THE EFCC'S OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF CORRUPTION AND THE IMPLICATIONS
orruption can be defined as the violation or irregular alteration or debasement or subversion of a generally or an officially accepted standard or procedure or method for carrying out a duty or maintaining social, political, administrative, legal and or religious order. Therefore, any individual who engages in a behavior that violates or contradicts or debases or subverts a generally accepted law or standard or procedure or method is considered corrupt and the subversion or contravention is treated as corruption.
Thus, a person who converts public funds into private ownership is corrupt because he has subverted the law as well as the accepted official standard of behavior. Similarly, a person who behaves contrary to the tenets of his or her adopted religion is considered to be corrupted. In this case, a pastor or an imam who amasses tremendous personal wealth while serving as a religious leader is said to be corrupt because he or she has subverted the purpose of being a religious priest or priestess. A public official who intentionally recruit members of his family into critical government positions in a constitutional democratic system in which nepotism is not permitted is considered corrupt because he or she is subverting the acceptable standard for recruiting people into government service. A person whose morality is contrary to the generally acceptable moral order is considered morally depraved and that is corruption. A civil servant who engages in a private business practice while serving as a civil servant is considered corrupt for violating the civil service rule. A public official who demands bribes in order to perform a service to the public is corrupt because he or she is already being paid for performing the service. A public official or anyone in position of authority who awards contracts without following an officially stipulated process or procedure is a corrupted individual. A person who makes promises and fails to uphold the promises is dishonest, untrustworthy, dishonorable and corrupt. A person who lies incessantly is a crook, hence, is corrupt.
Apparently, "corruption" is a word or terminology or concept that covers a wide spectrum of human misbehavior. Generally, it is not possible to totally eliminate corruption in society because of greed, the need to be in control, the need to gain an advantage, the desire to accumulate personal wealth, and the need to feel important. However, for society to succeed in controlling negative human appetites and ensuring the general wellbeing of all citizens, it must take appropriate measures to curtail the spread of corruption. In Nigeria, it is inferable that corruption has taken over the society to the point where the country is drowning rather than growing. The acknowledgement that the country is drowning is evidenced by the fact that the country's enormous wealth seems to mysteriously disappear from the public coffer and reappears in the private bank accounts of those who supposed to lead the nation to a higher level of growth and progress. Nigeria is like a basket filled with water.
In light of the fact that the country has been drowning uncontrollably due to the enormous weight of corruption, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) party and Major. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) appeared on the national political stage and promised change as well as fight an uncompromising war against corruption, millions of Nigerians jubilated. Hence, the APC party and Maj. Gen. Buhari (rtd) won the presidential election of March 28, 2015. As a retired military general, a former Commissioner of Petroleum, a former military governor and a former military head of state, Nigerians were convinced that President Buhari would wage war against corruption like a military commander in a battle field. Thus, Nigerians waited in great anticipation for the declaration of a comprehensive war against corruption by making sure that all corrupt elements, particularly financial embezzlers, are investigated, arrested, charged, tried and possibly imprisoned if found guilty. They expected many corrupt elements to end up in prison for embezzling public funds that would have been used to develop and modernize the country.
Unfortunately, the war turned out to be no war at all but rather a political tactics by the APC and President Buhari to weed out or neutralize political opponents in lieu of 2019 presidential election. Thus, the war ended even before it started because the APC and the president started changing the musical tunes of their promises to the Nigerian people in various ways, as soon as they ascended the political throne. They changed their musical tunes in the following ways:
The party and the president denied that they made a covenant with the Nigerian people about what they intended to do if they win the presidential election.
The president promised that he would only select incorruptible candidates for ministerial positions. Yet, some of those he actually selected as ministers had serious financial skeletons involving massive pilfering of public funds in their cupboards, thereby, putting a dent on the promised war against corruption. Those corrupt elements continue to walk free without the EFCC going after them. They are untouchables because they are associates of the president and the ruling political party (APC).
The president promised Nigerians that all his ministers would publicly declare their assets, yet, even in December 2017, none of them has done so.
Similarly, the president selected closely-related family members and adherents of a particular religion to serve in critical positions around the presidency, thereby, openly supporting nepotism and religious discrimination, which are forms of corruption. Never in the history of Nigeria has a sitting political or military leader openly recruited his closely-related family and religious members to serve in government with total disregard for the feelings of Nigerians.
After promising an uncompromising total war against corruption, the president decided to limit the war only to the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. This immediately raised suspicion that President Buhari does not want to probe corruption involving officials of the regimes of his former military colleagues, including that of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Lt. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and President Olusegun Obasanjo.
EFCC Tactical Response to President's Change of Heart Against the War on Crruption
Being a political animal and realizing that the APC and the presidency preferred a partial rather than a total war against corruption, the country's major anti-corruption fighting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) decided to wage a tactical partial war on corruption based on targeting members of the opposition political party (Peoples Democratic Party) and former public officials of former President Jonathan's administration. In other words, to ensure its own survival, the EFCC danced excitedly to the dictates of the president and the political party in power. In Public Administration and Organization Behavior, there is a belief that organizations do everything possible to ensure their survival. So, to survive, the EFCC decided to protect its interest and those of the president by becoming very selective in targeting alleged embezzlers.
To accomplish the task, the EFCC operationalized the definition of corruption in such a way that satisfies the political expectations of the APC party and the presidency. The commission took the following steps to effectuate the strategy of targeting only the supposed enemies of the ruling party and the president:
It agrees in principle with the general definition of the term "corruption" but operationalizes it in a slightly different manner. It does so in order not to offend or embarrass the president and the APC political party. In other words, the commission tactically agreed not to antagonize or embarrass the president and the political party by ignoring corruption perpetrated by those who are closely associated with them.
It decided to limit the conditions for corruptibility to current and former public officials and contractors who are associated with the Peoples' Democratic Party and former President Jonathan's administration. Being a good reader of the body language of the person serving as the leader of the country, the EFCC has become very masterful in dancing to the political tune of the president.
In fact, since its inception, the EFCC has always been very tactical in targeting suspected financial embezzlers. It does so by not focusing its probing tentacles on Nigerians who are aligned with a sitting president. This pattern of selective investigation of corruption began during the administration of Chief/Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo when the commission focused its investigative effort towards the political opponents of the president. This tradition has become a standard operating procedure for the commission. Hence, in each succeeding administration, including that of the late Umaru Yar'Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, the EFCC treated the public officials as sacred cows because they were serving a sitting president and the organization did not want to cause image problems for the political leader. So, it is not really surprising that the commission adopted the same tactics under the administration of President Buhari. However, it appears to have overplayed the tradition of selective enforcement of the anticorruption laws in the current administration, thereby, revealing to the entire world that its war against corruption is tactically directed at stifling political opposition and not at stopping corruption per se.
Under the current administration, the EFCC treats allegedly corrupt members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party as sacred cows that could not be touched regardless of the seriousness of the allegations of corruption made against them. This is why since President Buhari took over power, the EFCC has never targeted any individual who is a member of the APC or is an associate of the president for corruption.
When corrupt elements in society realized that the APC is a sacred cow, they jumped ship from other political parties, particularly the PDP and joined the APC in droves.
Some corrupt elements realized that they could escape the investigative tentacles of the EFCC by praise-singing the president and the APC. Hence, such individuals speak regularly to praise the president, the political party and the EFCC in the hope that the commission will not come after them. The EFCC responds in kind by ignoring their financial transgressions.
Some corrupt elements quickly form associations with the inner circle members of the presidency, thereby, protecting themselves from being probed by the EFCC.
The commission tactically decided that all public officials who are appointed by President Buhari that have questions to answer for corruption are exempted from probing or investigation. So, whenever an official of the administration is involved in any financial scandal, the EFCC looks the other way and does not take action. There are many examples to cite from to show the partiality in its modus operandi:
Gen. Abdulrahman B. Dambazau, the Minister of Interior, who was alleged to have been a major player in the procurement of arms for the Nigeria Army during previous administrations (Yar"Adua and Jonathan) is not targeted for investigation while other senior military officers and Col. Sambo Dasuki are facing the wrath of the EFCC and DSS. Col. Dasuki has been detained for about two years now and even five court rulings granting him bail have not resulted in his being released from detention.
It is a public information that the current Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai or someone very close to him has properties in Dubai. However, since he is a member of Buhari's administration, the EFCC treats him like a sacred cow, so he is untouchable.
The recently terminated Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, was alleged to have been involved in a contract scheme in which one of his companies was awarded N200 million contract to cut grass from a budget which was allocated for the feeding and maintenance of unfortunate Nigerians in Internally Displaced Program (IDO) camps in the North East, under the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE). The EFCC turned a deaf ear and did not rush to investigate the allegation. Instead, a special investigative team made up of the Vice President, Minister of Justice and Director of the Department of State Service (DSS) was assigned to probe the matter by the president. Not until Nigerians put pressure on the president to act on the report submitted by the special investigative committee before Mr. Lawal was let go in late October 2017.
Some government agencies, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the prison service and others, are alleged to have secretly recruited people into their services without officially acknowledging the effort. The illegal employments are a form of corruption because they subvert the accepted standard or procedure for hiring people into government service. Neither the EFCC nor the ICPC make any effort to investigate or verify the matter.
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources made serious allegations against the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, concerning the awarding of contracts worth $25 billion without following due process. Due to the enormity of the allegation, the vice president's office made contradictory statements in an attempt to explain the situation. First, the vice president's office confirmed that the vice president signed the contracts. This statement was contradicted by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who said that he only signed approval for loans and not contracts. Then, the same office dismissed the allegation that contracts worth $25 bn. were ever awarded. The vice president's statement contradicted the statement made by the NNPC that the president had signed the contracts. The EFCC looked the other way instead of being proactive in investigating the veracity of Dr. Kachikwu's allegations. It is inferable that the EFCC looked the other way after realizing that the president treated the matter as a mere misunderstanding between two of his executives. If this case had involved former President Jonathan's officials, the EFCC would have been all over the matter, addressing the press and releasing information about financial figures to convince Nigerians about how corrupt the individuals were.
Barely three weeks after Dr. Kachikwu's firestorm of allegations against the group managing director of NNPC, the former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms (PTPF), Abdulrasheed Maina, who was allegedly accused of embezzling pension funds and was wanted by the EFCC reappeared in Nigeria. He did not only reappeared but was reinstated back into the Federal Government and promoted as a substantive director, even though he was still wanted by the EFCC and the Interpol. According to statements made by a former national legislator, Junaid Mohammed, the government actually invited him and provided security for him while he remained in Nigeria to campaign for a gubernatorial electoral position in Borno State. This was corroborated by the spokesperson of the Maina's family who claimed that the Federal Government invited him back to the country to assist in streamlining the pension system. The EFCC acted as if it did not know that Mr. Maina was in Nigeria and had been reinstated in government. The amazing thing is that the EFCC did not seize his properties for the past two years while he was a wanted person. It is safe to say that the commission waited until President Buhari ordered his termination from the director position before deciding to act. Hence, as soon as the president gave the order, the EFCC announced that it had seized two of his properties in Abuja.
The Maina case is complex and explosive. Each day that passes adds a new dimension to the story. Called upon by a Senate committee to testify in order to clarify the role each high-level official in the current administration played in reinstating Abdulrasheed Maina, all the major official participants, including the Attorney General Abubakar Malami, Minister of Interior Gen. Abdulrahman B. Dambazau , Head of Service Winifred Oyo- Ita and Director of DSS Lawal Daura denied being responsible for recalling and reinstating Mr. Maina back into government service even though he was a wanted man.
A concerned Nigerian, Sen. Hamman Isah Misau, who represents Bauchi Central Senatorial District, blew the whistle by making series of allegations against the current Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim K. Idris. Instead of following up on the allegations against the IGP, the federal government decided to probe the whistleblower. As a result, it is the whistle-blower who is now in trouble for corruption allegations while the IGP remains untouched. This means that the IGP is a sacred cow, hence, the EFCC and the ICPC do not go after him, even though civil society organizations are pressuring the president to do something. It is the Senate of the National Assembly which decided to conduct an investigation to verify the allegations. In fact, when invited to testify, the IGP initially attempted to take legal action to block his being called upon to testify.
A bewildering saga of the Misau vs. Idris case is that it is the federal government led by the Attorney General that is taking legal action against Sen. Misau on behalf of IGP Idris, even though defamation of character, slanderous and libelous statements fall under the category of civil law and not criminal law. In fact, the Attorney General office recently added two new charges against Sen. Misau while attempting to shield the IGP from the allegations leveled against him. Generally, in a defamation of character situation, it is the responsibility of the alleged victim to file civil suit against the defamer, and not the government. The question then becomes, why is the Nigerian government so interested in protecting the rights of the IGP while not doing so for other Nigerians who are also in a similar situation.
The Misau vs. Idris case is similar to the case of Mrs. Maryam Danna, the former Gen. Manager of Audit for the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited. Following her audit of the company, she found out financial irregularities and reported the matter to the appropriate authorities due to her anti-corruption stance. Instead of appreciation for her patriotic duty to Nigeria, she was forced to retire. She petitioned the president over her forced retirement and President Buhari directed that she should be reinstated. It is more than a year since the president ordered her reinstatement but nothing has been done in that regard. At the same time, the EFCC did not bother to conduct investigation to verify her allegations about financial improprieties in NDPHC. It looked the other way because the matter affected officials in the current administration.
The EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) generally remain quiet when the presidency recycles back into government service individuals that have either been indicted or have allegations of corruption against them. Ordinarily, these two agencies and the DSS supposed to work together to ensure that the president does not recruit individuals who have allegations or cases of corruption against them into government service. There are many examples to cite from to show that the APC administration of President Buhari does not have any hesitation in bringing back to government service those that have corruption allegations against them.
As mentioned above, Dr. Maina was recalled and reinstated as a substantive director even though he fled the country on the allegation that he had embezzled pension funds and was wanted by the EFCC and the international police (Interpol).
Even though the Department of State Service (DSS) issued a report of alleged corruption against the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, the organization continues to have him as the acting head because the president insisted, even though the Senate rejected his confirmation twice based on the DSS report.
Even though Mallam Ibrahim Lamorde, the former Chairman of the EFCC was removed from the position due to allegations of corruption, the president brought him back to serve as the Commissioner of Police, in-charge of Special Fraud Unit in Ikoyi, Lagos. Both the EFCC and the ICPC remained quiet without warning the president of the risk of putting him back to serve while he has not cleared his name.
The EFCC and the ICPC probably also remained quiet when Ahmed Gambo Saleh, the former Supreme Court Registrar was brought back into government to serve as the Secretary of the National Judicial Council and the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee, considering that he was alleged to have committed a fraud totaling N2 bn.
The EFCC tends to exempt allegedly corrupt officials who are either appointees or relatives of the president from corruption investigations. There are many cases to cite from to show the selective manner in which the EFCC carries out its duties:
The EFCC did not make a concerted effort to investigate the allegation that a bribery totalling N500 was paid by MTN to reduce the penalty for the companies misbehavior.
The EFCC looked the other way when the allegation of a contract worth N200 million was awarded to a company owned by the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir Lawal, to cut grass.
The organization is not eager to investigate financial corruption allegations made against the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Usuf.
When Dr. Ibe Kachikwu's memo to the president over the alleged inappropriate awarding of contracts totaling about S25 bn. leaked publicly, the EFCC acted as if it did not exist to fight corruption. It did not act because the alleged culprit was an appointee of the president and the EFCC did not want to take any action that might create impressions that it was undermining the president. Even today, the EFFC is still not particularly interested in touching the case to verify the facts because the president has not ordered it to look into the matter.
Thus, it is the public and the media that are putting pressure and probing the matter to verify the facts. Surprisingly, the NNPC matter took on a different direction when Dr. Kachikwu resubmitted for approval one of the contracts which he alleged had been approved inappropriately before. This action weakened his position and tended to portray Dr. Maru in a much better light. Some Nigerians now call for Dr. Kachikwu's resignation for having generated the NNPC scandal. On the other hand, some Nigerians believe he is being made a fall guy over the scandal.
Then, the Maina saga burst into the public limelight, barely three weeks after the NNPC case.
It is generally believed that the APC spent more than the PDP during the campaign for the presidential election in 2015. Yet, the EFCC has never made any attempt to probe the sources of APC funds for the campaign, taking into consideration the fact that it was widely published that President Buhari did not even have the money to pay for the registration of his presidential candidacy. On the other hand, the commission has been very thorough in trying to probe PDP's sources of funding for the presidential election through the $2.1 defence spending scandal.
The EFCC stage-manages some attention catching cases in order to boost its image as a corruption-fighting organization. There are many instances to cite from:
When investigating high profile cases involving former officials of the Jonathan administration, the EFCC has the tendency to create the impression that those accused are already guilty until they prove themselves otherwise. The EFCC does so by rushing to the media to inform the Nigerian public about the evidences gathered against the alleged culprits and declared that it has witnesses to testify to prove the guilt of the suspected embezzlers. Col Sambo Dasuki, Dr. Ziakede Akpobolokemi, Olisa Metuh, Azibaola Robert, Cletus Ibeto, Femi Fani-Kayode, Ifeanyi Uba, Deziani Alison-Madueke, Innocent Chukwuma and others are victims of this prejudicial approach to the investigation of certain corruption cases.
The EFCC enjoys announcing to the entire world through the media the amount of funds it has recovered from treasury looters. Sometimes, the officials of the commission do not even cross-check the facts before rushing to the media to announce the amounts of funds seized from looters. As a result, the officials sometimes give very contradictory financial figures. It has gotten to a point whereby many Nigerians no longer believe the fantastic figures provided by the EFCC, especially, after the Senate confirmation interview with Mr. Magu did not go well with the public. He was not able to convince the Senate as well as a large segment of the public that he was sure of the figures the EFCC was releasing to the public as confiscated funds from embezzlers.
Perhaps, to create relevancy and ensure its political survival, the EFCC occasionally announces that it has recovered abandoned millions of monies. For instance, it announced sometimes ago that it found five sacks filled with money totaling N49 million in Kaduna Airport without informing the public about the identity of the individual(s) who dropped the five sacks at the location. At another time, the agency announced that it found N448.8 million cash in LEGICO Shopping Plaza in Ikoyi, Lagos. Again, it failed to inform the public about the owner(s) of the cash.
The EFCC also announced the discovery of S49 million in Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos, without pinpointing who owned the money. Many Nigerians wondered why the commission did not take the time to properly investigate and locate those who owned or kept the monies before rushing to the media to announce the incredulous findings. Ordinarily, the organization should have thoroughly investigated the matter before informing the public, so that the issue of ownership does not arise. Some Nigerians speculate that the EFCC rushes to the media to enhance its political value because of a power tussle with other government agencies. However, another segment of the population believes that the discovered monies are staged events carried out by the commission to create political impression that it is working tirelessly to eradicate financial corruption in Nigeria.
Perhaps, to outsmart or outfox other government agencies in a very competitive political environment, the EFCC sometimes rushes to the media to announce the arrest of alleged embezzlers without gathering sufficient evidence to ensure that the cases are provable in court. As a result, the commission has lost many important cases in court due to lack of sufficient evidence.
Other times, the commission arrests and detains alleged embezzlers without sufficient evidence. Then, it frantically searches for incriminating evidence after the fact to support the arrest and detention. This approach leads to the arrest and detention of certain suspects without granting them the legal right to defend themselves appropriately. This approach results in forcing people to confess or implicate others so that the arrests could be proven to be appropriate.
Implications of EFCC Actions
By tactically defining and operationalizing the process for targeting alleged suspects for corruption investigation, the EFCC creates the following implications:
It regards some Nigerians as more superior to other Nigerians, hence, treat them as sacred cows that cannot be touched, regardless of their criminal transgressions.
It believes that some Nigerians can be arrested and detained without legal due process since they are less important than other Nigerians.
It strongly believes that it does not have to answer to the courts as far as the president has given the green light for it to violate the human and civil rights of certain Nigerians.
By its actions and inactions, the commission shows that certain Nigerians cannot be held for corruption, regardless of their misdeeds, except when the president clearly gives an order for their investigation and arrest. On the other hand, it is alright for the commission to investigate, arrest, detain and assassinate the characters of certain Nigerians in the media on mere suspicion or allegation of corruption.
Thus, the EFCC is either knowingly or unknowingly contributing to the feeling in many parts of the country that Nigeria belongs to a certain group and not to other groups.
The EFCC is also contributing to the destabilization of the country through the violation of the constitutional process for carrying out its official duties.
It contributes to corruption by engaging in selective investigation and prosecution of those accused of corruption. The partiality allows those who are associated with the APC and the presidency to engage in financial misdeeds without fear of arrest or prosecution. It encourages suspected embezzlers to join the APC and escape the probing eyes and tentacles of the commission and the ICPC.
The discriminatory approach in fighting corruption based purely on the interests of the president creates the impression that this APC government is a military dictatorship rather than a democracy.
Due to the discriminatory manner in which it carries out its official duties, the EFCC has lost credibility with a large segment of the Nigerian population. As a result, many Nigerians do not seem to take the EFCC serious anymore. Hence, when Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the commission addressed a gathering in honor of retirees at the Federal High Court, Mr. Mike Ozekhome, a human rights lawyer and activist challenged him to "put one person in your government in prison over corruption, then you would have proved and demonstrated the seriousness of the fight" (Chijoke Jannah, Daily Post, December 20, 2017).
By its actions and inactions, the EFCC discriminates against some Nigerians while rewarding others, thereby, thwarting the democratic process for integrative nation-building. This means that the commission is antidemocratic in the sense that it violates the constitutional principle of equality, fairness and justice.
By harassing, humiliating and assassinating the characters of some individuals on mere allegations of corruption while refusing to do the same against the officials of the government, the EFCC is destroying some Nigerian families and creating anger in the country.
The dogged determination of the EFCC to probe, arrest, detain and prosecute officials of Jonathan's administration without doing the same to officials in the Buhari administration that have been alleged of corruption means that the APC led administration is punishing rather than rewarding those Nigerians who voluntarily gave up power after having been defeated in an election. In other words, the EFCC is reinforcing the view that it is not wise to follow the democratic tradition of vacating public office after having been defeated in an election. This further means that the EFCC is encouraging political leaders to rig elections and remain in power as long as possible, to avoid being humiliated the way Jonathan officials and his supporters are being humiliated in Nigeria today.
The actions and inactions of the EFCC reflect the structural weakness of its creation and not of the employees. From the moment of its birth, it was forced to become a political tool of the president in protecting his supporters and punishing his enemies.
The selective investigation and prosecution of corrupt elements means that Nigeria will never be able to reduce corruption in the country because the EFCC fights the war partially while allowing others to continue to loot at will without being disturbed. Within two years of the current administration being in power, cases of alleged corruption continue to burst into the public limelight at an alarming rate. Yet, the EFCC is not interested in probing these cases.
In particular, the quietness, invisibility and inaction of the president while allegations of corruption consumes his administration is worrisome. As a political leader who won election on the grounds of fighting corruption, he seems to be indecisive whenever an official associated with his administration is involved in circumstances that amount to corruption. The harshness with which is opponents are treated and the softness with which is supporters and officials are treated makes him look vindictive and discriminative.
The invisibility of the president has resulted in the perpetuation of the FALL GUY SYNDROME. As a result, whenever an incident of corruption involving his officials takes place, instead of the president coming forward to address the nation, an official is expected to take the blame as the "Fall Guy" in order to protect the administration. For instance, in the case of the $25 billion contract scandal, the whistleblower, Dr. Kachikwu was made to feel that he lied about the allegation. Similarly, instead of the president speaking directly to clear the air, it was the vice president who served as the fall guy. In the case of the reinstatement of Mr. Maina, the Head of Service (HoS) was expected to serve as the fall guy but she refused by informing the public that she had warned the president about the danger of reinstating the former pension boss. Eventually, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Interior accepted to play the role of the fall guy, even though it is increasingly clear that the Attorney General played a major role in the reinstatement. In the case of the allegation against the Inspector General of the Police, it is the whistle-blower that is being compelled to serve as the fall guy.
Following the same pattern, whenever this administration experiences a negative reaction from the public on its policies, it is the vice president who is assigned the responsibility to explain the matter and not the president. Just as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo bored responsibility for explaining the $25 billion contract scandal in NNPC, it is him who is also bearing responsibility in explaining the flip-flopping reasons why the Federal Government wants $1 bn. (N360 billion.) from the Excess Crude Account (ECA). Initially, Nigerians were told that the money is needed to fight Boko Haram. That explanation raised eye-brows because the administration had repeatedly stated in the past that Boko Haram had been defeated. Therefore, to reduce opposition from the opposition party and the public, the vice president added that the fund is needed not only to fight Boko Haram but also kidnapping and insecurity generally. Again, the president remains silent while the vice president bears the brunt of criticism. Unfortunately, the vice president's explanation is not sufficient to quench the fires of doubt as people wonder why N360 billion is suddenly needed when funds for security and military operations are generally included in the national budget as a normal part of the legislative process for running the government. In other words, Nigerians want to know what happened to the funds that were appropriated for security operations in the 2016 and 2017 national budgets. Some Nigerians speculate that the $1 billion (N360 Billion) is intended for other purposes and not to fight Boko Haram and insecurity. Some Nigerians also wonder why Vice President Osinbajo is so eager to serve as the conveyer of bad news for the president while the president continues to create the impression that he is Mr. Integrity.
It is interesting to note that while Nigeria dances around pretentiously, as soon as the Saudi Arabian Government decided to fight corruption, it went after some of the most powerful people in the country. As a result, it arrested and detained 11 princes and four ministers while sacking three others. China is a country noted for waging war against corruption that metes out severe punishment for those found guilty of the crime. Nigeria continues to dance around in circle by fighting corruption in one hand while promoting it on the other hand. Hence, the more it fights the social beast, the more the beast thrives because the EFCC and ICPC are very selective in carrying out their anticorruption measures. They operate on the principle that there are sacred cows that cannot be touched regardless of their corruptibility.
Nigeria is at a critical crossroad in history. It has a chance of surviving and becoming a great nation. On the other hand, there is the possibility that it could collapse and break up into three or four parts. One way to reduce the possibility of the country breaking apart is to make sure that the EFCC operates as an independent national government agency and not as a partisan tool for punishing and rewarding citizens. This means that it must carry out its duties by treating all Nigerians equally and fairly, regardless of ethnicity, region, religion and political affiliation. Since corruption is a threat to the national security of the country, it is essential to have a financial crime fighting government agency that is able to wage war against the social beast without discriminating against Nigerians who do not agree with a particular political party or president. In other words, the EFCC should not serve as an instrument for destroying and punishing political opponents of the ruling clique. For democracy to thrive in Nigeria, Nigerians must be allowed to express their political opinions freely without fear of being targeted for prosecution, in one form or another.
In this regard, it is time for Nigerians to examine the structure, operational procedures and duties of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with a view of making it more effective in performing its duties. This means that it is time to make the commission less political and more objective in defining and operationalizing its war against financial crimes. To do so, it is absolutely necessary to disentangle it from the control of the presidency so that it can operate freely without kowtowing to the wishes of whoever is in power in the country, at any given time. Perhaps, the Chairman of the EFCC should be selected by a national committee drawn from the presidency, the House of Representatives, the Senate, civil society organizations, and the political parties. Whoever is selected as the chair must be confirmed by the Senate of the National Assembly. Anybody that is rejected for confirmation by the Senate should not be allowed to head the EFCC even if the president insist that he remains as the head of the EFCC. Any chairperson of the EFCC who turns it into a partisan organization must be forced to vacate the position.
Indeed, it is time to reform the EFCC and possibly the ICPC so that they are able to operate independently without dancing unduly to the strategic interest of the president and the political party in power. Right now, the two commissions are too embedded in the presidency, thereby, tarnishing the good image of the hard working patriotic civil servants who have been fighting tirelessly to wipe out financial corruption in Nigeria. It must indeed be acknowledged that the EFFCC has achieved quite a lot but its image is tarnished due to being too aligned with the presidency and the ruling party.
It is agreeable that there is no war against corruption in Nigeria today. What has been mistaken for a war is a strategic political effort to neutralize political opposition so that the ruling party can reign supreme. Hence, the EFCC focuses its investigative tentacles only on alleged corrupt members of the opposition while allowing suspected corrupt members of the ruling party to walk free and enjoy their financial loots undisturbed.
Fortunately, after realizing that the APC led administration is not committed to fighting a total war on corruption as was promised during the presidential campaign, the Nigerian public is gradually taking over the effort to fight a comprehensive war against corruption. Through the social media, journalistic reports, newspaper editorials, citizens' write-ups, legal and political commentaries by prominent members of society, public speeches by advocacy groups, demonstrations and protests, Nigerians are now putting pressure on the government to fight a war against corruption in an unpretentious manner. Thus, pressure is building up for a total war. In particular, after the N500 million MTN bribery, the N200 grass-cutting, the five bags of money left in Kaduna Airport, the $43 million NIA funds, the N400 million left in a shopping plaza in Lagos, the $25 billion NNPC contracts and the Maina clandestine return and reinstatement scandals, Nigerians want a total war in which all suspected embezzlers are investigated, arrested, charged and prosecuted for corruption, irrespective of their ethnicity, region, political affiliation and religion. Nigerians do not want any alleged embezzler to be treated as a sacred cow.
As the public increasingly becomes involved in the anti-corruption effort, it is predictable that it could get to a point where a lot of people, regardless of their political and or military standing, could be compelled to answer questions, with or without EFCC investigation. This is why Mr. Maina who claimed that he is being victimized by those who actually stole the pension funds, is being encouraged by Nigerians to release the list of names of those who actually benefited illegally from the pension funds. To clear his name of the allegation, Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, Profs. Itse Sagay and Tahir Maman have joined the list of Nigerians encouraging him to provide the names of Nigerians who pilfered the pension funds to the appropriate authorities. Other alleged suspects might also be forced to release information about who did what, when and how, as the public pressure builds up for a total war on corruption.
Indeed, a total war is needed to drastically reduce financial corruption in the country.