EFCC turns anew, taming the shrew
Recently, officials of the Economic Financial crimes Commission (EFCC) exhibited their resolve to fight corruption by carrying a coffin from their premises in Wuse II to Sheu Yar’Ardua centre, venue of a seminar organised to mark the 2015 Anti-Corruption Day in Abuja.
With this symbolic display, the agency seems to have made a statement about its renewed commitment to stamp out corrupt practices especially in public office.
Although, EFCC had in the past made good efforts in fighting graft; its performance in the past three years or so was insipid at best, as public record shows.
According to the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, Nigeria in 2011 ranked 143 on the corruption ladder among 183 countries; in 2012, it ranked 139 out of 176; in 2013, it ranked 144 out of 177 and last year it ranked 136 among 174 countries.
In the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, this is hardly a record to inspire anyone. “In fact, it is sad, depressing and distressing,” he lamented.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Kii Moon in a goodwill message, described corruption as a serious impediment to sustainable development and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda set by the global body.
“When corruption and bribery succeed, the goal of fairness and equality fails; entire communities can be left without infrastructure, hospitals or schools. Corruption also undermines vital tendering processes, damages industries and debases competition,” he noted.
The European Union (EU) also has noted that corruption is a scourge to human rights and good governance, justice and democracy.
Speaking as a special guest at the annual Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Foundation annual lecture and as an honoree at the second convocation ceremony of the Kaduna State University, President Buhari has again reiterated his commitment to deal with the culture of corruption that has permeated the public office and held the country down.
“In striving to re-order our country and put it on the path of recovery, we have thus identified the need to tackle corruption head-on,” he declared.
Reading the President’s mind rightly, EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu, speaking at the 2015 Anti-corruption seminar, had vowed that the EFCC would recover all public funds siphoned under the guise of arms procurement by prominent Nigerians involved in the deal.
With a renewed vigor inspired by President Buhari, the chairman disclosed that his men are working hard to recover the stolen funds even as he hinted that substantial amount of money already has been recovered from a number of arms suppliers, consultants, and political jobbers.
“I can assure you that the Commission is on top of that investigation. We will spare no effort to ensure that we recover every kobo of public funds that have been stolen in the guise of arms procurement and the culprits brought to justice,” he told a cheering audience, including secondary school children, at the annual forum organised by the Inter-Agency Task Team, a common platform for anti-corruption and accountability in Nigeria.
The EFCC boss also disclosed that the Commission had so far this year, investigated 1882 cases and secured 78 convictions from 280 cases filed in court. That is less than 30 percent. Besides, he said the courts had already given several interim and final forfeiture orders even as funds are being recovered, but he gave no specific details of the worth of stolen wealth recovered.
Echoing the thoughts of many contributors, Magu praised the new administration for creating an enabling environment to fight corruption and promised that the Commission would fight corruption in a firm and transparent manner.
“The Commission under my watch shall be guided in the discharge of its mandate, by the fear of God, a patriotic desire to protect our national interest and uphold the rule of law. And this we promise to do in a firm, fair, accountable and transparent manner,” he stated.
Magu said he had embarked on the internal cleansing of the Commission to improve efficiency and re-position the agency to deliver on its mandate. He listed the implementation of its strategic plan and other institutional reforms as measures to increase the capacity to fight corruption. He also sought the co-operation of all civil society organisations and other critical stakeholders in the battle against corruption as a concerted effort to surmount all hindrances.
Speaking on the same issue, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami expressed regret that corruption had stunted the capacity of the country to attain economic development, but expressed assurance that the President would purge the nation of the cankerworm.
The minister identified a linkage between good governance and economic development and bemoaned the poverty level in the country despite its potentials. “There is a wide gap between revenue generation, appropriation, utilisation, public officials’ transparency, probity and the effect on the nation’s development,” he stated.
Malami expressed concern about the profile of Nigeria in the area of transparency, saying the indices are very worrisome.
He listed the challenges of Nigeria to include the high cost of doing business owing to poor power supply, official corruption, and high crime rate, high maternal mortality and a large number of children out of school, illicit capital flight and 800,000 deaths on the highways every year.
“The problem of corruption in Nigeria is not in the inadequacy of penal laws, sanctions or lack of institutional framework. Rather, attention must be directed at strengthening the capacity of the enforcement agencies to detect and prosecute offenders,” the chief law officer said.
He promised to expedite action on three laws designed to reinforce the fight against corruption. These are National Financial Intelligence Center Bill, Proceeds of Crime Bill and Whistle Blowers Protection Bill.
The UN scribe emphasised the need for governments to strengthen their anti-corruption apparatus. He also charged international organisations, academia, the private sector, civil society and professional associations to work together in exterminating corruption.
Speaking on the occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day, Ambassador Michel Arrion, Head of EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, who represented US deputy head of Mission, Ms. Marian Brewer, said the day has provided an opportunity for all stakeholders to restate their commitment to the fight against corruption in all ramifications.
He disclosed that the EU gave financial and technical support of 27.5million pounds and 35 million Euros to anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria between 2005 and 2015.
“The project was aimed at strengthening evidence-based policy making, people-oriented service delivery and a culture of transparency and accountability. It also sought to contribute to the conduct of a technically sound and politically credible anti-corruption policy in Nigeria.”
Other anti-corruption and accountability agencies gave an account of their stewardship. The Nigerian Police, Code of Conduct Bureau, Public Complaints Commission, Bureau of Public Procurement, Financial Reporting Council and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation also made presentations.
Ms. Lilian Ekeanyanwu, Head of the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-corruption Reforms, organisers of the forum, said the anti-corruption day had been marked in the country since 2009 as a strategic approach to measuring the fight against corruption and make it all-inclusive. She urged the government to adopt a national strategy to tame the menace.
The UN adopted the International Anti-Corruption Day to acknowledge the work undertaken against corruption and bribery and chart future efforts to rid the world of these vices.