By Zainab Suleiman Okino
Since their creation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), have always been mired in controversy and blemished by political influence. From the appointment of the heads to their activities, the anti-graft agencies are also troubled, as much as they trouble alleged offenders, in addition to subtle institutional rivalry between them and the Attorney General’s office.
The recent appointment of a new substantive chairman of the EFCC in person of Olanipekun Olukoyede has once again put the agency on the spotlight of national discourse over issues surrounding his qualification, competence, and the propriety of the appointment in the first place. The latter revolves around the former chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who, while still in detention was said to have resigned his appointment, to pave way for the new man at the helms now. This is unprecedented and absurd; Nigerians don’t resign from their jobs, and no one resigns while in prison except under duress.
The pioneer EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, now National Security Adviser and appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo was removed unceremoniously by President Umaru Yar’adua over his witch-hunting (read investigation) of friends of that government at that time. While in office, Ribadu was reporting to only the president as he “bypassed bureaucratic burdens within the security hierarchy and civil service.” Expectedly such a powerful man could not have remained in office after jailing or caused to be jailed and putting corruption dent on many a politician including governors, con-artists, internet fraudsters, ministers and people with ill-gotten money generally.
The EFCC strongman later delved into partisan politics. That was a red flag, and indeed a setback for the anti-corruption war considering that politics is full of compromises, and inherently corrupt. For an anti-corruption czar and fighter to hobnob with those he hounded was (still is) an expensive joke.
The tenure of Farida Waziri who took over from Ribadu was largely uneventful and stellar, but she too ran into troubled waters over allegation of being sponsored by corrupt politicians before she was also booted out by Goodluck Jonathan in what he called “national interest” and replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde, whose tenure was characterised by alleged missing $5 billion.
However, the coming to power of APC changed a lot about the EFCC dynamics. President Buhari nominated Ibrahim Magu as acting EFCC chairman but never had the courage to get him cleared by the Senate as substantive chairman perhaps because of his (Magu) battle with AGF Malami. Two times he was denied clearance after screening over “security report.”
Enter youthful Abdulrasheed Bawa who came in with so much promise only to be detained by the government of President Bola Tinubu. As it happened during the appointment of Olayemi Cardoso as Central Bank governor, when the nation was told that former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele had resigned his appointment, it was the turn of Abdulrasheed Bawa to suffer the same humiliation of “resignation in detention” to pave the way for Olukoyede. Bawa was hounded into DSS detention facility shortly after Tinubu was sworn in over allegations of corruption and abuse of office, and no one has sighted him since then. Bawa’s travails are connected to his effrontery to take on and investigate powerful politicians who are now serving in Tinubu’s government.
Among them was the former governor of Zamfara state, Bello Mattawalle being investigated over alleged diversion of his state’s N70 billion and former Kebbi state governor, Atiku Abubakar. In the heat of the succession crises within the ruling APC, the ex-EFCC chairman was said to have been “used” by Aso Rock cabal to investigate Tinubu’s alleged stupendous wealth. By the time the plan failed, and Tinubu emerged as the party’s candidate and subsequently president, Bawa was already a marked man. His long detention without trial might have lent credence to this view.
As can be gleaned above, EFCC has been subjected to political manipulation over time. It is a tool in the hands of the appointing president to witch-hunt opponents over spurious allegations. The careers of many people have been truncated over media trials and unsubstantiated allegations. Some politicians whose ambitions were abridged by EFCC for daring to challenge the president got reprieve in court after long and tortuous litigations. More people acquire proceeds from crime every day. Where public institutions collapse or do not work efficiently, new billionaires emerge from their ashes. Beneficiaries even keep part of the proceeds of corruption for EFCC and ICPC officials when they come knocking. The few investigations EFCC succeeds at are internet frauds, scamming, yahoo yahoo and a handful of politicians.
Almost all former EFCC chairmen have had their reputations soiled. They were either accused of corruption—the core mandate of their job—or are stopped from doing that same work? This has prompted concerns about EFCC’s existence, worries about anti-graft war and over politicization of appointments. What is the essence of agencies of government being undermined by those who should oversight them for efficiency?
Take the example of the newly appointed EFCC chair. Questions are being raised about his competence and qualifications for the job. According to reports, Olukoyede might not have met the requirements of section 2(3) of the EFCC Act which states that the chairman of the commission “must be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent and possess not less than 15 year-experience.” Olukoyede had never served in this capacity before his appointment as Chief of Staff in 2016 and secretary in 2018 and subsequent suspension along with Magu.
Well, cognate experience is now a matter of conjectures depending on the angle you are looking at. But beyond these arguments is the large-scale corruption and opaque governance system without much accountability. Before the era of EFCC, corruption was not this gargantuan, rampant, and pervasive.
Appointments and removal are based on the whims of the president. No amount of public opprobrium or opinion has been able to alter anything in the polity, discourage corruption, promote good governance and transparency; we are just running in circles so to say. What then is the use of a government agency whose mere barking must be approved by the paymaster and is open to manipulation? What was the level of corruption in 1999 compared with now? How many people with ill-gotten wealth are in prison for their infractions? With these hypothetical questions and infringement of all previous EFCC chairmen’s rights, especially the detention of some like Magu then and Bawa now, the issue has become a matter of significant concern.
Under this administration, it is not enough to sack appointees, now we jail them without proper trial. Tinubu should know he is violating people’s rights, and it goes against the grains of his democratic credentials. In any democratic society, the rule of law is fundamental, and individuals have the right to fair treatment, due process, and a fair trial. Detention without proper trial not only violates human rights but also undermines the credibility and integrity of the legal system. Any government’s interference in the judiciary or attempts to manipulate it for political gains raise fundamental questions about the country’s democratic values and the sanctity of the legal system.
Constant political interference in the activities of the country’s foremost agencies set up to curb economic sabotage and illegal acquisition of wealth by those in charge can at best further mess things up. Where do we go from here? Should we just crash things and go back to the drawing board?
Kano mass weeding: Political or social consideration?
The mass wedding which took place in Kano at the weekend is far from what weddings should be. It is more about political expediency. It is far from the realm of personal and emotional. If it is not politics, why did the grooms wear the ruling party, NNPP’s insignia like the Kwankwaso caps for the men. Leader of the Kwankwasiyya movement, Rabiu Kwankwaso gave a controversial advice to women not to check their husbands’ phones and ignored same for the men on how to treat their wives appropriately.
Apart from scoring a political point, how will these marriages be sustained without skills and money? Paying dowries as the government did is not enough; it should go beyond that by establishing a Trust Fund for couples, where they can draw funds from, for small scale businesses without hassles.
This will go a long way in curbing more social upheavals that may arise from the marriages when the dust settles.
Zainab Suleiman Okino is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org