When one has clear vision, he or she is said to have eagle eyes. An eagle is “any of several large carnivorous and carrion-eating birds in the family Accipitridae, having a powerful hooked bill and keen vision” (“Eagle,” English online dictionary ).

In the animal world, the eagle, as a predator has a big advantage over its prey due to its powerful hooked bill and keen vision. More so, since it belongs to the powerful carnivorous family.

The eagle’s ability to take on a snake, for instance, shows how wise and powerful it is. But there are, however, occasions where it miscalculates, that is, when the hooked bill fails to hold its prey in the rightful position, or when it puts itself in vulnerable positions. These ‘mistakes’ can turn the predator to prey in a matter of seconds.

The federal government on establishing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), chose the eagle as a symbol of the Commission, for reasons, I hope, are not so far from the description given above.

Since the creation of the Commission, by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s led government in 2003, the Commission’s heads have been in the eyes of the storm. Before we go into the chronicles of the travails of its various leaders, we must look at the mission and vision of the anti-corruption body.

Mission and Vision:

The EFCC was established in 2003 “to get rid of Economic and Financial Crimes in Nigeria and to effectively coordinate the domestic effort of the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. As an agency, it is operating with best international standards, and leading the fight against economic and financial crimes in Nigeria cf. (https://efccnigeria.org).

Has this been the mandate on which the successive chairs have operated? If it is, why have they have at one point or the other been indicted and unceremoniously removed from office, in fact, in worse case scenarios, demoted?

To avoid unnecessary speculations, let us x-ray the travails of the various heads EFCC has had since its inception, and their travails.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (2003-2007)

He is the pioneer chair of the Commission. He had the reputation of a ‘no-nonsense’ man. Besides his rejections of 15million USD bribe and a promise of a house abroad by James Ibori, the then governor of Delta State in April 2007, his perceived integrity soared. This must have been why there were two assassination attempts on his life.

But how did he end up? According to Sahara Reporters, “Ribadu fell out of favour with the powers that be in December 2007 and was forced out of office two weeks after he tried to prosecute powerful former Delta State governor, James Ibori, a close associate of Obasanjo’s successor in office, Umaru Yar’Adua”(cf. “Ribadu, Waziri, And Magu: EFCC’s History Of Chairpersons With Unceremonious Exits,” Sahara Reporters New York, July 8th, 2020). Ribadu was also demoted from the police force, which forced him to retire unceremoniously.

Farida Waziri (2008- 2011)

She took over as captain of EFCC in 2008, after an interim reign of Ibrahim Lamorde. In the end, she was judged incompetent, after facing several other criticisms. In November 23, 2011, Waziri was unceremoniously removed from office by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and on November 28th, 2011, exactly five days after her removal, she was replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde. It is important to know that her dismissal was not unconnected to accusations against EFCC as being selective in its investigations, as widely speculated.

In my research, I discovered that her removal was partly due to her fall-out with the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke – over the prosecution of cases brought before the court. She was also accused of compromising an investigation into financial misappropriation against the former governor of Bayelsa state, Timipreye Sylva (cf. “Waziri’s Sack and the Future of EFCC,” P.M. News, November 28th, 2011).

Ibrahim Lamorde (2011-2015)

Following the dismissal of Waziri, Ibrahim Lamorde took over the affairs of EFCC. His tenure was one that was equally trailed by controversies; with accusations and counter-accusations against him. In an article titled, “Nigeria: Ibrahim Lamorde – Trial of an Anti-Corruption,” dated August 25th, 2015, Celestine Okafor alleged that the Nigerian Senate was on a revenge mission against the chairman of EFCC for daring to investigate the wife of the then president of the Senate, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, over alleged financial crimes, which undeniably would have been the brain behind Lamorde’s investigation by the “Nigerian Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, over allegations of diversion of stolen funds amounting to over N1 trillion, recovered from looters of public treasury”.

Subsequently Ibrahim Lamorde on November 9th, 2015 was sacked by Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and replaced by Ibrahim Magu.

Ibrahim Magu (2015-2020)

Magu’s appointment was one that came with so many controversies. The 8th Senate led by Bukola Saraki refused to confirm his nomination twice because of an indictment memo against him by the Department of State Service (DSS).

Consequently, for the near five years of his heading the EFCC, he remained in an acting capacity, despite calls from different quarters for Buhari to appoint someone else as a replacement.

These controversies notwithstanding, Magu achieved a lot during his tenure. His tenure saw the recovery of a large amount of stolen funds. However, he is now being probed for lack of accountability and insubordination to the EFCC supervising office; an office of the minister of justice and Attorney General of the Federation, led by Abubakar Malami.

Magu was arrested on July 6th 2020, where he spent ten days in police custody. Upon his release on July 15th, the police chief denied having him in police custody and claimed the presidential probe panel held him. Whatever the case, he is currently facing a presidential probe panel headed by the former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami.

His travails could be linked to the fact that he has stepped on the wrong toes, as some have alleged. I think these wrong toes are the results of the missteps of the eagle while holding the snake as prey.

That said, the following facts are worthy of consideration. It is a known fact that corruption will always fight back. This claim is not far from all the travails suffered so far by the four EFCC chairs.

  • In the case of Ribadu, James Ibori was later convicted in the UK, where he served his jail term.
  • In the case of Waziri, the former attorney general, Mohammed Bello Adoke is currently undergoing trial for alleged corrupt practices.
  • In the case of Lamorde, no doubt, some of the activities of Toke Saraki in Kwara State during her husband’s tenure as governor have remained questionable. More to it was the endless probes that lasted during Bukola’s tenure as president of the Senate.
  • In the case of Magu, only time shall tell. Nigerians are watching.

But one thing I have learned from the travails of EFCC chairs, so far, especially that of Magu, is the sayingn that, “Those living in glass houses should not throw stones.” But that can only be possible if those who are ready to serve the collective interests of Nigerians, and not the selfish interests of the government are appointed to run the affairs of the group.

In all this, my position has always been that Nigeria is not yet ready to fight corruption. This is because a nation that is prepared to fight corruption should have no sacred cows in the fight against corruption. EFCC should not be used as a government tool for witch-hunting a select few.

Now, let us look at Nigeria’s corruption index 17 years after the establishment of EFCC.

In my article of May 29th, 2020, titled, “21 YEARS OF UNINTERRUPTED DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA: A DREAM COME THROUGH OR A SHATTERED DREAM?” I noted that “Corruption today in Nigeria is like a cancerous wound; the more one tries to treat it, the more it aggravates.”

In its 2019 corruption perception index, Transparency International ranked Nigeria as the 146th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries (cf. Trading Economics.com), even though President Buhari has an anti-corruption drive as a top priority since taking office on May 29th, 2015.

In the same 2019, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), a global auditing firm also observed that “If corruption is not dealt with immediately it could cost Nigeria up to 37% of its GDP by 2030, A cost that equates to nearly $2,000 per Nigerian resident by 2030” (cf. Aljazeera News, by Hamza Muhamed, May 29th, 2019).

Corruption in Nigeria cuts across virtually every area. Some include money laundering, internet frauds, misappropriations of public funds, extortions, bribery, electoral malpractices/riggings, budget paddings, etc.

With the observations above, has EFCC done well? The answer is yes to an extent, and no to a larger extent. Since he who pays the piper dictates the tune, we cannot expect any major changes in EFCC. Until this mantra is corrected, corruption will remain a hard nut to crack for EFCC under any skipper.

If we don’t stand up together and fight corruption to a standstill, corruption will continue to feed largely on our commonwealth.

© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP, July 2020.

Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.

Image Credit @ Thisdaylive