Opinion: It’s sad the EFCC has lost its bearing

by Garba Shehu

EFCC-operatives-at-work

More than at any time, the EFCC is today right there in the crutches of the President. Current reports say the five PDP governors who decamped to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC are now priority cases. To be found guilty at all costs.

There are many of you out there who are equally concerned as I am, about the leaders of the country continuing to behave like a stubborn mule, creating more problems for the country than solving them. Is all well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC?

Anyone paying attention to the goings-on in the EFCC in the last couple of weeks should pray for an intervention, divine or otherwise, to free the anti-corruption agency from the shackles of government.

I am not in particular, talking only about the rising number of political cases, manifested by increased visitations to states controlled by the so-called “rebel governors”. Why should I make excuses for governors with sticky fingers? Some of them have some explaining to do.

While this is going on, the country continues its increasing reputation as Africa’s hotbed of scams. Africa’s biggest financial and drug crimes originate from here. The most horrific cases of kidnapping, robbery and piracy on the continent come from here. Except when it comes to football, few around the globe call Nigeria in glorious terms and greatness. Many just take us as corrupt and untrustworthy the moment you say here I am, a Nigerian.

It was against the fear of things coming to this sorry pass that they created those bodies – the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC and the EFCC, which is the body under discussion in this column.

The EFCC wasn’t at all a bad news at the beginning. Then, it had a focus, a vision, and a determination to make a difference. This was helped greatly by dedicated staff, adequate government funding and the boundless international support it enjoyed. A staff at the Nigeria Mission once informed me that from records known to them, the EFCC did not, at that time need government appropriation to carry out its job; they got enough from foreign donors to thrive on their job.

When they mentioned the EFCC at that time, the heartbeat of the guilty dropped by several beats.

As with everything in Nigeria today, EFCC’s problem is truly, truly the problem of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, the PDP.

The PDP has a great deal in common with the cockroaches. A cockroach tries to enter a territory using a countless number of ways – and it succeeds always at your own expense!

The Presidency and the party did not rest until they succeed in turning the agency into matchet held by the country’s ruler, a matchet he used to hack just anyone who fell out of his line. It became a monster run amok. They investigated politicians and opened files on them. If you acted politically correct, your file is rested on the shelves gathering dusts. If you run foul of the President, they dusted off and headed to the courts with charges upon charges. It was in those murky circumstances that the current Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, a man said to have been the one who broke most of the success stories in those early days was appointed as Chairman. That thing gave hope to many that a redeemer had come and the more glorious days of EFCC were set to return.

More than at any time, the EFCC is today right there in the crutches of the President. Current reports say the five PDP governors who decamped to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC are now priority cases. To be found guilty at all costs.

What is however even more worrisome is the fact that the Commission is itself deeply divided, having become enmeshed in crises engendered by regime interests and the interests of its managers. In the last two weeks, there were reports of violent confrontations between the main Commission and its subsidiary, the Financial Crimes Unit. Reportedly, armed policemen attached to the Commission seized the offices of the FCU, ransacked the place and removed documents. The EFCC has since denied this encounter but they gave themselves away when they removed the head of FCU and replaced him with another. Why did this happen? Nobody, I am talking in particular about the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation who supervises the Commission or the relevant Committees of the National Assembly exercising oversight, has deemed it necessary to talk to Nigerians about what is going on in that place.

In the last one week, we have seen online reports disputing stories that the dozen or so bankers held in EFCC cells, are being detained in connection with one of the political cases I mentioned – that of the children of the Jigawa State Governor. This new report says they are actually being detained in respect of cases to do with the EFCC top brass. Is this true? An accountable government has the duty of offering an explanation to the public on this disquieting situation.

It is obvious that to be an accountable, credible, and unbiased investigator in the fashion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, the EFCC should first of all come out of the shadow of the PDP. It should enjoy an autonomous status, free it from successive Presidents, so that it could work without fear or favour toward any political entity.

The National Assembly should also find new ways of appointing the Chairman. A Chairman appointed by the President works for the President alone. This is not about Lamorde. Anyone in that situation will act in the same way. Like the Chief Justice, the Chairman of the Commission may be nominated by the National Judicial Council, NJC, to be ratified by the Senate.

But autonomy for EFCC should be balanced with transparency and accountability. Without this, whoever they put there as head, no matter his pedigree and standing in terms of preparation for the work will achieve nothing.

A starting point in this direction is for both the Attorney-General of the Federation and the relevant National Assembly Committees to open the doors and bring down the high walls of secrecy shrouding the inside happenings in the EFCC. What is cooking inside?

 

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Read this article in the Premium Times Newspapers

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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