The Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), an umbrella body of all the youth organizations in the South-East zone, in the light of recent happenings within the Nigerian polity, wishes to expressly state that the time to reform the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is now.
Created by an act of parliament in the early 2000s during Obasanjo presidency to among other things wage war against financial crimes and corruption, EFCC has enjoyed the goodwill of the local and international community and partners but has not been able to meet its mandate to the fullest. The recent happenings with the anti-graft agency leave much to be only desired.
COSEYL expresses deep regret that since its creation, the commission has been largely used by any government in power to manhunt and witch-hunt opposition and as well to stifle voice of dissent while leaving out, in most cases, certain persons, usually members of incumbent party in power seen as the proverbial “sacred cows”. Though few cases are where the commission had gone after those in government, not much has followed this in terms of prosecution. For many reasons, it beats the imagination of the Coalition that upon all the billions of dollars said to have been recovered by the commission from corrupt public office holders and citizens, Nigerians are yet to feel the impact of such monies meaningfully or gainfully.
Again, the Coalition, having monitored for long, the structure of the commission is given to the belief that the commission can hardly function independently as long as its chairman, is an appointee of the executive – presidency. The past as with the commission does not bode well with its stated mandate and while the Coalition is not unaware of past few success stories, especially as recorded during the Nuhu Ribadu days, same cannot be said of today’s commission.
The Coalition strongly believes it is now timely to review the EFCC Act and strip the presidency such appointive powers given what is unfolding before us in the polity. Here is where the case of Magu who has acted as commission’s chairman for five years comes into the picture. The embattled Ibrahim Magu whose appointment as substantive chair of the commission has, on more than one occasion, been rejected by the legislature was retained by the president in acting capacity. This is unacceptable and disregard of legislative process by the president whose biggest political credential rests on anti-corruption. What reasons, given the latest development, the coalition asks, has the president in retaining Magu whom the DSS had brought corruption charges against?
Also, the likelihood of power politics within the presidency does not leave little to suspicion. The coalition recalls that the incumbent Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the federation who is the supervising minister of the commission, has allegedly been having running battle with Magu on the grounds of insurbodination. It is on record too that the said minister once described national interest as his prerogative and so in a situation like this, the coalition believes that the best for a commission like the EFCC is total insulation from the presidency part of which the Attorney General largely is.
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It is ideal now that appointment, discipline, promotion and remuneration of the head of the commission, its staff, are done outside the presidency as is appropriate for any anti-corruption agency. Also, the Coalition believes that for a fellow to be appointed the chairman of the commission, a timeframe should be allowed – not exceeding three to six months – during which the intelligence agencies gather background information about such a person. Also should records and qualifications with present and past academic institutions, NYSC, past or present employers relating to the would-be chair of the commission be vetted by the National Assembly as well before substantive appointment and pronouncement. As a creation of the law, appointment of the head of EFCC should come from the judiciary than the executive.
In Nigeria, as with appointments, we often hear of federal character principle as enshrined in section 14 of our constitution, 1999 as amended. If this principle holds, then, why is it that since creation no son or daughter of the South-East has held the top job in the commission? And why is it that with the latest development, politicians of the South, and more especially of the South-East are the targeted victims of incumbent power whose call and bid has been EFCC’s task apparently? The case of Abia is no exception where past governors and other well-placed persons have in recent times suffered untold deprivations.
The Coalition believes that as presently constituted, EFCC cannot work for the common man except to the extent the laws establishing it are revisited and reviewed. The Coalition regrets to state that politicians of South-East region have been the most accused and targeted by the anti-corruption agency in recent times.
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We believe the time for review is now and that the EFCC cannot protect the interest of Nigerians, and of South-East in particular, until it is fully repositioned by establishing laws as revisited.
Hon. Goodluck Egwu Ibem
Comrade Kanice Igwe