No institution has been slapped and punched around with massive controversies and criticisms other than those of the EFFC, since the consolidation of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999. This is simply because the EFCC was an institution set up without putting in place major nitty gritty which makes anti-corruption thick or how can one explain the confusion in defining a clear cut distinction between the powers of the EFCC and those of the Office of the Attorney General, thereby causing friction when issues of handling high profile corruption cases come up and which is mostly of interest to the latter. Aside this, it is still unbelievable to know that the commission’s chairman, who though is selected among the top echelon of the police, is still dictated to- under the whims and caprices of the IGP.
This is perhaps a story for another day as the concern of this writer is basically on recent events that continues to paint the EFCC as a comedy house with happenings in and around it becoming a recurrent feature since the fearless former chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was hurriedly bundled out of office by the powers that be and most especially under controversial circumstances.
From the Alamiesiegha money laundering case, the national I.D card controversy, Haliburton and Siemens scandals, the missing case files of about 32 past and serving state governors from the EFCC’s stable to the Femi Fani Kayode and Bola Aborishade airport contract scandal, the Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai family and friends Abuja plot scandal, the banking tsunami case involving Erastus Akingbola and colleagues, the Bankole and Nafada bank loan case and now to the prosecution of current governors, whose immunity had been lost as a result of their failure to win a second term in office.
All these cases of fraud, scam, corruption and scandals (not forgetting the Independent Power Project scandal), including hundreds of others, have seen little or no case of guilt (except perhaps the humiliation of Tafa Balogun and two year prison sentence of Chief Bode George) and eventual prosecution of corrupt individuals, which therefore, call into question the efficiency and viability of the EFCC and its ability to wage the anti-corruption war.
The EFCC has become a house of comedy and many cannot but stop laughing at the jokes the commission churns out on a daily basis to the vast majority of Nigerians. It has become a norm for the EFCC to first begin a media campaign against an individual, governor or politician, who either had lost through the ballot or fallen out of favour with the powers that be in Aso-Rock. There, the EFCC tells a listening public that they had slammed a criminal charge against most especially a governor, for laundering or to use the layman language, ‘stolen public funds’ to the tune of billions of naira.
This has been a recurrent feature from the stable of the EFCC, yet after this media frenzy, what is heard is a conspiracy of silence and lost cases in different courts. It seems it is through the media that the EFCC gets its strength, yet after a corruption charge is read to an enthusiastic press,what is witnessed are series of adjourned court cases, conspiracy to sweep the case under the carpet or the illegal plea bargaining, which makes both the EFCC and the vast majority of the people who had been cheated through corruption more miserable while the politician who had been charged for corruption becomes triumphant and jubilant with smiles on his face for the deepening crisis in our polity.
Many Nigerians were however, shocked to hear how principal officers in the last democratic dispensation obtained loans running into billions of naira to run the cost of the legislative chamber. By the time the tenure of these principal officers ended, the EFCC began its usual media campaign, telling the world how the former resisted arrest. Infact, one of the principal officers was said to have hidden in his Abuja residence, resisted arrest and ensured he was heavily guarded by security operatives. He had to call the Vice-President for help when the EFCC refused to leave.
The EFCC having gotten the attention of the press and Nigerians swiftly moved to arrest the officer. Many were however shocked to hear that an Abuja High Court on the 31st of January discharged these two principal officers of the house of the 17-count charge of conspiracy and criminal breach of trust preferred against them by the EFCC. At the end, the trial judge in freeing the principal officers held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie against the accused to justify their trial. As if that was not enough, the trial judge dealt a terminal blow on all the 17-count charge and argued that the EFCC left the substance of the case and chased shadows. By this, it became evident that the principal officers were not guilty as charged in the first place, leaving both the EFCC and the vast majority of Nigerians more gullible.
The question this writer keeps asking is why the EFCC had allowed itself to become a punching bag and stooge (dragged) around by a few powerful individual? Why do they hurriedly bring cases of corruption on individuals to the public glare, yet fail to establish strong cases against such individuals? Why do they resort to a lot of media razzmatazz when a case is being investigated but disappoint us all when their weak cases refuse to hold water in the respective courts? Why the mutual silence between them and the individuals accused of fraud? Why has the EFCC become a tool to be used despite having all at its disposal to bring to book those it accuses of massive corruption?
It is not enough to assert or tell Nigerians that cases of corruption or the EFCC itself is being frustrated by the powers that be when the law establishing it states clearly its functions and duties. It is also not enough for the EFCC to take weak cases of corruption of individuals to court even as it was evident that such individuals committed gross misconducts while in office. The law is not an ass (even though it has been since the Justices Katsina Alu and Ayo Salami imbroglio)and would therefore dispense justice according to the strong evidence(s) on ground.
Having said this, the 24th of February was yet another usual day when the EFCC slammed once again a criminal charge against the former governor of Bayelsa state, Timipre Sylva. The EFCC had argued he laundered about 5 billion naira of his state’s funds. It is however not new for the EFCC to make such proclamations, what baffles one however is the noise making and media trials which eventually get the EFCC nowhere. Since the setting up of the EFCC, how many governors have been shown the prison walls? If there existed 32 case files of former and serving governors which was eventually swept or hidden under the carpet, this writer is of the belief that Mr Sylva’s case file will soonest join those of his predecessors.
This bold assertion is seen from the fact that since the inception of the EFCC, coupled with almost all the cases of prosecution pursued, the public has often been treated with a culture of arraigning suspects in court first and later seeking adjournments to enable it conclude investigations. With an array of amendments of pleadings filed in several courts, the EFCC stops at nothing to further ensure name calling, request for the transfer of case files, court-shopping and all forms of merry-go-round.
The EFCC for all it is worth needs internal mopping and since a new chairman has been appointed, it should start soonest. The reported case of an apology tendered to the former governor of Ogun state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, for filing frivolous charges against him does not augur well for an anti-corruption agency whose ideal is ensuring uprightness and correctness at all times.
If the EFCC wants its image to be respected and the confidence reposed on it by Nigerians way back restored, it must begin a process of doing its job without fear or favour. It must do its job without giving a damn about whose ox is gored. All case files untreated since Mallam Ribadu left must be brought back to life, while all outstanding corruption cases must be treated with strict seriousness and with a zeal to fight corruption to a standstill. A continual comedy house, show of laughter and crass failure is not what Nigerians are prepared to see under the Ibrahim Lamorde administration. Charge, prosecute and punish are the three slogans the EFCC must pursue if it needs a new and warm embrace from a large chunk of the people. If the case of a former governor of Delta state had been concluded in the UK court, using everything at their disposal to find him guilty of embezzling more than 35 billion dollars, it’s not hard to achieve such feat back home from the EFCC.
Raheem Oluwafunminiyi is a social commentator and political analyst who wrote from Ibadan. He could be reached via [email protected]No tags for this post.