MRS. Farida Waziri, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, must desist from exceeding her powers, particularly in relation to the 2011 elections.
She said “politically exposed persons” (another term for political office holders) whose cases of alleged corrupt practices the EFCC is prosecuting in the courts would not be allowed to contest the elections. Waziri, a retired senior police officer and lawyer, knows she does not have powers to stop anyone from contesting elections, only the courts can.
Her quick admission that these persons are innocent by our laws until they are convicted by courts of competent jurisdiction does not weaken her intention to set up a toll gate for candidates.
“With the brief on the cases,” she told the media, “this is not violating anything; we are just telling you that we have these cases pending. But once you publish a name that this man is banned, it is a different thing. But we cannot do that. How we will do it along with others in the best interest of the law and the nation we will keep it as a strategy for now.”
Mrs. Waziri has long lost touch with fighting corruption. She does not need an election to fight corruption. Her belated campaigns to rev up a fight she has abandoned does not have to taint elections everyone expects to be free and fair.
A look at Mrs. Waziri’s statement shows she assumes only when names of accused corrupt individuals are published are their rights violated. EFFC and law enforcement agencies should not abuse their powers by stopping candidates from contesting elections.
Cases former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar severally won in court in 2007 to restore his rights as a candidate proved beyond doubts that EFFC must use its powers more reasonably. No matter what “strategies” Mrs. Waziri has, the target individuals are not dummies. They hire the services of brilliant lawyers and some of them are even in positions that would clothe them with immunity from prosecution. They too have “strategies” that might stun EFCC.
We support the fight against corruption but it requires more profound approaches than making shallow and populist statements for the benefit of the media. Mrs. Waziri’s main “strategies” appear to be to serve politicians notice of the importance of her office to the elections. Her interest could only be self-serving — she wants to keep her office by seeming to be doing something.
EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies should focus more on prevention of corruption than prosecuting those who have pocketed the proceeds of crime. It takes more time and resources to achieve one successful prosecution, whereas it is easier to stop criminals in their tracks. This is where the services of whistle-blowers are very essential. EFCC should encourage people to expose those who are conspiring to commit crimes through many anonymous means, and act on them as expeditiously as possible. Is that not how others fight corruption?
Many cases brought to the attention of EFCC vanish from public attention once Mrs. Waziri squeezes all the public she can from them. A case in point is the fraud Hon. Dino Melaye’s group alleged against Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sabiru Dimeji Bankole. Is it among cases Mrs. Waziri has warehoused for the 2011 elections?
EFCC cannot plan occasional frays against corruption. The challenge of corruption runs too deep to be left until election time. We had thought Mrs. Waziri knew this.