BusinessDay

EFCC looks on as financial inducement allegations haunt primaries

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s top anti-graft agency, again looked helpless as aspirants angling to replace President Muhammadu Buhari looped accusations of financial inducements at their colleague on Tuesday night at the ruling party’s primaries.

Tunde Bakare, senior pastor of the Citadel Global Community Church, Lagos, and Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport, accused fellow aspirants of financially inducing the delegates to secure their votes ahead of the primary elections, urging delegates not to allow monetary considerations determine their vote.

Around the Eagle Square, venue of the All Progressive Congress’ (APC) primaries, whispers of a dollar rain by aspirants on delegates met the same response you would expect from a mannequin as operatives of the EFCC watched on.

However, while the accusations from the aspirants remained unproven, established cases of financial inducements have not been prosecuted by the EFCC either.

For example, Adam Sambo, son of former Vice-President Namadi Sambo, who was defeated at the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primaries for the Kaduna North Federal Constituency, harangued delegates to refund monies given to them.

To quell a backlash, Sambo explained that it was a directive given by the major stakeholders of the PDP that any sum given to delegates by various aspirants for their support should be returned to those unsuccessful in the primary elections.

“Delegates themselves are aware of the directives given by the major stakeholders of the PDP in the Kaduna North Constituency, that any sum given to delegates by various aspirants for their support should be returned to those unsuccessful in their primary elections,” he said.

There are other reported cases of delegates being induced in both the ruling APC and the opposition PDP but the EFCC has not announced any moves to investigate reported claims of impropriety or curb the practice by their presence.

Yet, officials of the agency mill around at party convention grounds during party conventions. At the APC primaries, our correspondents counted about 10 operatives of the EFCC at the Abuja venue of the primaries in their red jackets, at strategic points.

Legal experts say the presence of the EFCC is amounting to mere drama and the rising accusations of inducements with the anti-corruption agencies unmoved show how poorly they are performing.

“The commercialisation of politics and turning the presidency of Nigeria into something to be purchased shows a failure of anti-corruption of agencies,” said Inibehe Effiong, human rights at Inibehe Effiong Chambers.

Effiong said if the anti-graft agencies were serious, they could have found a way to curb the practice as the financial inducements often get done away from the party primary event.

The effect of commercialisation of politics is that important office in the land goes to the highest bidder while competence is relegated, said Effiong.

“Those who are genuinely interested in serving the country no longer have the fair chance of offering themselves to the party to be a candidate; the result is that it leads to bad governance,” he said.

Read also: EFCC storms APC convention at Eagle

However, another analyst, Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based research firm, said the role of the EFCC as an investigative agency often rely on petitions before commencing investigations and may be unwilling to start one based on mere accusations without receiving a petition with solid evidence of wrongdoing.

Recently, the EFCC came under scrutiny on social media for its presence at party primary venues, with many saying their presence was not necessary at the event.

In response, the EFCC hosted a Twitter Space to sensitise members of the public on its role in elections. Section 6 of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (Establishment) Act 2004 provides that the EFCC may utilise coordinated preventive and regulatory measures to ensure that financial economic crimes are not committed.

Section 6 also provides for the adoption of measures to eradicate the commission of economic and financial crimes and the next subsection provides that the commission adopt measures that include coordinated preventive and regulatory actions, introduction and maintenance of investigative and control techniques on the prevention of economic and financial related crimes;

To further buttress this fact, in a recent statement, Niyi Adebayo, commander of Abuja Zonal Command of the EFCC, revealed that its presence in the primary elections of parties does not only show the important role of the EFCC in ensuring that elections are free and fair but reiterates its role of prevention of financial crimes. Its presence, therefore, was intended to serve as a deterrent to any electoral fraud.

Yet the presence of the operatives did little to dissuade inducements at the primaries of the two major political parties, PDP and APC.

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