Our nation Nigeria is now infamous in vices such as crime, corruption and terrorism most of which have plunged the nation into unimaginable pains, unexplainable poverty and unresolved problems.
As I reflect on the way out of the mess our nation Nigeria has found herself, I tried to look away from politics, politicians, political leaders and their gimmicks while figuring out how to deal with the problem of corruption and what agency could be responsible for fighting and prosecuting corruption/corrupt practices in Nigeria. My thoughts led me to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment (EFCC) and The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). I had to dig further to know exactly why these two agencies were established as well as their vision and mission and how well they have been carrying out their duties.
In order to fight the endemic corruption that was and is still threatening and embarrassing our nation Nigeria, the Olusegun Obasanjo’s led administration together with lawmakers decided to establish the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the 29th September 2000. The main mandate of this agency is “to receive and investigate reports of corruption and in appropriate cases prosecute the offender(s), to examine, review and enforce the correction of corruption-prone systems and procedures of public bodies, with a view to eliminating corruption in public life, and to educate and enlighten the public on and against corruption and related offences with a view to enlisting and fostering public support for the fight against corruption.”
The mission of this agency is : “To rid Nigeria of corruption through lawful enforcement and preventive measures” while the vision is to have “ A Nigeria free from all forms of corruption and corrupt practices”.
I must confess that the objective of the establishment, the mission and vision of the agency are quite laudable, but the question that comes to mind is, is the agency tenaciously carrying out her mandate, her vision and mission? If yes, what effect has the agency on Nigeria and on Nigerians? Why is it that about seventeen years after the establishment of this agency, the opposite of the proposed vision is what we have today where corruption is the order of the day? On a second thought, do we really understand the meaning of corruption or who a corrupt person is? As I studied the trajectory of the ICPC, it is like their investigative binoculars and microscopes are mostly on internet fraudsters popularly known as Yahoo boys, financial crimes committed by civil servants, financial crimes committed by the masses and not the corruption associated with the “big boys” who “run the system”. While commending the efforts of the ICPC and EFCC in going after Yahoo boys, I was wondering how the agencies could not detect and go after one of the kingpins of Yahoo in Nigeria until the United states of America had to call him out. I am referring to no other but Abba Kyarie.
I observed that the agency may not really be after the political class which to me should be the focal point as I see that other cases being pursued might just be a case of running after the shadow and leaving the object.
The major corrupt practices that have put Nigeria and her economy in stage four of this cancer disease are mainly found among the political leaders, political party members, political chieftains and appointees. If not, what do you call the constant sharing of money before party primaries and before elections that end up influencing the electorate to sell their votes and choose wrong leaders who take wrong decisions and at the end run the country down? Is that not bribery and financial inducement? Is that not corruption? The investigations and prosecution should not just be a basis for personal revenge of past hurts either by instruction from “Oga” or from political parties.
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If not, what do we say about several numerous cases brought up without prosecution due to one drama or the other? What was the outcome of the case of Philomena the JAMB clerk who claimed that a snake swallowed N36m kept under her watch ? Or to Labaran Tanko, another JAMB officer who claimed that his car was burnt with N23m in it both in February 2018? Or the N900 million alleged fraud still in JAMB in 2021 or the recent claim of the N15 m diversion of Radio licence funds? What about the numerous cases of fraud in NNPC and in other sectors which usually end up with a drama show in court or at enquiries? Recall the case of Fani+Kayodr. Six years ago Femi Fani-Kayode, a former aviation minister now a vice-presidential aspirant under the ruling party APC, suddenly slumped on the premises of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja, while in detention over N4.9 billion he allegedly obtained illegally from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. For six years, the case has been on, what is the outcome? Is someone under investigation constitutionally allowed to run for such a position without being cleared of the crime?
In 2018, Olisa Metuh, also put up a show of unwellness at the Federal High Court in Abuja as he was brought to court in an ambulance and pushed into the courtroom on a stretcher while being investigated for an alleged N400 million fraud and transaction of $2 million cash that didn’t go through a financial institution.
Dino Melaye,, the singing and dancing former senator of Kogi State slumped at the police headquarters in Abuja, appearing weak and unable to walk by himself while under arrest. What has happened to the case of Kemebradikumo Pondei the acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who fainted in 2020 during a probe session with the House of Representatives’ Committee for financial misappropriations in the commission. Think about the proclamation of a former chairman of the APC who said once you joined their party your sins will be forgiven. And true to it, it appears the ICPC and the EFCC are mainly concerned about the corruption of opposition party members or on those who have fallen out of favour from those who run this country.
We are back to electioneering season and it is now a norm that whoever among the aspirants who does not give money substantially to party delegates and chieftains would not emerge the flag-bearer of that party. What a shame! I dare to say that Nigeria has suffered enough and I challenge EFCC and ICPC to carry out their mandate and mission without fear or looking at any sacred cow. Whatever is good for the goose is good for the gander.
If we must eradicate corruption in Nigeria, it must start from the ruling class. For us to achieve this goal there is the need to make these organisations truly independent, they should be answerable to the National Assembly and not the president who has the power to hire and fire. An amendment of the act setting up these two institutions is imminent if we expect them to truly fight corruption. These two anti-graft bodies should endeavour to train their officers on modern forensic investigation and ensure they enlist the services of well- established lawyers to help in prosecuting suspects to avoid the wild goose chase that they are known for. Furthermore, I advice our beloved anti-corruption agencies to reposition their search light on politician, political appointees, party leaders etc while still conducting their search for the internet fraudsters. More attention should be given to the ruling class to save Nigeria.
Finally, the officers of the agencies must be subjected to scrutiny to eliminate the possibility of providing a safe haven for corrupt persons who hide under the cover of these agencies to perpetrate fraud and corruption.
Stella Omonigho, PhD, is a public affairs analyst.