Perils of looters’ anonymity

For the EFCC’s declaration is a self-indictment as it means that it has failed to do the first things before rushing to the media to announce its haul to its excited audience that cheers it on.

It is a disturbing paradox that the Ibrahim Magu’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has left unresolved – the more breathtaking the speed with which it pursues its campaign of ridding the country of corruption, the more chinks are inflicted on its armour for sceptics to question its credibility. Just recently, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Senate attempted to nibble away at the confidence of Magu by directly impugning his competence and integrity. Worse, the commission has been woefully losing its cases in the courts.

The above could be considered as externally induced bumps in the path of the commission to wage a successful war against corruption. But there are other obstacles that the agency has seemingly spawned deliberately to serve a purpose other than its avowed pursuit of national good. The newest obstacle that the EFCC is now erecting in its path is its declaration of its inability to identify the owners of loot it has recovered.

By taking this path, the agency has failed to realise that it has set up itself for mockery. For the EFCC’s declaration is a self-indictment as it means that it has failed to do the first things before rushing to the media to announce its haul to its excited audience that cheers it on. It has failed to do a thorough surveillance and investigation that could have made it to unveil the identities of the culprits and render its case irreproachable. It is this unbroken absence of fidelity to the first things that have made the courts to dismiss most of the cases of the EFCC.

As the controversy rages over the N15 billion cash haul from the Osborne Towers’ raid, we must not really be shocked by the EFCC consigning the owners of the loot to the zone of anonymity. This is because this position of the agency is only a new dimension to the byzantine character of the campaign that has the rapturous blessing of the government beginning with President Muhammadu Buhari. Remember, it was Buhari who offered to the public the prospect of waging an anti-corruption war that knows neither friend nor foe. Such people who made their fortunes through the despoliation of the nation with the attendant misery inflicted on the citizens were not to be spared the public odium that should rightly befall them. Yes, they were to be named and shamed as a way of deterring those who are contemplating treading their ignominious path. But after waiting in vain for the president to make good his promise, the citizens began to pressure him. But not out of sync with a pattern of denying his promises, Buhari demurred; refusing to release the list of looters from whom sleazy funds had been recovered.

Despite the Buhari government’s argument that it was wary of litigations that could arise from disclosing the names, and thereby bog down the anti-corruption fight, his position rightly opened the floodgates to the suspicion that it was shielding some of its corrupt acolytes from the public. In the beginning of the anti-corruption campaign when Magu’s zeal apparently blurred the distinction between the supporters of APC and members of the PDP, he accused some associates of Buhari of corruption. But since Magu obviously has seen the light, we do not read in the newspapers how these Buhari’s associates are being hurled to courts to account for their fiscal misdeeds. But this is not the case with members of the opposition whose cases are still not only in courts but are regularly amended to avoid their escaping punishment.

With the anonymity of loot owners, the EFCC has only lent a fresh impetus to the suspicion that it is protecting some untouchables. This bizarre anonymity was seen in the case of the N49 million loot at the Kaduna airport that the agency could not account for its owner. And now, the EFCC has gone further by declaring that the identity of the owner of the loot at Osborne Towers is unknown. The fluidity of the ownership of the loot has led to linking the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and top politicians to it. But outraged at what they dismissed as sheer mudslinging, the latter have threatened to take their accusers to courts.

To be fair, fogginess in fiscal matters is a staple of governance in these climes. Thus, the anonymity of the looters is part of the fogginess. We do not know how much crude oil that is taken from our land daily. Not even the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation {NNPC} has any clue. We are left to the caprices of international oil companies to tell us how much of our crude oil they take from our land daily. What are the criteria for determining that the cutlery, furniture and computers at Aso Rock are no longer useful and indeed that the presidential villa needs renovation every year? Yet, every year, huge votes are made for these items in our national budget even when the citizens are racked by hunger and unemployment .We do not know whether these items after being replaced every year are sold or given to the less privileged . If they are sold, does the money go to the national treasury? What is more shocking is that a government that claims to be anchored on transparency has failed to live up to its promise.

But the fogginess is also seen as part of deliberate efforts to make some people billionaires out of the anti-corruption campaign. For if Magu cannot tell the Senate how much it has recovered so far, how are we sure that the EFCC would give the exact amount of money it has recovered from looters? In that case, the suspicion may not be outlandish that since an owner who would give a contrary figure is not available, the EFCC officials who raid their target easily get their own share of the funds before declaring the remaining amount. In this regard, we may need another anti-graft agency to raid the apartments of EFCC officials in search of loot. But to meet the urgency that the situation demands, the government could easily deploy the DSS to do this.

Again, since the EFCC cannot identify the owner of the loot, it has opened itself to the charge of planting it in a bid to create the impression that it is working and that Magu deserves confirmation as the chairman of the anti-graft agency. After all, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation Mr. Mohammed Adoke who has been implicated in the Malabu oil deal just recently raised the alarm that the EFCC was trying to plant incriminating cash and documents in his home after failing to find slush funds stashed in it.

For once, the EFCC needs to lift the veil off its criteria for determining where to raid. If it is mainly acting on whistleblowing, then it has got a major whistleblower in Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose . For the Buhari government, apart from loot being kept in septic tanks, it is now being buried in more unexpected quarters like cemeteries and forests. But for Fayose, loot is buried in Aso Rock. The EFCC cannot dismiss Fayose’s claim until it has swooped on Aso Rock. It should not use the excuse that it is the seat of power and snigger that Fayose is once again trafficking in his accustomed rabblerousing to deny him his commission from whatever loot that is recovered from the presidential villa.



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