• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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What EFCC must do to remain relevant – Nigerians

EFCC nabs five for possessing illegally-mined minerals in Kwara

Nigeria’s Economy Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) under the leadership of Ola Olukoyede has seen rising success in checking crime in recent weeks.

However, the anti-graft agency has been heavily criticised by some Nigerians for only focusing on minor crimes.

Critics are of the opinion that prominent politicians who divert public funds meant for infrastructural projects are being shielded by the agency, especially those with links to President Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Read also: EFCC and the brigandage that won’t stop – By Lere Olayinka 

There are those who say that the agency under the current leadership should redouble its efforts in tackling high profile corruption cases.

In recent days, the EFCC have been on the rampage, going after those who spray money in ceremonial events. From Bobrisky to Cubana high chief, the searchlight appears to have been turned on former governors.

The agency last week declared former Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello wanted over alleged N80 billion financial crimes; this was after an attempt to arrest him failed in Abuja.

The anti-graft commission has asked anyone with useful information on Bello’s whereabouts to contact the commission or the nearest police station.

Read also: EFCC warns schools, malls against charging in dollars

This was after the EFCC was granted a warrant of arrest by the Federal High Court in Abuja to apprehend the former governor.

But many Nigerians are wondering why the EFCC is just waking up to such now?

There has been growing criticism that the agency was now a tool of the government and was no longer active.

In the past, the EFCC had secured conviction against heavyweights, such as top politicians, former governors and bank chiefs.

In 2023, the anti-graft agency secured a conviction against a former Senator representing Delta North in the National Assembly, Peter Nwaoboshi, who was on the run for months after the Court of Appeal Lagos Division convicted and sentenced him to 7 years imprisonment for money laundering.

Several other former governors and politicians have also been prosecuted and sent to jail by the EFCC in the last two decades. Among them is; Bala Ngilari, a former governor of Adamawa State; Jolly Nyame, a former governor of Taraba State; Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau State and Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of Abia State.

While the anti-graft agency was seeing a drop in prosecution of corrupt high profile citizens, many Nigerians have heavily criticised its officers for turning themselves into agents of politicians and being used by top government officials to witch-hunt opponents.

Olu Fasan, Visiting Fellow in the International Relations Department of the London School of Economics (LSE), and popular columnist, said although the EFCC can’t prosecute a sitting president or governor because of their immunity, he wondered why a truly independent anti-graft agency is not able to prosecute anyone else without fear or favour.

He said in 2022, the FBI launched a criminal investigation against President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over allegations of tax crimes, drug use and illegal purchase of a handgun wondering if such can be found here.

According to him, “The FBI did not dodge the investigation because it involved the president’s son, and President Biden did not stop the FBI from doing its job. Can that happen in Nigeria? Absolutely not.

“Rather, the EFCC has, historically, been accused of being a political tool, used by successive presidents to harass their political opponents or pressured to turn a blind eye to the corrupt practices of their allies.”

Last year, Wole Soyinka pointed out in an interview that the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) should be questioning governors and key officials that occupied critical positions in Muhammadu Buhari’s government now that they no longer have immunity.

“Are they answering questions from the EFCC? ICPC, EFCC, what are you doing about them? What happened? We’ve been waiting, indeed, we are still waiting”! he said.

Many Nigerians agreed that the greatest problem facing the anti-graft agency from carrying out its duties effectively is the constant political interference from the government in power.

This explains the frequent desire of every government in power to have the head of the agency under its control by appointing the agency’s leader?

Hameed Muritala, a public affairs analyst, disagreed with the argument that the anti-graft agency is shunning bigger issues and running after naira abusers, stressing that Nigerians should rather urge the EFCC to scale up the fight against corruption.

Muritala noted that the EFCC raid on naira abusers was a welcome development, noting that it is long overdue and that Nigerians know it’s against the law to abuse the naira, yet a lot of people, including celebrities and privileged members of the society, continue to violate the law.

“I believe that the recent raid and prosecution of naira abusers will deter others from abusing the currency. We can urge the EFCC to scale up the fight against corruption but shouldn’t discourage it from dealing with people abusing the naira, which has become so prevalent”, he said.

Similarly, Tade Ademola, political analyst and politician, said the prosecution of naira abusers should not be in contention since it is an offence against the law.

He added that there was a structural problem that had made the EFCC unable to function effectively, while calling that the appointment of the head of the organisation should be taken away from the sitting president.

According to him, “I believe there are structural problems affecting the EFCC from functioning effectively and part of it is the process of appointing the head of the agency, until there is a change don’t expect much.

“We are funny people of Nigeria; an offence is an act committed against the law. The gravity should not be in contention. This raid is serving major moral purposes.

“We have people who buy and sell mint (another offence). Then, the impact on the larger population, which is negative, will be curtailed. The multiplier effect will be massive.”

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ZEBULON AGOMUO,
Editor, BDSUNDAY
Coordinator, Politics desk
BUSINESSDAY NEWSPAPER (BusinessDay Media Ltd.)
Lagos-Nigeria
‪08023283822‬, ‪08054691823‬
[email protected], [email protected]