“We will continue to fight corruption, whether anybody likes it or not. We are convinced that it is the only way we can bring succour to this country.”
Passionate words of resolution and determination from Ibrahim Magu, the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, while addressing members of staff on a day that the agency chose to quietly, but emphatically mark its 14 years of championing the course of fighting corruption in Nigeria, April 10, 2017.
It was a pledge renewed only a few hours after the anti-graft agency uncovered $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 cash, stashed in a private residence located on Osborne Road, Ikoyi, a cosmopolitan city, nestled between the Mainland and Victoria Island, Lagos. The revelation sent the world into a frenzy of shock, disbelief and bewilderment. The recovered funds, which are believed to be proceeds of illegal activities, were on June 6, 2017 ordered forfeited to the federal government by Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
“If you go to the United States or the United Kingdom, they are all awash with news about our efforts in the fight against corruption, particularly the Malabu Oil scandal,” he said. “So we are succeeding, and it is pertinent for us to forget about personal interest, and consider the overall interest of this country and the interest of the EFCC as an institution.”
Indeed, for the EFCC, it has been a period of coming of age, with the 14-year-old agency, having effectively warmed itself into the hearts of Nigerians, and the international law enforcement agencies.
Slowly and steadily, the anti-graft agency has, undoubtedly, altered the narrative of criminal prosecution in Nigeria, and set a standard for law enforcement agencies, within and outside of the country. Perhaps, more importantly, is the fact that in the past two years, the EFCC has redefined law enforcement, and restored unflagging faith in the agency – Nigerians and foreigners, alike.
At an auspicious parley with media executives in Abuja, the EFCC boss, apprised the Nigerian public of what was generally adjudged a worthy and commendable score sheet. The session provided media editors from the print, online and broadcast media platforms, an opportunity to engage with the agency.
“Between January and August 30, 2017, the EFCC recovered N409,270,706,686.75; $69,501,156.67; £231,118.69; €610,816.20; Dirham 443,400.00 and 70,500.00 Saudi Riyal,” Magu revealed to a startled audience.
He further informed that: “In July, the Commission recovered over N329 billion from a group of oil marketers for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.”
More thrilling, perhaps, was the revelation by the agency that 137 convictions were recorded nationwide by August of 2017, with the number set to increase by the end of the year. It was a marked increase and improvement from the 125 convictions recorded in 2016, and 103 secured in 2015.
That the onslaught will not wane, is no doubt a statement of fact, considering the number of high profile cases, being prosecuted by the EFCC in various courts across the country. The agency has beamed its searchlight on hitherto no-go areas. Apart from the prosecution of alleged culprits of the Malabu Oil scandal, involving about $1.1 billion, with charges filed against Mohammed Adoke, a former Minister of Justice, and Dan Etete, a former Minister of Petroleum, the prosecution of actors and players in the now infamous $2.1 billion arms deal scandal has continued unhindered.
Several witnesses have testified in court against a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd); a former Chief of Air Staff, Umar Dikko ; a former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin (retd); former Chief of Air Staff, Adesola Amosu ; Air Vice Marshal Alkali Mawu (retd); and Col. Nicholas Ashinze, with investigation of several other top military officers fingered in the arms deal scandal still ongoing. The trial of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), is also ongoing, though it has suffered a number of setbacks due to his absence in court (he has been in the custody of the Department of State Services).
“In the area of prosecution of cases in court, we are also making progress despite the antics of some persons accused of grand corruption to delay trial,” Magu said.
Indeed, progress is also being made in cases involving former governors and serving senators, who are alleged to have defrauded their states, including Joshua Dariye, Danjuma Goje, SuleLamido, Murtala Nyako and his son Abdul-Aziz, Orji Uzor Kalu, Rasheed Ladoja, Ibrahim Shema, Ahmadu Fintiri, Gabriel Suswam, and Jolly Nyame.
The significance of the progress achieved, makes the “palace coup” of the Nigeria Senate, which has twice rejected the confirmation of Magu as substantive chairman of the EFCC, pale into insignificance.
Kayode Oladele, Chairman House of Reps Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, describes the non-confirmation saga as a very unfortunate development that portends danger for democracy.
“The non-confirmation shows lack of synergy and creates problems for our nascent democracy,” Oladele said. “It shows that something is not right.”
Oladele wonders how a National Assembly with legislative agenda that makes fight against corruption part of its own priority, under a presidency that makes zero tolerance for corruption its mantra, would decidedly posit itself to be opposing the efforts of the executive to achieve its goal.
“If now we see someone [in Magu], who can fight corruption, so is that not what we need?” Oladele asked. “So I see it as egocentrism,” he declared..
But for Magu, the actions of the Senators (many of whom have corruption cases hanging around their necks), is simply a propeller to do more.
“What drives me is the passion to do what is right by ensuring that we fight corruption to a standstill in this country,” Magu said. “The non-confirmation only helps to strengthen my resolve to do more and ensure that we fight corruption to the end.”
More is also being done to sanitize the judiciary, the acclaimed last hope of the common man, as members of the bench and bar, found wanting, are made to account for their misdeeds. The trial of a number of lawyers and judges has intensified and are at various stages across the country, including Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, who is standing trial along with Godwin Obla, SAN, for bribery and corrupt enrichment; Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, a serving Federal High Court judge; Justice James Agbadu-Fishim, a serving National Industrial Court judge; Rickey Tarfa, SAN; and Joseph Nwobike, SAN.
The allegations of fraud in the judiciary, has been a cause for concern in recent times, so much so that Itse Sagay, Professor of Law, and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), called for urgent actions to be taken to “cleanse the judiciary”.
“Some of these judges don’t even wait, to be offered money before they ask, to the extent that the school fees of their children are being paid by the lawyers,” Sagay said.
Canada’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Christopher Thornley, recently expressed the resolve of the Canadian government, to partner with the EFCC, in order to better represent itself in the global fight against corruption, as part of its mission to expand the operations of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), by having a post in Nigeria.
“We have monitored your activities, and your efforts in the fight against corruption in Nigeria are commendable,” Thornley said.
The efforts of the EFCC have also caught the interest of the Chinese government. This much was made known by L.I. Xiaohong, Director at Vice-Minister Level of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Inspection Tours of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
“We have heard a lot about your efforts in the fight against corruption and commend you for your doggedness in ensuring that you kick corruption out of Nigeria,” Xiaohong said.
In view of the transnational dimension of corruption, the EFCC is extending its operations overseas, with plans in top gear to have operatives at major embassies, and mission fields abroad. This much was made known by Magu during a four-day introduction course held by the Ministry of Finance, for 44 non-career ambassadors-designate, at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, April 4, 2017.
In a paper titled, “Anti-Corruption Agenda and the Recovery of Illicit Financial Assets from abroad: The Role of Nigerian Missions”, Magu enjoined the new representatives of the country, to see themselves as partners in the war against corruption.
“We are making you our ambassadors to fight corruption wherever you go, because we alone at the EFCC cannot do the job without your support,” he said.
Stressing the adverse effects of corruption, he said, “We have posted some of our operatives to these foreign missions, and we will need you to work with us.”
While charging the ambassadors-designate to “be involved in tracing and recovery of stolen assets and facilitating the repatriation of those funds and the perpetrators”, Magu, noted that “corruption flourishes when good people fail to confront it”.
He reiterated the zero-tolerance stance of President Muhammadu Buhari, as regards corruption, urging them to “key into our mission of ridding Nigeria of corruption, as this will be your greatest service to Nigeria”.
He further added that the EFCC currently had collaborations with agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI, the United Kingdom, UK Metropolitan Police, and the Department of Justice, among other international law enforcement agencies. The relationships, which according to him have aided the war against corruption in foreign jurisdictions, must be sustained, he stressed.
In two years, the EFCC has expanded its operational reach in the country, with the aim of reaching out to the grassroots, and to galvanize all segments of the society to own the anti-corruption crusade. From six offices in Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Kano, Gombe, and Port Harcourt; four new offices have been added – Ibadan, Kaduna, Edo, and Akwa Ibom, with a rejuvenated Maiduguri office whose activity was crippled due to insurgency.
There have also been various engagements with members of the Civil Society Organizations, Organized Labour, and stakeholders in the public and private sphere, all geared towards rallying the Nigerian citizenry to join in the fight against corruption.
At an anti-corruption walk, organized by the EFCC, on May 23, 2017 the agency rallied members of the civil society, and labour, as it took its anti-corruption campaign to the streets.
“The EFCC alone cannot win the war, no one has the monopoly of knowledge on how the battle can be fought and won,” Magu said at the rally. “We must all come together and strike a common consensus on how to confront and defeat this monster called corruption.”
The message of partnership was further highlighted at parleys with the media, social media personalities and labour leaders, aimed at ensuring a united front in the fight against corruption.
“All Nigerians must play their roles, because EFCC can only do its best, but we must support the agency, and the law should take its course, policies should be strengthened, and punishment must be meted out in good time,” said Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC,while commending the EFCC for remaining steadfast in the fight against corruption.
Dan Nwanyanwu, a lawyer and politician, urged “every right thinking Nigerian” to support every effort being carried out by the EFCC to recover our stolen money and our patrimony”.
On his part, Dr. Joe Abah, former Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, also commended the EFCC for taking the gauntlet in the fight against corruption.
“EFCC is a strong institution and it is the same institution that has produced credible leaders from inception,” he said.
For Magu, the EFCC is determined not to rest on its oars, because, “we believe there is still a lot to be done”, even though, “we have reached a level where nobody can stop us in the fight against corruption.
- Segun Adeoye, a Senior Media Officer with the EFCC, wrote this piece for Zero ToleranceMagazine