BREAKING: Not over for Uzor Kalu as EFCC sets for fresh, immediate retrial
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

By Tonnie Iredia

A cursory look at the history of Nigeria’s foremost anti-graft agency – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC would place credence on the view that it was only in the first few years of its existence that a few people probably remembered to applaud the agency. Thereafter till now, it has been one criticism or the other, the most consistent being the accusation of selective prosecution against the Commission – an accusation that is virtually immutable.

One factor that has helped the perception to stick so firmly is the posture of the current leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, which had publicly declared that to get one’s sins forgiven, a clear path is to seek membership of the party. Although a few offending APC leaders have not been spared, the number of what the public sees as sacred cows is high especially among former governors accused of leaving their states’ coffers dry.

Accordingly, if Nigerians have a tendency to look the other way when EFCC achieves any commendable feat, we cannot blame the cynics.

But a major story involving the Commission last week which everybody ought to commend is what we reflect on today. It says the EFCC arrested two Chinese citizens who offered a One hundred million Naira (N100m) bribe to its Sokoto Zonal Head, Abdullahi Lawal. The goal was to influence him to compromise ongoing investigations of a construction company, China Zhonghao Nig. Ltd, handling contracts worth billions of naira awarded by the Zamfara State Government between 2012 and 2019.

The bribe was reportedly offered to Lawal to “bury” the matter as the company became alarmed by the consistency and professionalism of the investigation. It was when the two Chinese citizens appeared in the Sokoto office of the EFCC with an initial installation of N50million that they were arrested.

We commend Abdullahi Lawal for his integrity and commitment to duty. We also commend the current management of the anti-graft agency led by a courageous fighter Ibrahim Magu for creating an enabling environment for staff to be steadfast and committed to the organization’s goal. If many more Nigerian bodies can emulate the EFCC and its operatives, Nigeria’s move to greatness would become unstoppable.

We, therefore, call on Nigerians who may have experienced negative conduct from some EFCC staff to not allow such hinder their support for the fight against corruption bearing in mind that every organization has its bad eggs. Rather, we should all embrace the clean image which the likes of Lawal have managed to create for the EFCC. The achievement is particularly significant as it throws ample light on how the so-called developed world is ever determined to undermine African nations while denigrating the continent as most corrupt in the world.

To me, other continents are not better than Africa because as I once articulated at a well-publicized international media conference in 2006, there is no difference between the taker and the giver of bribe or the custodian of stolen goods.

China in particular has never shown transparency in her dealings with Africa. Nigeria, has innumerable examples. At about the same time of EFCC’s arrest of the two Chinese suspects in Sokoto, a Federal Court in Abuja, ordered the final forfeiture of $300,000, belonging to a Chinese national, Li Yan Pin. The Court had earlier ordered the interim forfeiture of the money following an exparte application filed by the EFCC.

Yan Pin faced trial for a money laundering charge, leveled against him over the said sum after intelligence led to his arrest at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for failing to declare the sum in his possession, while attempting to board a flight to China en-route Dubai. This is not to suggest that every Chinese citizen and their country’s activities in Nigeria are negative. We are charitable enough to not discountenance some beneficial projects attributable to them.

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With respect to the current COVID 19 pandemic for example, we hear Chinese construction giants, CCECC, participated in the delivery of a 300-bed COVID-19 treatment facility at the This Day Dome in Abuja, which the company says was done “because of commitment to the development of the country and wellbeing of Nigerians.” Also provided, were two ventilators, one oxygenator, as well as 10,000 face masks.

But beyond this gesture, a critical examination of China’s interest in Nigeria and indeed all over Africa may lead any discerning analyst to the same conclusion reported by This Day’s Adedayo Adejobi that China exploits Nigeria with Greek gifts, laced in economic sabotage.

Those of us in this school of thought are reinforced by last month’s decision of the African Development Bank Group to debar China Zhonghao Nigeria Limited for 18 months, for fraudulent practices concerning the Bank-financed Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project in Nigeria. The debarment renders the company and its affiliates ineligible to participate in the Bank-financed projects during the debarment period.

The federal government has also been forced to announce pressures on her by those named as ‘godfathers’ to free Chinese and others arrested in parts of the country for engaging in illegal mining. Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development to whom the allegation was credited revealed that of the 27 persons arrested for the economic sabotage, 17 are Chinese.

It is thus unfair to castigate our citizens who are skeptical of China, its people and their projects in Nigeria. In fact, many are confused over what is touted in diplomatic circles as China’s friendship with Nigeria which stands side by side with hostile behaviour towards Nigerians in China and efforts here by Chinese nationals to compromise Nigeria’s economy.

Incensed by stories of how Nigerians were left in the cold in China while she was allegedly helping to contain COVID 19 in Nigeria, about 100 Nigerians including a frontline clergyman – Archbishop Samson Benjamin of the General Overseer of Resurrection Praise Ministries for Africa protested the obvious Chinese hypocrisy at the Chinese Embassy in Lagos. Benjamin confirmed to the media that he joined the protest despite the lockdown because he was personally enraged over the fact that the Chinese were operating freely in Nigeria despite that COVID-19 started in their country but have chosen to maltreat Nigerians and other blacks in China.

Many who did not physically join in the protest left no one in doubt about their negative perception of China. The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA whose posture would have helped to calm frayed nerves concerning the visit of some Chinese medics ostensibly to help assist Nigeria overcome COVID 19 was itself left in the dark and therefore unable to rationalize the merits of the supposed Chinese assistance.

Events have since shown that even those in government no longer understand in full, the real purpose of the visit which suggests that the project was ill-conceived like some other public policies in the country. Considering that a bad policy would hardly yield enduring fruits, it is expedient to first comprehend the full implications of any public policy before embracing it. EFCC’s commendable work shows clearly that ample caution is necessary when entering into businesses with double-faced foreign countries. Bravo to EFCC.

VANGUARD

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