ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC) AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA: AN ASSESSMENT
1.1 Background to the Study
Close to a decade after the inauguration of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the war against corruption in Nigeria continues to rage with the anti-graft body clearly not having the upper hand. The bulk of the blame has been put on the Federal Government for not allowing the Commission to function without undue interference. It is believed in some quarters that most of those who should be arrested, investigated and prosecuted by the EFCC are enjoying protection from the Federal Government and people hardly get hounded by agents of the commission unless they have fallen out of favour with the Government. The leadership of the Commission has changed a number of times but the system with which it pursues its mandate has remained the same over the years. Many had questioned the genuineness of the intention behind the commission right from its first few years as it was largely seen as a tool by the Federal Government to witch-hunt real or perceived opponents.
Though the fear of the EFCC was the beginning of wisdom in the Obasanjo years, it became obvious that the Malam Nuhu Ribadu-led commission targeted mainly those who dared to antagonize the President. Though back then, the EFCC was seen to be working, though not without some flaws. For instance, Rotimi Amaechi faced fire when the EFCC brought up charges of financial impropriety against him just before the 2007 elections and he was dropped as the governorship candidate of his party. It was later made public that it was because the powers that be were not favourably disposed to his ambition to rule Rivers State. Peter Odili too aspired for the PDP’s presidential ticket in 2007. It was an open secret that former President Olusegun Obasanjo used the EFCC to frustrate that ambition.
One of the beneficiaries of Obasanjo’s effective usage of the EFCC was Engineer Segun Oni, the deposed Governor of Ekiti State. Though he came third in the shadow elections, during a meeting with the three top contenders for the PDP’s ticket, the President brought out a file which he claimed was the EFCC’s dossier on Yinka Akerele who came tops at the primaries. There and then, Obasanjo in his wisdom decided that Oni should be chosen as the party’s candidate. He was immediately told to go and flag off his campaign in Ado Ekiti. Joshua Chibi Dariye, a Governor was arrested in London with loads of money Dariye found his way to Nigeria after being granted bail. Not long after, Nuhu Ribadu addressed the Plateau State House of Assembly and pronto, Dariye was impeached He challenged his impeachment and was reinstated by the Court, with the verdict being upheld by the Supreme Court. After the expiration of his tenure in May, 2007, he was arraigned at Federal High Court, Guda on a charge of stealing over N 700 million. He was granted bail and today, Dariye is a Senator of the Federal Republic.
The situation in Ekiti state was somewhat similar. No one ever believed Fayose could be impeached by the House of Assembly in which he controlled the majority. On one occasion, he opened a portion of the Government House for his guests and there the House of Assembly was holding a meeting around 1 a.m. After the arrest of some of his friends and associates over a failed poultry project, the EFCC swooped on the Ekiti State House of Assembly and after several visits to the EFCC facilities in Lagos and Abuja, the legislators were made to understand that the commission had records of the funds they collected for constituency projects and how the funds were utilised. Not long after, the legislators backed down and the vote of absolute confidence earlier passed on the Governor gave way. He was impeached along with his deputy and his case started in court on December 17, 2006. He was accused of looting about N 1.2 billion.
So far, Lucky Igbinedion is the only former Governor who has paid back part of his loot. While facing a 191-count charge of money laundering, Igbinedion opted for a plea bargain and he paid back N 4.3 billion in a case that was determined in 2008. To many, the EFCC was simply playing to the gallery as it continued to drag people to court and the number of convictions obtained did not show that it was indeed winning the war against graft. The cases of Bode George as well as the assets forfeiture of Tafa Balogun and Dipreieye Alamieyesegha are the major achievements the commission can boast of.
The commission blamed the Executive for interfering in its activities through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. Bails have allegedly been secured for people who were arrested by the Commission through the Attorney General. And at the end of the day, the country ends up being the loser, if an agency that is funded by the Government is prevented from carrying out its functions by agents of the same government. Internal politics also affected the quick and diligent prosecution of a lot of cases. Each time a new Chairman comes on board, there is bound to be the redeployment of officers believed to be in the structure built by the chairman’s predecessors. The transfer of a lot of investigators has reportedly done a lot to affect the cases that were handled by such officers.
In conclusion, this study aimed at looking at the EFCC and their fight against corruption in Nigeria (A won or lost battle). It suggested that the commission should explore the inter-nations technical co-operation on corruption, to develop mechanism that would help Nigeria have a system that discourages outright stealing of public fund, and develop an anti-corruption war that relied on forensic evidence, well-trained personnel and free of unnecessary controversies. EFFC should, this time-around, effectively utilize the provisions in the National Assembly Act 2004, establishing it. For instance, Part III, section 12, subsection 1(c) and subsection (2), which provided for establishment of Research Unit; and any committee to assist the commission, are good avenues for the commission to explore to bring itself at par with Nigerians expectations. However, the best weapon the new helmsman of EFFC have, is, adherence to rule of law, because with the current uncompromising stand on adherence to Rule of Law, by President Yar’Adua, any disregard of Rule of Law will not only send one to kuru, it may send one to Kirikiri.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Corruption is one of the most widespread social evils in Nigeria; it is seen as a main threat in the public and private sphere. Corruption undermines fragile democratic systems by fuelling popular disillusionment with politics and politicians; it also undermines trust and confidence, which are necessary for upholding and development of sustainable economic and social order. Corruption is not only peculiar to Nigeria, it is a global phenomenon. However, anti-corruption war in Nigeria is like a gun-war being fought with bows and arrows, it is a war that can turn its fighters into victims and those being fought into heroes, it is a war that both sides manipulate to gain personal and political points, it is a ‘world’ of controversies, politics, extensive debates and high public expectations.
EFCC is the central institution saddled with the responsibility of fighting Nigeria’s anti-corruption war. The Commission and its helmsmen were recently featuring in the news in positive as well as negative pictures, both at local and international media. EFCC and its protagonists hold the view that, the Commission is on the right track; while its antagonists and some public commentators have observed some lapses in the manner the Commission is executing its mission.
1.3 Research Questions
The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:
i) what is the prevalence of EFCC and their fight against corruption in Nigeria?
ii) what are the factors responsible EFCC and their fight against corruption in Nigeria?
iii) what are the ways in which the EFCC can win their fight against corruption in Nigeria?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The objective of the study was to investigate the effort of the EFCC towards fighting corruption in Nigeria. The specific objectives are:
i) to determine the prevalence of EFCC and their fight against corruption in Nigeria
ii) to investigate the factors responsible for EFCC and their fight against corruption in Nigeria
iii) to assess out the ways in which the EFCC can win their fight against corruption in Nigeria
1.5 Significance of the Study
Findings from the study will be of great importance to the judiciary arm of government in the area of carrying out their primary functions and also benefit the EFCC by openly showing how far people have rated them in their fight against corruption in the country and show them in the area they are lagging behind. It will also serve as a foundation on which further research can be made.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study investigated EFCC and their fight against corruption in Nigeria and show if they are winning or losing the battle. It therefore covered the staff of the commission as well as government officials (both the current and the past). It will also extend to the general public who will rate the performance of the commission so far in fighting against corruption.
1.7 Limitation of the study
The researcher was faced with the problem of getting access to the staff of the commission and also to some government officials. Another problem for the researcher was finance as the researcher did not have enough funds to get the required stationery for the work. Also, the timeframe for the work to be carried out was too short.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
The following terms were used in the course of this study:
Commission: a group of people officially charged with a particular function.
Corruption: dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
EFCC: Economic Financial Crimes Commission