It should be noted that this focus was triggered by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in impliedly creating the impression that, as usual, he was the only one, who seriously tackled corruption in Nigeria. Addressing a most subservient audience, he was at his self-glorifying best.
For some unknown reasons, there is this obsession with himself as the best thing ever to happen to Nigeria. Most inappropriately, Obasanjo contrasted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under his administration with the current EFCC. The only indisputable fact of history is that Obasanjo established the financial crimes agency. But was there any altruism behind his action? Surely, not according to the record of the EFCC of those days.
Was that EFCC a monumental pride of the nation in fighting financial crimes? Instead, what Nigerians experienced was that, under the guise of tackling corruption, the EFCC turned into a tool of pursuing Obasanjo’s well-laid out political strategy to turn Nigeria into his one-party state (b) to perpetuate Obasanjo’s rule and (c) in the process, to clobber any political rival/obstacle out of the way or out of office. Towards that end, neither the head of EFCC (under Obasanjo) nor the agency itself enjoyed independence/neutrality.
Making the way clear for himself as a potential life president of Nigeria, Obasanjo, not only clandestinely but also in moments of power obsession, openly directed the EFCC on who to pursue, those not to pursue and when to pounce.These are facts of history of EFCC under Obasanjo. In an attempt to assert his independence, Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC chairman under Obasanjo announced that 32 out of Nigeria’s 36 state governors had been found to be involved in massive corruption.
In a sort of “shut up your mouth clampdown”, Obasanjo publicly over-ruled Ribadu and cleared all the governors except only four who he (Obasanjo) conceded, would be tried for alleged corruption. Meanwhile, Obasanjo gave no details or facts for his judgement that only four governors were corrupt.
It is also not the duty or responsibility of a country’s head of government anywhere in a crime fighting world to assume the power of accusing, investigating and passing judgement on suspects.
Former Housing Minister, Segun Mimiko, quit Obasanjo’s cabinet to enable him to contest for the governorship of Ondo State on the platform of Labour Party. Obasanjo unsuccessfully prevailed on Mimiko not to rival Segun Agagu of Obasanjo’s PDP in that election. For the simple reason that Mimiko defied Obasanjo, he (Obasanjo) exhibited his frustration by publicly threatening to send the EFCC after Mimiko.
Such were Obasanjo’s arrogance and misuse of EFCC, which he today acclaims as very effective under his administration.
Worse still, Obasanjo employed the EFCC to violate Nigerian Constitution when he (Obasanjo) assumed the power to remove Vice President Atiku Abubakar from office. Stage-managing a probe by Nuhu Ribadu as head of EFCC, Obasanjo got the Council of Ministers to endorse the report as a basis for dismissing his vice-president. Whether Atiku Abubakar was guilty of the allegations against him or not was not the issue. The entire procedure Obasanjo adopted for the episode was abuse of office and power drunkenness. No probe (even by Obasanjo’s EFCC) could be tenable as long as such violated clearly stated provisions of Nigerian constitution.
Nigerian Constitution does not empower any president (specifically Obasanjo) to remove a sitting vice-president. The power to remove a sitting vice-president, even in the light of overwhelming evidence, is vested in the National Assembly. The report of the alleged corruption on former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar should have been submitted to the National Assembly, which would then commence impeachment proceeding, if necessary. Owing to the illegality committed by Obasanjo in exercising a non-existing power purportedly to remove vice-president Atiku Abubakar from office, the victim (Atiku Abubakar) had to head for law courts, which eventually nullified Obasanjo’s illegality. The point of interest was that Obasanjo misused the EFCC for petty political purposes.
Owing to the rising political tension over Obasanjo’s adoption of EFCC to commit illegality, the National Assembly (Senate arm) had to investigate the whole matter. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s alleged offence was that he deposited funds of Petroleum Training Development Fund (PTDF) in a fixed account of the agency, which is a standard official procedure for all government money. The National Assembly probe of the PTDF account exposed that Obasanjo paid his personal lawyer from the account the sum of two hundred and fifty million naira, as legal fees. Senator Ndoma Egba headed the panel.
Furthermore, the probe carried out by the Senate also revealed that a car was bought from the same account for somebody’s woman friend, at a cost of five million naira. That probe report is a public document. Did the EFCC under Obasanjo bite to recover public money spent for private and romantic purposes?
That was the same EFCC, which declared in those days that Obasanjo was not corrupt and which today is being sold to Nigerians as the best. Yet, the same EFCC’s Nuhu Ribadu, according to Wikileaks, on a nocturnal visit to then American ambassador (in Nigeria), Sanders, said that Obasanjo was more corrupt than the late General Sani Abacha. That was EFCC under Obasanjo.
Nigerians later still under Obasanjo, woke to the news that well-armed EFCC operatives invaded the private aide of an innocent Nigerian citizen Mike Adenuga, who, for once, halted constant harassment on him to provide facilities for private-owned Bells University, Ota, Ogun State, and University of Technology, Ibogun, also in Ogun State. Mike Adenuga had to flee Nigeria for his safety. Was that an EFCC to be acclaimed?
Whatever the shortcomings of today’s EFCC, the agency is at least not pursuing the private corrupt interest of a particular public office holder. However, the greatest challenge facing today’s EFCC is its obsession with self-depreciating propaganda. No EFCC, past or present will ever probe the Halliburton corruption scandal, involving known and unknown Nigerians. For a repeat, no EFCC, past or present, will ever probe the Halliburton bribery scandal. Instead, the EFCC will continue grandstanding by blowing hot and cold. The agency has now rendered itself vulnerable to cheap blackmails. Should it decide to really combat the Halliburton issue, EFCC will then be accused of pursuing the Halliburton affair with the aim of stemming criticisms of some of the suspects.
By far, more disturbing is EFCC’s worthless propaganda in the media, which themselves are gradually becoming discredited. There was a story of looted funds allegedly kept in a soakaway pit. That just did not make any sense and, of course, those concerned flatly denied it. Any response from EFCC since then? But even if true, EFCC should have gone the whole length of providing pictures to substantiate the proof, especially of how the stained currency was touchable. Gradually, if unconsciously, sections of the media, in swallowing cheap propaganda, are emerging so cheap and lacking in character.
If it was true that PDP Deputy Chairman, South, Uche Secondus, collected only two vehicles from whoever was thought should never have donated the cars, why should the EFCC have put the number of the cars at twenty-three? On regaining his freedom from interrogation, Secondus discredited the EFCC and the agency shrank in stature.
Perhaps, Colonel Ojogbane Adegbe, the former ADC to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, would have a big story to tell. Until then. Why then, in advance did the EFCC plant in the press that the man (ADC) said if he spoke, Nigeria would explode? Did he actually say so? To whom? The colonel denied ever promising any sensation and thereby destroyed EFCC’s credibility.
The EFCC also planted in the press that ex-Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, had admitted stealing tens or, in fact, hundreds of millions of dollars. Air Marshal Badeh denied such admission. If it was true as Alex Badeh claimed, that he never admitted such crime, why was the criminal allegation against him so maliciously embellished? Why did the same source, which planted the falsehood in the press, not solidify its leak?
The EFCC listed Nigerian Union of Journalists among undocumented contractors, which allegedly were paid for jobs not done. When did NUJ stray into contracting business? How much was collected and in whose name was the money collected for job allegedly not done?
Another allegation planted in the press on ex-federal attorney-general, Adoke, by the EFCC was that Adoke admitted to collecting tens of millions of dollars bribe in oil deals. Adoke similarly and strongly denied the allegation in a protest letter to Senate President Saraki. Nigerians are waiting for the truth in an imperative response from the EFCC, which cannot keep silence in the face of such unending denials.
Disturbingly, there seems to be so much recycling of allegations, sprouting from the $2.1billion said to have been earmarked for buying arms but diverted. Observers are losing trends with new allegations every other day without concluding one trial.
Another concern is the amateur aspect of the propaganda. Scandals are built around personalities and then leaked to the press. These scandals are ever sourced close to EFCC. But when officially designated or identified, EFCC sources are contacted, they usually have no information on such serious allegations levelled against the suspects. Every time?
EFCC would grandstand in law courts and the media with intimidating charges against suspects. After unnecessary sensation, EFCC would amend or reduce or substitute the charges with new ones for the judges to start all over again.
Also, since EFCC poisoned the minds of Nigerians that religious leaders gulped, at least, four billion naira purportedly for prayers, will these fellows stealing in the name of God be exempt (note NOT exempted) from trial?
What type of fight against corruption is that? A crime is a crime but must be called by its name. Stealing? Diversion of public funds? Corruption? Above all, if the EFCC continues with its stupid propaganda, it is a question of time for the suspects to attract public sympathy. By telling it as it is, EFCC can successfully prosecute suspects, and earn respect into the bargain.