EFCC

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

The EFCC has an impossible task. It must stop thieving politicians and yahoo-yahoo boys. It must do so against the backdrop of a police force that is so badly funded it cannot conduct any diligent prosecutions. The EFCC is hamstrung. It must hobble along without the weak criminal justice crutches.

Despite the general indignation of the youths about a country damaged by their fathers and uncles, it is difficult to find and hire upright young men who will live with humble wages while resisting the temptation of getting fattened by promiscuous politicians and yahoo-yahoo boys. So while the EFCC looks different, it’s only a one-eyed agency in the land of blind and dissipated policing agencies and public institutions. 

To find vigour, the EFCC must search and find internal maggots burrowed in its system. These maggots and tapeworms which seem to populate the legal dept of that agency sabotage the organization from within. So while hunting yahoo-yahoo bush-rats the EFCC must  deworm. 

Sometimes the EFCC must watch its best effort frustrated by the many Brother Jeros masquerading as lawyers and judges in the country. Often some of the country’s best lawyers feel nothing while undermining the criminal justice process. There are only a few courts in Nigeria that are bribe resistant.

The average Nigerian is bothered more about hunger than mounting a social sanction against his neighbour who is a corrupt politician or a yahoo-yahoo expert cum philanthropist. Yes, rampant counterfeit philanthropism by crooks sways public opinion. The task of the EFCC is therefore complicated from within and without.

Besides corruption-induced slovenliness, there is the other problem of ineptitude. Lack of capacity. The EFCC cannot defeat crime, win cases if it doesn’t choose its staff by academic and moral merit.

A poorly conducted investigation and a poorly laid out prosecution will always fail against good defence lawyers. Criminal trials are adversarial. Crooks always hire the best lawyers. If the EFCC hires through a quota system then it is not prepared for the contest. The culture of merit will enthrone the culture of excellence. 

Without the culture of excellence in investigations and prosecutions, the EFCC will perpetually remain one step behind the crooks. A culture of excellence will do something else. It will seek to protect the prestige of the agency and resist all actions the could be misread as partisanship.

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With a tattered societal moral fabric, limp criminal justice processes and malnourished recruitment process, the EFCC is forced to be inventive. In an environment where public trust is indispensable, that creativity sometimes harms the agency’s reputation. In trying to secure convictions and create deterrence with blunt tools, the EFCC leans towards crime control ethics rather than due process. And that is where the door is opened for critics to come in.

Recently the EFCC raided hotels. Ordinarily, that’s puzzling. A law enforcement agency must possess the surgical skills to go in and extract rather than run through all rooms indiscriminately, dehumanizing many innocent guests. But the task of the EFCC is peculiar. Look at this.

In an incident in Owerri, yahoo-yahoo boys rented almost an entire hotel and converted it into a workstation. The hotels should know their guests. The hotels should know, to some extent, what activities the long-stay guests are engaged in.

When the EFCC came calling this hotel, the hotel staff couldn’t provide the identities of the guests. If the hotels demanded identification documents and kept watch over the activities of their guests and their internet traffic, the EFCC would be receiving tip-offs from the hotels rather than storming hotels hunting fraudsters. 

The hotels and the EFCC must find a way to curb the conversion of hotels into yahoo-yahoo workstations while protecting the privacy of guests. The raids can’t continue.

There is this story of an award night in a hotel in Abeokuta. Youths gathered to recognize those who have excelled in a certain art/ trade. The informed say the endeavour being recognized approximated the ability to pickpocket people on the internet.

The EFCC got wind of the dubious fellowship and came to harvest souls with whips and handcuffs. While trying to gain access and make the arrests, someone alerted the army. That is the other problem. Stealth is difficult here. Fraudsters move around with police protection which must be consulted before an arrest can be made.

Sometimes these uniformed mercenaries frustrate the EFCC. At this Abeokuta hotel, innocent guests of the 5-star hotel were forced to witness a nightmare before they squirrelled into hiding like chickens.

In the aftermath of that raid, the earliest reactions were condemnation for the EFCC. The condemnation seemed justified. Turning hotel upside should only happen in a banana republic. But after the EFCC publicized their haul, folks simmered.

The EFCC must audit its systems. While it may be necessary to let drowsy superiors know that men are at work, haphazard and noisy operations that raise unnecessary dust damage public confidence in the institution.

The EFCC must remember that charlatans and clowns work noisily. If the EFCC hires on merit and installs the culture of excellence, half its problems—which are from within—would be solved. While chasing around yahoo-yahoo boys whether in deference to the Broken Windows Theory or in an attempt to placate or woo Western grant donors, the EFCC must lay a siege on Nigerian banks.

If the EFCC chases around banks staff and books half as much as it chases yahoo-yahoo boys, there will be no breathing space for thieving politicians. The politicians can’t steal a farthing without the active collusion of the bankers. If the EFCC makes the sanitization of the banks its priority, we will see monthly convictions of top bankers. And until that begins to happen, the EFCC is chasing rats.  

Vanguard News Nigeria

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