Categories: ColumnsDuro Onabule

An anti-crime agency in retrospect

Duro Onabule

It happened almost unnoticed a while ago, despite the rarity of the occurrence. The Presidency openly rebuked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a fifth columnist, even if an unconscious one, in creating credibility problem for government’s anti-corruption war. Rather than engage in serious self-examination on the issues raised, the EFCC tactlessly hit back somewhat unconvincingly. By the way, the anti-financial crime agency was just one of the sources faulted for government’s problems.

READ ALSO: Anti-corruption war: EFCC chair woos Abuja residents

Shouldn’t President Muhammadu Buhari’s political adviser, Babafemi Ojudu, have made criticism of the EFCC an in-house thing? That would be unnecessary pampering. For far too long, those who should know had been conducting themselves as if they were ignorant or couldn’t bother themselves that credibility is an essential tool for government in discharging its obligations to society and indeed the outside world. Instead, heads of government institutions, law enforcement agencies and even ministers had been conducting themselves or engaging in utterances purported to be personal or private, all of which exposed the sincerity and credibility of government to public criticisms.

The showdown between the Presidency and EFCC since rested. At least, so it seems. But how justified was political adviser Babafemi Ojudu or the EFCC? The major problem is the inability and unwillingness of EFCC to appreciate that its duty is to the Nigerian nation and NOT to do the political fighting for an incumbent President of the Federal Republic. Unfortunately, decimating opposition political groups in favour of an incumbent President had been the focus of EFCC since the days of pioneer chairman Nuhu Ribadu. In fact, so subordinated was the EFCC that former President Olusegun Obasanjo routinely overruled Ribadu, especially on who were corrupt state governors to be probed or let off, depending on how loyal to Obasanjo was a governor on his (Obasanjo’s) second and aborted third terms. Obasanjo publicly upheld only four of the 32 state governors Ribadu listed as corrupt. And of course, Ribadu was openly boasting on the next governor “to be impeached.”

Even till today, the EFCC has no authority to impeach or initiate the impeachment of any state governor or blackmail members of any particular state house of assembly to impeach its governor. The duty of EFCC is to detect and prosecute financial crimes without bias against or favour for any Nigerian, especially the President of the Federal Republic. Throughout his tenure at Aso Rock, Obasanjo was solo in control of EFCC that he openly boasted that he would send the agency (under Ribadu) after Olusegun Mimiko for daring to contest Ondo State governorship against Olusegun Agagu.

READ ALSO: Whistle-blower policy: FG got 1,231 tips on financial crimes – PICA

Currently, anti-financial crime, especially in looting the public treasury, is the major policy of President Buhari and even for an ex-military officer, he has, in pursuing that goal, adhered largely to rule of law. Despite that stance, critics have unrelentlessly accused him of one-sidedness in that task. The duty of EFCC is, therefore, not to even remotely justify that allegation. Unfortunately, the pattern of EFCC’s arrest, detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspects clearly exhibits one-sidedness. It was very courageous of a member of Buhari’s government to impliedly exonerate the administration from the embarrassment of the EFCC. Or does the present EFCC approach to anti-financial crimes do government any good? Certainly not. Without being prompted, the present EFCC policy is to harass, arrest, detain, interrogate and prosecute mainly opposition members in Nigeria.

The demand is not for some kind of quota system in prosecuting financial crimes in the country. But all suspects of all political affiliations should be made to face the music. Admittedly, since the PDP was in power for 16 consecutive years preceding Buhari’s election as President, most of those indicted for financial crimes would be from that party. There lies EFCC’s overzealousness or indeed brazen partiality. Known erstwhile PDP public office holders of whatever status even if under interrogation all along, are always let off the hook the moment they switch membership to the ruling APC, especially in this era of revulsive carpet-crossing. Who is blamed for that? Surely not EFCC but Buhari. To worsen matters, erstwhile APC public office holders or contractors enjoying individual freedom and credibility in society are criminalised by the EFCC the moment they quit APC or openly disagree with President Buhari. Who carries public blame for that unsatisfactory situation? President Buhari, instead of EFCC.

In effect, the sum total of EFCC’s constant and deliberate policy of one-sidedness undermines Buhari’s anti-corruption achievements even when such is not intended. Why has the EFCC abandoned interrogation of former PDP members who lately crossed the carpet to APC? The EFCC is not helping Buhari. Hence the labelling of EFCC as part of fifth columnists, except that the EFCC does not realise the implications of its mode of operations. Who are fifth columnists? They are supposed partners in progress who, yet, play the role of saboteurs.

Meanwhile, the same EFCC has never, for once, responded to allegations of one-sidedness against Buhari’s anti-corruption war. As if that were not bad enough, EFCC’s handling of governance (if not governor) of Benue State is most untenable, specifically, the timing. Till a few months ago, Benue State was under the control of APC and governor Sam Ortom was a member of the APC. For all reasons or whatever reason, Governor Ortom exercised his right to leave the APC for PDP. Whether the governor should have complied with the Constitution by resigning to recontest on the platform of his new party is a different matter. But that is within EFCC’s authority to pursue. Neither is it an excuse for the EFCC to victimise and stigmatise the governor or his administration with allegations of financial disquiet. Yes, the EFCC has the power to ensure compliance with financial regulations. But when did the suspicion of financial infraction become known to the EFCC? Were governor still a member of APC and even if Benue State were being run into complete bankruptcy, EFCC would never have touched him.

The situation is not better in Akwa Ibom State. Again, former Governor Godswill Akpabio only recently joined the APC from the PDP and is known to be in political disagreement with his successor, Governor Udom Emmanuel. Why did it take Senator Akpabio’s carpet-crossing for EFCC to detect financial infraction in Akwa Ibom State? These two states are the latest in political partisanship of EFCC to exhibit eye service or desperation for Buhari’s attention. The cost? EFCC’s continuing sabotage of Buhari’s anti-corruption war.

In fact, the EFCC is so brazen in its policy of political partisanship such that should party chairman Adams Oshiomole and/or top-notcher Bola Tinubu disagree with President Buhari today, the anti-financial crime fighting agency (EFCC) will pick the armour against the two men, on behalf of President Buhari, much as such will further destroy government’s credibility in the war against corruption. That is the role of fifth columnists.


POSTSCRIPT: When will EFCC’s “crack team” complete its investigation into the allegations of questionable contract award against former Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal?


Tough times for Kofi Annan

When Kofi Annan, a past United Nations secretary general, completed his eight-year tenure in 2006, his performance in office was dismissed in this column as inglorious exit on account of two major disgraceful episodes in his career – his handling (as UN under-secretary general) of gory events leading to the massacre of over 8,000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica during the civil war in the defunct Yugoslavia. Annan was also faulted in this column for his complicity in the Nigerian political crisis during which Basorun MKO Abiola died.

Unfortunately, like all mortals, Kofi Annan has just died at the age of 80. The most objective obituary (assessment) was written by British newspaper, the Guardian, which also specifically referenced not just the Srebrenica massacre but also the Rwanda genocide, both under Kofi Annan’s schedule of duty. Annan’s death was sad but should not warrant the portrait of an infallible international diplomat.

As referenced in this column at the end of Annan’s tenure, his handling of Basorun MKO Abiola’s horrible experiences leading to his (Abiola’s) death in pursuit of his political right was particu- larly inexcusable. For almost three years during his tenure as United Nations secretary general, Annan deliberately looked the other way and never said a word while Abiola was in detention. Then, suddenly, General Sani Abacha died, only for Kofi Annan to rush to Nigeria in the hope of stealing the show as UN secretary general inquiring about the plight of MKO Abiola, who, unfor- tunaly, died mysteriously in captivity.

In fact, so strange was Kofi Annan to Abiola who, on meeting the presumed UN secretary general, had to ask about Kofi Annan’s distinguished predecessor, Egypt’s Boutrus Ghali. What further evidence of the trauma of an African political captive (MKO Abiola) during the tenure of a UN secretary general of African descent? And to portray such a man as one of the best ever to serve that world body?

READ ALSO: Adieu Kofi Annan, servant of peace

May Kofi Annan rest in peace.

Tokunbo David :Sun News Online team writer and news editor

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