner of police when we have retired IGs that are better trained and have necessary capacity? My friend Nuhu Rubadu perhaps the most successful chairman of the Commission only went to national Institute Kuru Jos as a mark of punishment that capacity building for a big task. He could have performed better if he went to NIPSS before arresting the corrupt with bare hands instead through a better strategy. The bane of corruption war is its lack of immunity against corruption by those leading the war.  Anytime Transparency International (TI) sneezes, we invariably catch some infectious cold. This in itself constitutes blatant corruption. Why should corruption hit the headlines eliciting generous commentary once we are rudely awarded with an annual medal by a German-based non-governmental organization? TI’s corruption discourse frenzy further underscores the increasingly entrenched dependent mentality in the country. We all know that in spite of official hypocrisy, policemen still do collective (sorry, collecting) bargaining at illegal checkpoints blocking free movement of ordinary folks such as market women and okada riders. Electorates are resigning to fate because they are confused as to why executive bills may not necessarily be different from the actual passed laws. Contrabands abound in spite of official prohibition. Arrested vessels get missing, get offloaded and have their names altered under the supervision of naval commanders. The appointment/admission lists in most institutions contain those who are not shot-listed for interviews at all. We also know that what is privately diverted cannot be available for schools and hospitals. With all these non-controversial evidences of daily corruption reality, why the noise about a perception index by a foreign NGO? Are we more awakened to the reality of corruption through a perception index than the live experience with sundry corrupt practices? It’s time for an end of history of trial and errors in fighting corruption. 

Issa Aremu mni