By David Eseiwanbevbo
THE hope and future of Nigeria have not been so dampened by corruption as orchestrated by economic and financial crimes as we are witnessing now within and outside the country. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was established in 2003 by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration through the National Assembly Act 2004 as amended.
The establishment was in response to international pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, against money laundering which named Nigeria among the 23 non-cooperating countries in the international community’s effort against money laundering.
Prior to the establishment of the EFCC, the Police had long been in existence with a mandate covering investigation of money laundering offences. Suffice to say that the failure of the Nigeria Police in its mandate for whatever reason brought about the national embarrassment of listing Nigeria among the 23 non-cooperating countries in the international fight against money laundering. In other words, Nigeria was one of the safest havens for money laundering and launderers.
Ironically, the pioneer chairman of the then newly established Commission was brought from the same Nigeria Police even though the EFCC establishment Act provided several options. That was a clear indication that the pioneer Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, must have been an outstanding police officer with the necessary criteria to administratively
and operationally plant the new institution. Nevertheless, our independent inquiries from majority of the EFCC pioneer personnel and the present situation in the Commission is very telling about the lack of proper foundation and necessary structures which are fundamental to the birthing of any enduring and independent institution.
Yes, police officers are better known for operational duties than administration. This has been evident in the EFCC when only few months after the pioneer chairman was appointed, he commenced operations without first bothering about necessary formal structures for the Commission: these include office structure, organisational policy document, standard operational procedure, SOP;
institutional culture/ethics and values, official code of conduct, career progression, standard criminal and recovery data base, succession plan (police disengagement from the Commission), etc, which are the basic and fundamental steps for organisation, growth and development of any institution. The lack of these foundation and basic requirements has created a huge administrative and even operational vacuum that remains the bane of the EFCC till date.
Successive police administrations or leadership of the EFCC rather than address these obvious challenges, continued to administer the institution at their whims and caprices, hence there is practically no system to check their excesses or abuses of power.
Many personnel of the commission, especially the operatives who were trained to take over the leadership of the institution, hold same belief that lack of proper foundation and subsequent failure to address it was a deliberate plot by the police leadership and the seconded personnel to perpetuate themselves and continuously place the commission under subjugation and control.
So, rather than build the institution around structures, policies and systems, the EFCC in the last 15 years was built around the privileges of individual police leadership. Meanwhile, as they build themselves into strongmen, instead of building a strong institution, EFCC was growing weaker and has since degenerated into a cesspool of corruption. This was possible because the police cabal knew they had a mother organisation to run to should anything happen to the EFCC unlike the over 4,000 EFCC staffers and operatives.
Therefore, any attempt to revive and restore the EFCC and Nigeria’s battered image right now must be holistic to allow the EFCC function as an independent law-enforcement agency it was created to be because if the Police was that good, there wouldn’t have been need for the EFCC. The police has to be disengaged from the EFCC completely and forthwith to allow the commission take its destiny in its own hands and be responsible for its actions or otherwise.
Police greed and corruption in the EFCC: It is no longer news that the Nigeria Police makes and mars the EFCC. Just very recently, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, could no longer hide the desire of the police highest authority to annex the EFCC as a police department when he issued a directive/signal withdrawing all policemen serving in the commission and at the same time posting new ones to take over their duties with immediate effect. This is the height of impunity.
Even if it is possible that the IGP can withdraw his men from the commission at will, he has no legal basis to post any of his men there without any formal request from the commission. We call the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly, social crusaders and rights activists as well as other well meaning Nigerians to stand up for the commission before it is sunk by the Police.
The IGP needs to be called to order immediately to stop trampling on the career and future of over 4,000 personnel of the EFCC who will not hesitate to embark on mass protest against any further Police invasion that undermines the commission. The Police authorities must be reminded that the EFCC has never been a police department to be micro-managed, run or administered by the IGP.
The EFCC remains an independent institution as the directive of the IGP is contrary to the provisions of the EFCC establishment Act and the Public Service Rules on secondment and de-secondment of public officers.
Since inception of the EFCC, the Police authorities have continuously lobbied their way to retain the leadership of the EFCC, thereby populating the commission with their men for no other reason than pecuniary benefits. Their forced presence and illegal entitlement have only bred corruption, career stagnation, tyranny, unprofessionalism and ineffectiveness in the commission.
The Police has turned itself to a new colonialist and imperialist in the EFCC such that the operatives who are senior in rank, better qualified, exposed, educated and trained both locally and internationally in economic and financial crimes investigation are now relegated to the background. Meanwhile, their seconded men hold sway in all the strategic positions of the commission.
Despite the fact that the pioneer cadet officers (Course 1) of the commission are now qualified for the chairmanship position by law, seconded police officers are being favoured to head almost all the EFCC zonal offices across the country.
In a bid to perpetually retard the officers of the commission, the police leadership in the commission, especially in the last five years, has refused to conduct promotion examination for the commission’s officers, while they receive their own promotion regularly in their mother organisation even without writing any examination.
The police leadership also refused to de-second all mobile police men from the commission after spending millions of naira to train the commission’s armed mobile detectives in the Nigeria military academy.
Despite receiving the best of arms training from the Nigerian military, these gallant detectives have been deprived of their duties for which they were recruited and reduced to mere messengers in the office.
In addition, training intended to enhance capacity building for core personnel of the commission is being hijacked by seconded police officers who by law are not permitted to stay beyond few years in the commission, except where they abuse and violate extant rules as many of them have been found doing to stay permanently in the commission.
Now that the EFCC has come of age, all relevant stakeholders, including the executive and legislature, must immediately review the EFCC establishment Act with a view to amending the relevant sections that will strengthen it as a strategic, independent, more efficient, effective, professional and proactive institution that will be better placed in the fight against corruption, economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.
Leadership succession and career progression: Despite administrative failure, the pioneer chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, laid the foundation for the commission’s leadership post-police colonialism. Most Nigerians, including the elite, do not understand the categories of EFCC personnel.
The core mandate of the EFCC is investigation and prosecution which made the operations department majorly for operatives/investigators who must have passed through security and law enforcement training. Many do not understand that the EFCC has its own trained operatives recruited at three different cadres, i.e the rank and files, inspectorate and superintendent.
In other words, since Ribadu’s term till now, the EFCC has trained officers who are now ready and statutorily qualified to take over the commission. Only those recruited as administrative personnel who never went through the basic or rudimentary law enforcement and regimental training are referred to as civilians in the commission. By the Act, not all EFCC personnel, except operatives can be qualified for the chairmanship position.
It is important to clear the air in the interest of all Nigerians. The EFCC Establishment Act has only made temporary and inadequate provision for leadership succession. No institution develops without clear, stable or statutory and independent system for leadership succession.
And if the development of any nation is dependent on its institutions, President Muhammdu Buhari must write his name in gold by reviewing the various Acts and leadership succession processes of the EFCC and other similar institutions below:
- Department of State Services, DSS; 2. Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA; 3. Nigeria Custom Service, NCS; 4. Federal Road Safty Corps, FRSC, etc. It does not help national development that these key institutions, rather than build a career path succession or leadership process for more efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism, successive governments, are very comfortable with highly politicised leadership process.
- Looking at the key role these agencies are playing, especially the EFCC place in our national economy, it becomes inevitable to make necessary amendment in the interest of the nation.
The following are the areas where urgent and immediate amendments are needed in the EFCC establishment Act. (A) Sections 2: (i) (a) ii which states thus: “be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or it equivalent; and”.
Rather, an amendment is proposed to read thus; be a serving or retired EFCC law enforcement officer not below the commission’s rank of deputy detective commander (GL I6) or it equivalent in a relevant government security or law enforcement agency.
Reason for proposed amendment: The EFCC has since evolved beyond the provision of section 2 (i) (a)ii which has become obsolete and no longer in tandem with the present reality of the Commission. It is obvious that as at the time of drafting the act, the Commission was new, had no operatives and ranking system of its own, hence the police ranking system was used to benchmark the qualification for office of the Chairman.
Now, the commission has its ranking system and operatives who are best qualified for the position. Also, for Institutionalization, Independence, Career Progression, Growth and Development.
(B) Section 3; (2) which states thus: “A member of the Commission may at any time be removed by the President for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct or if the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the commission or the interest of the public that the member should continue in office”.
Rather, amendment is proposed to insight or read thus: “A member of the Commission may at any time be removed by the President subject to the consent of two third majority of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for inability to discharge the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct or if the President is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the commission or the interest of the public that the member should continue in office.
Reason for proposed amendment: In view of section 2; (3), if the Senate is required in the hiring/appointment of the chairman of the commission, the Senate should also be required for the firing/disengagement. No doubt this will enhance stability, professionalism, independence, strengthen and insulate the commission from unnecessary political interference or manipulation as in the case of CBN, INEC, etc.
(C) Section 4 which states thus: “Where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the commission, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for the remainder of the term of office of his predecessor, so however that the successor shall represent the same interest as his predecessor”.
Rather, amendment is proposed to read thus: where a vacancy occurs in the membership of the Commission, no one shall be in office in acting capacity for a period more than six months, it shall be filled by the appointment of a successor to hold office for a term or remainder of the term of himself or his predecessor, so however that the successor shall represent the same interest as his predecessor.
Reason for proposed amendment: This is to encourage standard, rule of law, global best practices, strong institution and due process. It is also to reduce leadership anxiety, over politicisation, uncertainty, sycophancy and abuse of office. There is no doubt that the above amendment will help to create an enduring and fully responsible institution. We must quickly be reminded that officers on secondment cultivate double loyalty and commitment, first, to their primary consistency (mother organisation) and second, to place of service or secondment.
Police impenalism and corruption in the EFCC: While anyone will appreciate the effort of the police at the formation of the EFCC, it must be emphasised that after almost 16 years of mentorship, they must now exit without any further delay as the EFCC and its personnel have come of age.
Those familiar with the operations of the EFCC know that the professional work force of the commission are the vibrant and intelligent core officers. It is no longer news that police officers pay huge sum and lobby to be posted to the commission which they regard as “local mission” for pecuniary opportunities.
- Eseiwanbevbo, a social crusader, wrote from Lagos