By Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA – The former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has called on federal government to free the EFCC from all form of external influence in order to win the war against corruption.
Ribadu made the call on Monday at a special Town Hall meeting organized by Shehu Yar’ Adua Foundation in conjunction with MacArthure Foundation in Abuja.
The former EFCC boss, who spoke as the special guest of honour at the occasion, said for Nigeria move forward in the ongoing fight against corruption, the anti-corruption institutions such as the EFCC and ICPC must be encouraged and supported with adequate funding and independence to function optimally in the discharge of their duties without undue external interference.
‘‘The institutions that are saddled with the responsibilities and duties to fight corruption, our soldiers in the battle of war against corruption must be encouraged do their work. We want them to be honest themselves, we want them to be just, fairly, competent and transparently.
‘‘The institutions must be encouraged and supported. How do we do that? By giving them independent, let no one interfere with the way they run their affairs. This issue about the leadership of the EFCC and the National Assembly.
‘‘It is only fair and proper to remove institutions like that from control of others. If they are going to do this work on behalf of Nigerians, they must be free.
‘‘Just like the Inspector General of Police, the constitution says, he does not need any clearance from the national Assembly because the constitution recognizes that the work he is doing requires him to stand alone, independently. The same thing with the NSA and Director of DSS. They do not go to the senate for clearance, the same with the Chief of Army staff. Then, why are we saying the EFCC should go to Senate for clearance? If EFCC is going to handle cases involving members of National Assembly and the same EFCC is going to pass through them. How on earth is that going to be possible? Some of these things are critical if we want to win this war against corruption.
‘‘These are some of the little things that have to be addressed. The independence of these institutions matters a lot. ICPC do not have leadership today because those who are nominated must go through the national Assembly. And they are doing a very important work. Fighting corruption is more important than anything anybody can do in this country today.
‘‘So, give them enough funds and provide them with the resources to this work unhindered because they are getting back our money. They need to be given enough support to succeed. The EFCC alone has 3800 cases they are prosecuting today. One single organization having these cases, when they go to court, it is like burial ground, they cannot get justice. These things are things Nigerians need to know and hopefully they will wake up and do something about it.
‘‘We need to encourage them to do their work and begin to get proper good convictions. They are very important to the war against corruption.’’
On whether it requires a constitutional amendment to stop the EFCC chairman from seeking senate clearance, he said, ‘‘It will not require any amendment for now. Because it is a constitution issue due tof the law enforcement work he is doing. If the constitution says, the NSA, IGP, Comptroller General of Customs should not go to NASS, why then should you take another agency like EFCC to them for clearance because when you are fighting corruption, you need to be free from control of others.
‘‘How on earth is that possible, imagine a senator being taken to court and he has before him the chairman of the agency brought before him to clear. He will not. So, the constitution anticipated that. It made such issue clear that such responsibility should be taken away from anybody’s control. So, I feel we do not need to amend that section of the constitution provision because the spirit of the constitution says we do not need that. ‘’
On the rating of the EFCC performance, Ribadu said the anti-graft agency had done well, stating that by available records the agency had placed Nigeria as the country with 3,800 cases in court, the highest in the world.
‘‘First of all, it will be better for us to recognize and appreciate the fact that we are not doing that badly in the fight against corruption. Nigeria more than any country today in the world and indeed in Africa is doing something visible in the war against corruption.
‘‘Nigeria is the only country in Africa today that has two, three anti-corruption agencies, actively working. Today, EFCC alone has 2800 cases going on right now. With few number of operatives and with 3800 cases ongoing. There is nowhere in the world you can get this type of record.
‘‘But that does not mean that we should be complacent, we need to do more. If the tree is standing, the axe cannot rest. We must do more simply because of the damage corruption has done to us.
‘‘Corruption is extremely dangerous and it has to be stopped for this country to survive. Corruption is like a hidden robber robbing is 24 hours a day. Corruption is staking our resources, money that ought to be used to address our problems is taken by very few people. There has to be a way to stop it because if we do not get it, we are not likely going to get peace and security in this country. ‘’