April 20, 2024

The EFCC, Bobrisky, and Boblion, by Ugoji Egbujo

The EFCC, Bobrisky, and Boblion, by Ugoji Egbujo

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)  must choose its fights sensibly. An Ijele doesn’t go about dancing at babies’ birthday parties just to be noticed. The EFCC must leave some jobs for local Police DPOs. So, it can focus on serious financial crimes. This gbegboro attitude inhibits specialisation. More importantly, the EFCC must never forget that it wrestles against principalities and powers against whom it needs the confidence of the masses. Seeking to clean cobwebs while elephants freely defecate in the room is self-deceit. 

The EFCC has recently set up a task force to prevent the abuse of the Nigerian currency, the naira. The focus of this task force has been on preventing celebrities and, perhaps, the public from spraying the naira at social events, as the EFCC sees this as a form of irreparable damage to the currency. Although the law is in place to preserve currency notes and save reprinting costs, the EFCC has taken it to be a serious financial crime. If lawmakers had trained their focus on stopping the display of exhibitionism or money worship in order to prevent the spread of lasciviousness and reset societal values rather than mere naira abuse, the people would have been happy. However, enforcing laws against harmless cultural practices portrays law enforcement as bereft of a critical sense of priorities.

In the United States, celebrities spray money on strippers. So, spraying cash on people isn’t such a universal crime as the EFCC’s preoccupation with it suggests. In Igbo land, if a grandma dances, she has to be sprayed cash. Putting the money in her bag or pocket drains the ritual of the ceremony. If that damages the naira, then the quality of the notes needs improvement to meet significant cultural uses. Money is more than a sterile medium of exchange. We used to have pseudo-plastic notes in the past. But this new meddlesome law also forbids the throwing of coins. So, the primary motivation for the prohibition can’t even be mutilation because it’s so non-discriminating. Now, the EFCC wastes its time and scarce resources pursuing young men and women spraying their hard-earned naira on their friends and relatives while indicted criminal suspects occupy ministerial positions at the nation’s capital

An institution with limited resources ought to define its priorities soberly. While the EFCC was running around Borisky, Yahaya Bello, who likes to call his narcissistic self White Lion, was still at large. If the EFCC was thinking of the Broken Windows Theory, then it should have focused on the obscene display of wealth, not the spraying of naira, which almost all poor and decent people in Nigeria do anyway. Now, Bobrisky is in prison after pleading guilty as a first offender, but Yahaya Bello can’t be arrested.

He wasn’t arrested a couple of days ago because after the EFCC laid a siege on the house where he refuged, the policemen protecting the man at large shut out the EFCC violently. That wasn’t the peak of the absurdity. While the EFCC agents were languishing in helplessness under the angry sun, a governor stormed the cordoned area with thugs and gained easy entrance into the house. The humiliated EFCC men watched like schoolboys. Such life-sucking impotence. All these happened a stone’s throw from the seat of power. The godson shoved the EFCC aside and whisked away his godfather from the trembling hands of the timid law. Sheer movie stuff. Blockbuster gangsterism. 

After the EFCC chickened away in peace, it issued a press release. In that gutless release, it couldn’t dare to be specific let alone name names. In that statement that reeked of abject impotence, it found the verve to warn the public that in future, it would deal decisively with people who employed thugs to disrupt or obstruct its operations. A governor might have immunity, but does his immunity permit him to handcuff EFCC agents or commit criminal offences while law enforcement agents watch?

His immunity doesn’t confer anything on all the aides and security agents who may choose to assist him in committing the crime before newsmen.The next day was court sitting. Yahaya bello was still at large. The EFCC said they could be forced to invite the military to assist them. What more do they want to suffer? However, that statement was a naked indictment of the police and DSS. Granted, both can’t often handle bandits, but should a chicken-hearted white lion hiding in the Government House in Lokoja require military intervention too?

The helpless EFCC has declared the man wanted, begging the public to help track the man. The public is supposed to find the man the EFCC had in its claws and let a baby governor snatch away? The public should find a man being protected by the state. The world is watching. The Attorney General could have struck while it was hot in Abuja. But he dilly-dallied. A firm pronouncement from the Chief Law Officer to the police and DSS would have drained courage from the lawless governor.

When the Attorney General woke up from slumber the next day, he preached that citizens must always submit themselves to law enforcement agents when needed. He called no names. He issued no public orders. Tepidly, he said the world would have no respect for the country if governors started to act like wild animals. Such preposterous lukewarmness. Tomorrow, we will attend an African Union meeting and expect respect. He should remind the president that foreign investors are watching the spectacle of the travesty of the rule of law.

This atrocious precedent took place under the presidency’s nose. Many thought that naked disruption of EFCC operations by other law enforcement agents had ended with Buhari. If it had been some Bobrisky rather than the revered Bobkogi who mobilised thugs to evade that arrest, the security agencies would have remembered they had breached presidential security. Rightly, but belatedly, the policemen attached to Yahaya Bello have been withdrawn, but when will they be prosecuted? After all, we are only a generator republic and not yet a plantain republic. 

The EFCC must choose its fights wisely. Some bemused young people are now planning to switch to spraying dollars at social events. That could mean more naira chasing the dollar. Some laws only exist to be part of the general legal architecture. And there are others, that must attract attention and venom. The EFCC’s greatest existential problem is corrupt politicians.  However, it appears the agency has an exceptionally elastic capacity to absorb humiliation from powerful politicians.

Often, the public looks away with disinterest not just because the EFCC likes to make up by chasing small fries, but after the EFCC went through the roof to arrest Rochas and charge him, the then Federal Attorney General hijacked the case from the EFCC.  That gradual and steady emasculation of the EFCC by big politicians has been quickened by Ododo. He knows he will suffer no consequences. Last year, an ex-governor publicly ridiculed the EFCC chairman who had fingered him for corruption. That ex-governor is now a minister. The EFCC lingers on his filthy files.

How does the EFCC feel when it goes against relatively innocuous offenders while those who have embezzled the state into penury swagger about in the corridors of power and thump their noses at it? Bobrisky went to prison at the speed of light. Bobkogi is still at large. When he is eventually arraigned, he might appear in a lion-skinned attire. His lawyers will secure his bail despite his having shown that he is a flight risk. Then he will return to Kogi to a hero’s welcome, drums beating, and women dancing under the sun, all arranged by his godson, Ododo. Most of the policemen withdrawn from him will return with him to Kogi for the triumphant homecoming. They might even receive awards from the state. We live right in a circus. Aristotle said, “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”

The EFCC must reassess its priorities to prevent politicians from turn the eagle into a chicken, a scaveger for small things.