By Oscarline Onwuemenyi

In brief
As the new Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, boss settles down to the job, sources say the tempo would be maintained

For the second time in four years, fate had thrust on Ibrahim Lamorde, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, a mission that appears daunting by all indications: that of fighting the seemingly highly entrenched evil of corruption and economic malaise in the country.

No sooner than his name was announced as the successor to the woman he handed over to three and a half years ago, that many people started to sound the knell of failure. Many observers believe that, given the myth of ‘corruption fighting back’ and the unpopular fate of previous anti-graft campaigners in the country, Mr. Lamorde would just be another figurehead waiting to be dispensed with when the puppeteers deem fit.

EFCC's new helmsman: Ibrahim Lamorde.

With the Commission’s several high-profile cases against some powerful politicians and businessmen, some of whom are well-known supporters of the ruling party, still in court, many have wondered if the new EFCC warlord would be his own man, and build upon the foundation laid by his predecessors, or would he casually bow to the whims of the very corrupt and powerful people and let the cases slip. Others have quickly written him off as a mere stooge of the administration, pointing to the circumstances of his immediate predecessor’s unceremonious dismissal from office.

Before her ouster, the former EFCC Chairman, Farida Waziri, had gone after some really big wigs in the political system as well as egomaniacal and corrupt top bank executives, not to mention top government officials, heads of parastatals and agencies, including petty-cyber thieves. She left in her wake, over 450 convictions and recovered over $9 billion from corrupt elements within and outside the country.

According to Waziri, “Though we inherited about 10 high profile cases in 2008, we have taken about 75 of such high profile cases to courts, with another 1500 low profile cases pending in courts. We have investigated and filed several fresh high profile cases which include cases of former governors, ministers, bank chief executives, heads of parastatals and agencies. We have developed and deployed EagleClaw software that is changing the face of fighting cybercrime in Nigeria. Over 5,000 fraudulent email addresses have so far been shut down and over 80 suspects, already facing trial.”

Meanwhile, feelers coming from the Commission have assured that with Lamorde in charge, there will not be a softer line in the anti-corruption campaign. According to a highly-placed source at EFCC who has worked with Lamorde for years, “I assure there is not going to be any fundamental change of course, when you remember that the man has been at EFCC since its inception.”

Describing Lamorde’s temperament, he stated: “The man is not given to frivolities; and from his role as former EFCC Director of Operations, where he personally oversaw the manhunt, arrest and prosecution of many suspects, including all the former governors currently being prosecuted and those who had been convicted, it is to be expected what kind of leadership he would provide for the commission.”

He added that Lamorde, who had garnered a reputation as a no-nonsense police officer would shock many Nigerians, adding that, “Much as people may want to see Lamorde as an extension of a stop-gap head of the EFCC, he is actually his own man and has over the years been the iron-fist of the commission. It is also important to note that the man has successfully overseen every operational activity of the EFCC, as Director of Operations in the over eight years.”

But Lamorde himself has sworn that the Commission under his watch would be committed to the pursuit of its mandate of tackling economic and financial crimes in the Nigerian system. He further declared “a new phase in the life of the EFCC,” even as he praised Mrs. Waziri for her commitment and service in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

He noted that, “In the last eight years, I have been uniquely placed as participant and observer in the birth and nurture of this Commission and I have benefitted from working with Mrs. Waziri over the years. I will draw from hers strengths while seeking to improve on whatever institutional weaknesses there may be to build on your achievements and those of your predecessor.

The Acting Chairman, however, acknowledged that the fight against corruption would not be easy. According to him, “The challenges that stare us in the face are enormous and I want to solicit the support of everyone in the discharge of the onerous task thrust on my shoulders by Mr. President.”

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.