Since November, 2011 when Ibrahim Lamorde was drafted in to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the immediate past administration
of President Goodluck Jonathan, very little has been heard about the war against corruption, which he is supposed to spearhead, going by the demands of his office. Whenever he gets the opportunity to grant press interviews, he never failed to tell us that the fight against corruption was on course, and I am one of those who never really doubted him.
Though, no high level conviction has been secured within this period, I was and still not confused about the fact that the fight against corruption in the highest places is not a tea party. I am also one of those who are opposed to media trial of those suspected of being involved in corruption, so, I held the hope that Ibrahim Lamorde, considering his many years in the service of the EFCC and well quoted experience in the fight against corruption is actually taking deliberate but noiseless steps in the fight against corruption.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who is the pioneer chairman of the Commission did lots of good jobs, but all his achievements within the years he headed the EFCC got vitiated when he allowed the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency to turn him to an attack dog and persecutor-in-chief, who was unleashed on sitting and past Governors and other political office holders who were perceived to be or were really opposed to the Obasanjo style of politics. Ribadu also failed to secure any high profile conviction till he was eventually removed from office under controversial circumstances.
The Alamieyeseigha conviction was possible because of the involvement of Western crime fighters who were able to secure good evidence against the former Governor when he flew into their country with bags of money. A good crime fighter is rated by his ability to carry out good investigations and secure water tight evidences against suspects before arresting or charging them to court.
I lost hope in Lamorde when he resumed the practice of trying top Nigerians on the pages of Newspapers and on television screens, even before getting the smallest piece of paper in evidence against them. Such situation makes it possible for majority of such politicians to walk away free, while some others who may actually be innocent of the accusations against them live with the stigma of the embarrassment they were made to pass through in the name of arrest.
I was embarrassed on hearing the story of a top politician from the North who complained that the EFCC came to his house to arrest with a legion of journalists, and before he could even get to the EFCC office, media were outdoing themselves over which of them will be the first to report the news and with the most sensational heading. Yes, the media has a role to play in fighting corruption, but that role only comes when the experts have concluded or gone far in carrying out their investigations.
Fighting corruption is too serious a business to be reduced to unnecessary histrionics, which is unfortunately what the EFCC has turned the fight against corruption to, since its establishment in 2003. So much is the disappointment of the Commission that it is hardly contestable that the EFCC has cost Nigeria more money than Nigeria gained from it in the last twelve years of its existence, yet, that Commission is a for profit Commission; it was conceived not just to prosecute corrupt officials, but to recover funds looted by corrupt officials and also prevent funds from being looted by corrupt or potentially corrupt officials. Had EFCC, especially under Lamorde not allowed itself to be overwhelmed by the Nigerian culture of ‘nothing works’, we would have been able to save the current President the distractions of having to probe, probe and probe. And like Ahmed Joda, the Chairman of President Buhari’s Transition Committee said; “We saw corruption everywhere”. If after nearly twelve years of the existence of an Agency with the special and singular mandate to fight corruption, yet the same ill is still in the words of the Pa Ahmed Joda, “found everywhere”; is it not safe to say that those who have been at the helm of that Agency, all that while have been having a jamboree?
For someone handling an assignment as crucial and sensitive as fighting the most dangerous scourge that has damaged the image of the country before the entire world, Lamorde is not supposed to know neither enemy nor foes. There have been several unfortunate allegations against the EFCC Chairman which suggests that he panders to the whims of those close to the corridors of power. Not long ago, a respected politician and former Senator of the Federal Republic, Senator Joseph Waku openly accused the EFCC Chairman of enjoying a very personal and suspicious relationship with the strongman of Southwest politics, Senator Bola Tinubu, so much so that the latter “personally” submitted a petition against the wife of the Senate President, Toyin Saraki and directed Lamorde to ensure that the former Kwara First Lady is persecuted, supposedly as a way to get back at her husband for rebelling against Tinubu’s directive in the constitution of the National Assembly leadership. Waku went ahead to accuse the EFCC Chairman of having been promised by Tinubu that he would be helped to retain his job in the anti-graft Agency.
Also, the EFCC Chairman is also accused of being selective in the treatment of petitions submitted to the Commission. While some people claim that the Adamawa born Police officer decides on those to prosecute based on his personal relationship or reach or such individuals, others allege that he waits for directive from Aso Rock before proceeding with any action on petitions received by the EFCC. The EFCC is an independent body, which should even be able to quietly keep records of corruption against the President, if they exist. But, when the Helmsman in such a sensitive Agency panders to the whims of not just the President but to anyone he believes knows the route to Aso Villa, then, the corruption fight is nothing but a ruse.
It is said that Caesar’s wife must be without blemish, so also must a corruption fighter be clean from any involvement in corrupt practices. Such word should not in anywhere mentioned near him. But if what the Senators are hearing is to be taken seriously, then, Ibrahim Lamorde was actually in a kind of competition with other public officials over who will steal most. EFCC has never handled the case of any single individual or even an institution that involves up to a trillion Naira, but that is what the EFCC Chairman is being investigated for.
The Senate’s Ethics and Privileges Committee is in receipt of a petition by one George Uboh, accusing the EFCC Chairman of fraudulently diverting over One Trillion Naira being monies recovered from several convicted individuals including the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and former Police Inspector General, Tafa Balogun. The petitioner alleges that Lamorde started hiding away these monies from 2003, when he was the Director of Operations of the EFCC till now that he is the Chairman of the Commission.
The Senate probe will afford the EFCC Chairman a good opportunity to exculpate himself from such grievous allegation. But whether he succeeds or fails at doing that, I think he has lost any moral right to continue lobbying openly or secretly for him to be retained in his position as the helmsman of the anti-graft Agency.
Should the Senate find him guilty, he will be on his way to the prison, but if he is able to convince them that Mr. George Uboh is talking trash, then, he should also be returning to the barracks as a Police man, as he has shown himself to be inefficient in the job of fighting graft.
Onwuasoanya FCC Jones