By Erasmus Ikhide
POPULAR consensus is that corruption is the hydra- headed monster that has kept Nigeria – the ‘Giant’ of Africa from attaining its great potential. The first coup masterminded by the five majors led by Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was plotted to rid the nation of corruption as announced by the young coup plotters who brought the First Republic to an end, less than six years after the Union Jack was lowered.
Corruption has been a recurring decimal in both civilian and military regimes, with coups staged to eradicate it. The scourge reached its apogee during the ill-fated eight-year administration of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB, as the emergence of strong men greatly weakened government institutions.
The security forces weren’t spared as the evil of corruption permeated virtually all the apparatuses irrespective of the rank of the officers. The looting of public funds has been a gargantuan governance challenge since independence which was a great cause for concern of the then Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration. He established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in 2003 with the National Assembly ratifying it in 2004.
The establishment of the EFCC was due to global pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, against money laundering which named Nigeria as one of the 23 non-cooperating countries against the fighting of the malaise. Before the establishment of the EFCC, the police force was in charge of the battle against money laundering but the force had been badly compromised and weakened due to internal corruption. Nigeria was thus one of the safest havens in the world for money launderers and laundering.
Critics of the EFCC contend that the anti-graft agency was built on quicksand as the pioneer chairman of the body was Nuhu Ribadu, a serving police officer who was then an Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP. The EFCC Act provided several options as to where the head of the agency could come from and it wasn’t compulsory to come from the police force.
Obasanjo must have seen something in Ribadu to have appointed him as the agency’s helmsman. Ribadu, a smart officer, courted the media as he saw them as partners in the fight against corruption. In a master stroke, he appointed veteran journalist, Dapo Olorunyomi who had made a name for himself during the fight against the General Sani Abacha dictatorship, as his Chief of Staff.
Olorunyomi at the time was in exile in the United States where he fled to for his dear life as the sinister regime sought to liquidate him in a similar manner that it did to Kudirat Abiola. He worked for the human rights group – Freedom House– while in the US and developed a vast network of international contacts. Despite Ribadu’s good intentions, however, he started on a shaky foundation which has remained the commission’s albatross till this day.
He commenced operations without establishing formal structures for the agency: 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.
This foundational lacuna has created a gaping administrative vacuum that has acted as a clog in the wheel of EFCC’s operational efficiency till today. Ribadu’s successors rather than critically address this glaring lapse have continued to administer the agency without a formal structure, hence there are no checks and balances on abuses of power.
They have failed to develop the EFCC into a sturdy institution. Rather, they have preferred to build strong men like former US President Barack Obama warned against when he made his historic visit to Ghana while he held sway in the White House.
In the last 15 years, the EFCC has been built around the inefficient police leadership whose officers have nothing to lose as they will always run back to the police force after leaving the EFCC in a mess for its over 4000 members of staff to clean up. There is the need to clean the Augean stables at the EFCC and restore its battered image as the larger image of Nigeria is at stake here.
I recommend that the Police completely disengage from operations of the EFCC so that gradually and steadily the latter can build itself into a formidable agency so that the nation can be taken seriously by the international community in the fight against money laundering.
The Nigeria Police Force has an overbearing influence on the activities of the EFCC which has thrown the spanner in the works of its smooth operations. Recently, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, could no longer hide the desire of the police authorities to annex the EFCC as a police department when he issued a directive/signal withdrawing all policemen serving in the commission, at the same time posting new ones to take over their duties with immediate effect.
We condemn the action of the inspector general as he has no legal basis to post his men there without a formal request from the commission. President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly should urgently step in to stop this autocratic action that will greatly undermine the EFCC. The EFCC shouldn’t be turned into an appendage of the Nigeria Police Force. Having existed for 18 years now, it ought to be independently run and managed and not being micro-managed by the Inspector General.
What happens to the careers of the over 4000 EFCC members of staff if a police ‘invasion’ is allowed to happen? The EFCC members of staff ought to enjoy career progression and job security in order to do their job effectively. Civil society and public-spirited Nigerians must join hands to resist this draconian move by the Inspector General.
The EFCC remains an independent institution, and 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 Commission, thereby populating the anti-graft agency 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 have turned themselves to a new colonialists and imperialists 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 examinations. 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 operatives 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.
Nuhu Ribadu was revolutionary in his laying the foundation for the career progression of the EFCC operatives. 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 members of staff, except operatives can be qualified for the chairmanship position.
The EFCC Establishment Act didn’t make adequate provision for leadership succession which has left the agency in a quagmire. No institution can become sturdy without a clear-cut agenda for leadership succession as succession should be integral to the institution’s core mandate for effective service delivery.
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 its 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 its equivalent in a relevant government security or law enforcement agency.
In view of section 2; (3), if the Senate’s nod is required in the hiring/appointment of the chairman of the commission in the future, the Senate’s nod 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.
Graft has caused the nation billions of dollars since independence and it is necessary to strengthen the EFCC by making it an independent institution to fight it headlong. It will be counter productive and a huge tragedy if it ends up being tied to the apron strings of the Nigeria Police Force. We must press for bold reforms for it to be weaned off the police so that it can more effectively discharge its onerous responsibilities which are germane to national interest.
Investigations have shown that some unscrupulous police officers pay huge sums of money to be posted to the EFCC because of the opportunity to get large bribes by corrupt politicians to halt their investigations.
There is the need to ensure that the EFCC Cadets who have been thoroughly trained in forensic investigations man the EFCC while the police tackle crime on a larger scale. EFCC officers don’t get posted to the Police Force. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander!
Erasmus, a journalist and social activist, wrote via:[email protected]