Is EFCC’s vacation really over?
IF we were a people plagued with a reflection deficit, we would consider the sacking of Ibrahim Lamorde as constituting a glimmer of light on the dark horizon of the nation’s fight against corruption. We would be elated at the prospect of a new leader taking over the reins of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Expectations would soar, only for them to crash after a short time. Nigerians would again be sorely disappointed that instead of receding, corruption is on the prowl, menacingly making inroads into more sectors of the society. But we are wiser now. And the emergence of Ibrahim Magu as the new anti-corruption czar does not offer much relief.
It seems the EFCC has been doomed from the beginning because it is denuded of altruistic foundations. If the commission was set up as a means of intimidating and suppressing perceived and real enemies, it is then no longer surprising why it has consistently failed to tame corruption. During the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when the warped motive behind the establishment of the commission was adroitly hidden from the public, it derived a certain legitimacy from the leadership of Nuhu Ribadu. He brought so much verve to bear on the campaign against corruption that led to the arrest and prosecution of political leaders. His boss, the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, was even convicted and jailed. But it has been observed that since Ribadu was kicked out of office, he has rued how he was used by Obasanjo to persecute his enemies while shielding his friends from prosecution.
Under Farida Waziri who replaced Ribadu, the EFCC was blighted by a lack of will to fight corruption. Under her regime, former Delta State Governor James Ibori held sway as a kingmaker at Aso Rock even though charges of corruption were hanging on him. After Ibori was arrested and jailed in London, the existence of the EFCC under Waziri became a national embarrassment. It was an attempt to erase this national disgrace that paved the way for the emergence of Lamorde as a replacement for Waziri. Yet, his appointment further plunged the anti-graft commission into somnolence. For the almost four years Lamorde supervised the EFCC, it is not on record that it was able to secure the conviction of any top politician with the appropriate sanction. Yet, this was the time that billions were stolen with frightening regularity. While it neglected to probe and jail the big politicians, the EFCC was busy hounding the little thieves such as Internet fraudsters, the petty 419ners. It was only in the last six months that the EFCC woke up and it was busy trying to prosecute some people. This was correctly interpreted as a desperate move by Lamorde to secure a renewal of his tenure.
With the emergence of Magu, the worry now is not whether he is eligible for the job. He may indeed possess the experience having been at the commission since the days of Ribadu, and the passion for the job. Rather, the worry is whether he would be allowed to bring his experience and passion to bear on the job. For if other helmsmen of the commission have failed because they were not allowed to diligently carry out their duties by past presidents, how are we sure that President Muhammadu Buhari who is the boss of the current EFCC chief would allow him to do his work? In other words, whether Magu succeeds where his predecessors failed or not would be determined by Buhari himself. And this imposes on Buhari the necessity from the outset to imbue in Mangu the consciousness not to fight corruption in response to the so-called body language of the president or his direct prompting. Rather, the president must let Magu know in unequivocal terms that the nation has entrusted him with the responsibility of fighting corruption strictly in line with the dictates of the law.
Clearly, if the fight against corruption is left at the mercy of the body language of the president, there would not be a break from the trajectory of the past failed attempts to check the menace. And if the fight against corruption must include all past public leaders, why must Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, Abubakar Atiku, among others be having free access to Aso Rock? As long as these people are not paying formal visits to Aso Rock on occasions like the Council of State meetings, the suspicion remains that former leaders hobnobbing with Buhari would not be probed for corruption.
Just recently, Buhari dismissed the suggestion that he should make the anti-corruption campaign holistic. Yet, this is the advice he must heed if he wants to be taken seriously as fighting a sincere anti-corruption battle. He must strip the fight of its skewed character. It is not only the members of the opposition party that should be tried for corruption. The members of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on whom corruption charges are hanging should be brought to justice. So far, no one has said that corruption should not be fought. The advice to the president is that if the fight against corruption is primarily tied to past political leaders, it must not be limited to the administration of Jonathan.
It must involve all the past leaders before Jonathan who have been accused of corruption. It definitely makes a mockery of the fight against corruption when somebody is being tried for taking a N70 million bribe while those who stole billions to set up universities and buy over their states are allowed to carry on as though they were saints.
The EFCC under Magu must prove to Nigerians that it is ready to chart a different path. It must take cognisance of the fact that a critical factor for the success of the anti-corruption campaign is its ability to secure convictions.
Nigerians are weary of reading about trials on the pages of newspapers only for the suspects to be allowed to go home. They are weary of the EFCC giving soft landing to those who ought to refund whatever they have stolen and still go to jail. Securing the convictions of so-called big men and women is the litmus test of whether the EFCC under Magu would remain on vacation or it would actively be on its duty post to fight corruption.