On Wednesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced that it had discovered huge sums of money in an apartment in Lagos State of $43.4million, £27,800 and N23.2million. This money, which was discovered in the 7th-floor apartment at Osborne Towers in the highbrow area of Ikoyi was as a result of a tip-off from a whistleblower.
However, the EFCC did not divulge the name of the suspect or the owner of the apartment, causing a lot of speculation as to whom the money belonged. So far, the names mentioned have ranged from a former executive of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), a former governor and National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party and former Rivers State Governor and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Expectedly, all the people named have denied ownership of the money, apart from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which is said to have claimed the money was for a covert operation it was running in Lagos.
In all of this controversy, the EFCC has maintained an uncomfortable silence, and one that is unusual. If anyone is expected to know the identity of the owner of the apartment or the money, it ought to be the EFCC which should have gotten that information from the whistleblower or indicated it while filing for the temporary seizure order it secured from the Federal High Court, Lagos.
This is not the first time that the EFCC has announced the discovery of large sums of money which likely point to money laundering but did not reveal the owners of the money: a month ago, N49million was intercepted at the Kaduna Airport without the owners present, their identities still a mystery. On the 7th of April, it also discovered almost half a billion naira in an abandoned bureau de change in Lagos – again, the owners of the money or the bureau de change unknown.
It is curious that the EFCC keeps making these huge finds without ever revealing the owners, even in cases where tracing them should not be hard: bureau de change operators are registered with the Central Bank of Nigeria, while bags checked-in at airports are linked to plane tickets.
This puzzling pattern is what has led many to conclude that the EFCC is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians by staging these discoveries of money in order to create the illusion of performance, or that the persons that own the money are untouchable.
The EFCC has its reputation at stake if it allows these narratives to define the work it is doing, and the best way to salvage it is by disclosing fully those it suspects to own the monies. As an investigation agency, it cannot continue to wait for those who own the money to come forward. Rather, it should make every effort to unmask them.
All eyes are now on it to do the right thing.