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Auspicious time to streamline, re-engineer the anti-graft agencies

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For more than three decades running, hardly had a day passed by without corruption being mentioned as the bane of Nigeria’s political and social life. Nationally and globally, corruption has been described as the worst cancer

Nigeria has been suffering from. It is the main malaise that has been responsible for the country’s under development.

One would recall that, apart from the blood-spinning and consuming political crises in the ‘wild West’ between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Akintola, which had become a national embarrassment and security risk, the other major reason given by the Nigerian military officers led by Major Chukwuma Patrick Kaduna Nzeogwu that toppled the administration of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on 15th January, 1966 was excessive corruption. When on 31st December, 1983 the civilian administration of the first Nigerian Executive President, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, was overthrown by a military junta led by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, the reason adduced was corruption. 

Even though some critical observers had held or still hold the opinion that Buhari’s coup d’état was a Northern Nigeria’s agenda to forestall the then Vice-President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo, from becoming the next President of the Country in 1987, many Nigerians agreed that there was official corruption of very high magnitude. As some critics would say, the history of Nigerian is that of progressive entrenchment of corruption.

Being conscious of this social malady, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was sworn in as second Executive President of Nigeria on 29th May, 1999, inaugurated the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on September 29th, 2000. It was evident that the commission was almost dead on arrival. Many factors militated against the required successes of the agency. Some of these factors included inadequate training for the personnel meant to discharge the functions associated with such delicate and tasking duties. In this case, Police officers are expected to be specially trained in special areas of investigation for adequate result. The government that was visionary enough to establish the commission was unfortunate not to possess or exhibit the generosity to fund the Agency adequately. In this wise, the commission could not engage the professional services of experienced, competent and reliable legal luminaries to handle her cases in court. Hence, most of the cases instituted against alleged offenders were thrown out on technical grounds.

Partly in response to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), which had named Nigeria as one of the notorious twenty-three countries that were non-co-operative in the International Community’s efforts to fight money laundering, the Nigerian government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission in 2003. The body has the stamp of law to investigate financial crimes such as advance fee fraud (419) and money laundering. So far, the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission has had three chairmen; (1) Nuhu Ribadu, (2) Farida Mzamber Waziri and (3) Ibrahim Lamorde as Current Chairman. In the same vein, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission has had three Chairmen (1) Justice Mustapha Akanbi, (2) Justice Olayinka Ayoola and (3) Mr Ekpo Nta, the Present Helmsman. Though many Nigerians had, at various times, expressed fear that Obasanjo’s Ulterior motive in creating the anti-graft agencies was to use them for a witch-hunt against political opponents or those that might constitute a hindrance to his anticipated third term in office, the truth remains that Nigeria, at the time the agencies were set up, were in dire need of such agencies. 

Before his removal in 2007 by President Umaru Yar’Adua for reasons that could not be distant from retrogressive political considerations, it was very clear that Nuhu Ribadu had patriotically and very transparently discharged his duties. Except the parochially minded, Nigerians saw in Nuhu Ribadu a determined citizen who was ready to go any length in order to guarantee the rectitude that had dangerously eluded the Nigerian State. 

When Ribadu was removed and subsequently subjected to an unholy regime of humiliation and debasement, Nigerians did not wait to be told the government of Yar’Adua had no commitment to the fight against corruption. a critical analysis of the war against corruption since 2003 would certainly show that combined achievements, if any, of both Farida Waziri and Ibrahim Lamorde, for their eight years, are, by far, less than ten percent of those of Nuhu Ribadu. In fact, between 2003 and 2007, the fear of Ribadu’s E.F.C.C. was the beginning of wisdom.

Every well-meaning Nigerian appreciates the fact that corruption has been the bane of this country. The consequences of corruption are so contagious that they spread without being inhibited by geography, politics, religion or gender. One single corrupt act committed in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja can turn millions of Nigerians in Sokoto, Maiduguri, Jos, Ibadan, Asaba and Abakaliki into very penurious state. It is akin to one act of financial impropriety hatched and executed in Umuahia that can render almost all roads in Ukwa-West Local Government Area of Abia State impassable, including the major roads that leads from Obehie-Asa to the Council headquarters at Okeikpe. 

This being the true situation, there is need for the war against corruption to be strengthened in all ramifications. In order to achieve this worthy objective, there is absolute need for the anti-graft agencies; Independent Corrupt Practice and other Related Offences’ Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission, to be streamlined, re-engineered and re-focused. For the country to achieve optimum results in the war against corruption, duplications in functionality should be removed and avoided. There is no justification, whatsoever, why Nigeria should establish, operate and sustain two different anti-graft agencies at the same time, when their mandate and responsibilities are almost the same. 

The expected roles of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences’ Commission do not basically differ from those assigned to the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission [EFCC]. Leaving the two anti-graft agencies to function vis-a-vis does not, in actuality, convey any iota of seriousness, sense of direction and sincerity of purpose on the part of the Federal government. These two agencies should be fused into one. At a time, such as we are in now, when the country’s economy, due to corruption of a very unprecedented tall order, is in the doldrums, the country cannot afford the cost ineffectiveness of a jamboree which origin can only be traceable to painlessness and financial recklessness.

Any genuine attempt to overhaul the anti-corruption drive of the federal government, must talk into deep cognizance the integrity perception and frame-work of the agency. By this, the federal government should not be oblivious of the effect of perception in the country’s body politic. In trying to build a virile society, leaders of such society should not distance themselves from the perception their followers have an issues bordering on the relationship between the leader and the led. Questions that emanate from leadership are best addressed once the fellowship has the perception that there is transparency, equity and fairness in the conduct if the affairs of their state, organization or society. If, on the hand, the perception tilts towards the antithesis of the qualities mentioned just above, mobilizing and galvanizing the potential co-operation and support of the masses become extremely herculean.

As it is always said, he who goes to equity should go with clean hands. In a typical African Tradition and society, no known thief is made a treasurer, not even a financial secretary. Once one’s pedigree has been known, he remains treated as such, except evidences later emerge, very convincingly, that the known thief has honestly and self repentantly turned a new leaf.

It is a known fact that once the head is rotten, every other component of the body becomes sick and cannot perform or function effectively. Drawing again from perception, it has to be emphatically stated here that since many accusing fingers have been raise against the supposed Lack of Integrity, and compromise by the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, allowing him to stay further on the commission would be detrimental to the pursuit of social justice. Just recently, an online news network; Information Nigeria, had reported that more than twenty Civil Society Organizations had gone to the Headquarters of the Crimes Commission at Abuja, protesting the Lamorde should be sacked. Among the reasons they gave included; 

(1) That Lamorde had twice fraudulently collected Estacada in order to participate in the supervision of biometric exercises involving pensioners in the Diaspora but did not travel on any of the occasions.

(2) That Lamorde had equally dishonestly received allowances for meetings he never attended with the Pension Reform Task Team, and 

(3) That Lamorde allowed the Economic and Financial Crimes’ Commission to comatose for a very long time only for him to psychophantly appear to be revitalizing it now that Buhari is singing his change mantra.

From whatever angle it would be considered, Nigeria and her Citizens want and are in for change. Speculations are rife that the governors that despicably milked their states dry, leaving their citizens, including majority of the commissioners who served under them, wallowing in perilous penury and near-destitution, have bought Lamorde over for an unholy compromise, using billions of naira from their loot and enormous pillage. Nigerians are hungry and thirsty for an ombudsman that will emerge on a very clean slate and whose invulnerability they can proudly showcase and export to the international community.

Including this piece, a word of caution must be sounded that in carrying out its responsibilities, the rule of law must be accorded premium. The Buhari administration, in as much as Nigerians are eager to see and feel that the billions of naira unconscionably and uncouthly stolen by the immediate past state governors and their families, which paralyzed the states, are recovered, should never contemplate hiding under such mission and pursuit to witch-hunt innocent members of the opposition or law-abiding citizens of the country. The rule of law and good conscience should prevail at any given time in this country called Nigeria.

Scripted by Chief (Sir) Don Ubani

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