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EFCC: Will or wherewithal?

ByMorenike Taire
IT was Jon Huntsman, American billionaire businessman and entrepreneur who in his humbler days worked as special assistant to the president during the first term of the Nixon administration that wrote in his bestselling book, Winners Never Cheat: “There are no moral shortcuts in the game of life.

There are basically three kinds of people: the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character”.

Jon Huntsman is clearly not familiar with Nigeria where thieves strut around as though they owned the place. Actually they do, for the most part.

It is not to say that Chief Olabode George is a thief. Not even the courts have said so in clear language and you know that thing they say about innocence till proven guilty. Yet, the mood and body language of the nation after George’s conviction  last week suggests the majority of Nigerians think it is deserved and more.

A most charming, very intelligent man, Chief George remains one of  the most beloved members of the Nigerian armed forces and political class.

All who has worked with him swear he is a man of humility, graciousness, generosity, discipline, peace and patriotism. How then did such a once widely respected fellow end up a scapegoat and laughing stock, and how did the ruling party let one of its own end up being banded with  a stick on the head by everyone passing by?

Perhaps Chief George got hooked up with the wrong crowd (starting, of course, with military dictators), or perhaps he had always had it in him.

Whatever be the case, the reason it is so easy to get away with massive theft in this country is that we all pretend it is such a difficult task to prove a thief is a thief. That Chief George got away with 30 measly months is certainly not to do with the judge being compromised.

Those who have had dealings with Justice Olubunmi Oyewole virtually swear by his genuineness and ingenuity. Insiders say of how he had turned down a promotion to the Appeal Court in order to have access to more cases and have better impact on society.

He had handled really touchy cases in the past, including the celebrated case of Ibinabo Fiberisima, the drunk-driving actress who was convicted for manslaughter, Al Moustapha, who was Abacha’s Chief Security Officer and the homicidal Reverend King, whose judgment, according to eyewitnesses, was read from morning until 3 o clock in the afternoon.

We heard of the dot com millionaires of the nineties Silicon Valley and beyond, whose net worths jumped from virtually nothing to tens of millions literally overnight. We have heard also of stock market geniuses who made virtual millions appear in their bank accounts, playing even with other people’s money. It is only in Nigeria that people openly display wealth they got overnight with no one asking questions or even taking taxes.

In the cases of individuals who had spent their entire lives in public service, it is even easier than most to figure what was earned, what was the proceeds from investment and what was stolen. It is understandable if the EFCC are reluctant to take this line of action, as it would create problems of narrowing down candidates for pursuance and prosecution.

Nearly everyone who has been in public office in Nigeria at least since independence nearly 50 years  ago, would be guilty as sin.

It would be understandable, but not acceptable. Challenges ought not to be reasons for inaction, even for  highly challenged bodies such as EFCC.

People have asked whether or not the George conviction, pending validation or reversal on appeal, is a victory for the Waziri EFCC? This, as they say, is a rather foolish question, and unless the anti-corruption body is hiring some great actors as lawyers, it has proven it has the will to exceed expectations and take on the rich and powerful.

The body had been after George before Waziri, but the end would not have been reached without the will of her administration.

Whether it has the technical wherewithal is another matter. The EFCC counsel squandered, in this case, a wonderful opportunity to get a Ponzi type prosecution and settle, once and for all, the question of how difficult or not it is to get away with stealing or misappropriating government money. Half bread is better than none, however.

One was hoping, in addition, that one or two things would come out, during the hearings, about the Funso Williams murder. There’s opportunity yet for that.

Of course the EFCC must know that it cannot do much without a strong Nigeria police. Its work will always be encumbered by a weak police, and the task of cleaning up the force is one that will give Hitler a headache. Not even Nuhu Ribadu could do it.


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