No longer ashamed of being labelled an arm of the ruling APC, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seems to have thrown caution to the winds in recent times. The supposed anti-corruption agency now ought to be called an anti-opposition agency. And it is no longer hiding its selectivity in its “anti-corruption war”.
Every discerning Nigerian, for instance, knows that the freezing of all bank accounts belonging to APC vice-presidential candidate Peter Obi is an act of oppression. A former two-term governor, Obi was not known to have EFCC issues until after his emergence as presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar’s running mate. If the stopping of transactions on all accounts belonging to Obi, his family members and his businesses, just two months to a decisive poll, is not political witch-hunt, what else is? Apparently, the intention is to weaken the opposition party in the run-up to the general election.
We take another trip to Akwa Ibom State where Obong Godswill Akpabio, former PDP governor who joined the ruling APC this year, has been working with agents of the federal government to change Akwa Ibom to an APC state. Currently Mr Paul Usoro, president of the Nigerian Bar Association, is wrestling with the EFCC over his alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of about N1.4billion belonging to the Akwa Ibom State government. EFCC alleges that Usoro and Akwa Ibom State governor Udom Emmanuel converted and laundered funds from the coffers of the state under the pretence that the money was payment for legal services.
Without prejudice to the ‘case’ against the NBA president, what is known about Usoro, or what may be his offence, is that he has been Akwa Ibom State lawyer since the days of Obong Victor Attah through Obong Akpabio to incumbent governor Udom Emmanuel. Whatever money laundering offences the Senior Advoctate of Nigeria may have committed in the course of rendering to his home state legal services, for which he is reportedly owed over N5billion in outstanding legal fees, the EFCC will have to prove in court. But it is instructive that Usoro has earned the ire of EFCC obviously for the simple reason that he refused to “port” to the ruling party with former Governor Akpabio.
There is also the case of Ayo Fayose, immediate past governor of Ekiti State. A known critic of Buhari, Fayose apparently incurred the wrath of the anti-graft agency for his vocal opposition to what he consistently called (and calls) Buhari’s mis-governance. Even before he stepped down as governor, after completing his tenure of office, EFCC had sent word to Immigration, Customs, Interpol and all other border security agencies that Fayose must not be allowed to “escape” from the country because he had a case to answer at the EFCC. Such drama in pursuit of a public officer who had as yet no proven case of financial misdemeanour against him by a supposedly impartial anti-corruption agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Last weekend, the intimidation train moved to Abuja and then to Lagos. In Abuja, the EFCC attacked the home of two sons of PDP presidential candidate Atiku. According to a statement on Monday, Aliyu and Mustapha Atiku were not at home when EFCC agents broke into their home in search of imaginary cache of foreign currency. On the same Saturday, EFCC agents in Lagos were uninvited guests in the home of Doyin Okupe, a PDP chieftain and critic of the Buhari administration. The EFCC operatives had no arrest warrant or letter of invitation but wanted Okupe to follow them. He refused. When he reported to the agency’s office this Monday, however, he learned he was being investigated for violating the Cyber Crime Act, which includes hate speech. Okupe wonders what he has done wrong because, for all we know, hate speech is not within the purview of the EFCC to investigate!
These recent cases have put EFCC in the dock. If they were not politically motivated, why hasn’t the agency acted swiftly in more damaging cases involving “loyal” friends of the party in power? We need not go far back. Only recently, Kano State governor Abdullahi Ganduje was caught in a web of scandal involving $5million bribe. The noise triggered by the widely-circulated video clips has yet to subside, even as a Kano State high court has stopped the state House of Assembly from investigating the bribery allegation against the governor. Where were the corruption fighters? Maybe it’s because Ganduje, APC, is a sitting governor who enjoys immunity from prosecution. But the same cannot be said about a second recent case: the ruling party’s national chairman Adams Oshiomhole has not received a query from President Buhari or EFCC over claims that he [Oshiomhole] received millions of dollars as bribes during the party’s primaries. Rather than arrest the accused bribe taker, the EFCC invited Malam Daudu Lawal, a governorship aspirant in Zamfara State, who allegedly gave 17m US dollars to Oshiomhole.
So long as such cases are ignored, so long will the EFCC and the political party it supports lack the moral authority to fight corruption. We challenge the president who in his inaugural speech promised to “belong to everybody and belong to nobody” to walk the talk. Before he emerged victorious on the mantra of “change”, he too was perhaps a victim of a government using state agencies to subdue opposition candidates. Where then is the change, if “some are more equal than others”?
In a statement in June this year, the EFCC described itself as “apolitical, blind to the political colours and affiliations of crime suspects”. Using the conviction of Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, former PDP governors who later crossed over to the APC, to illustrate its non-partiality, the agency said, “It will be foolhardy for any politically exposed person under prosecution to think that mere change of political affiliation will guarantee immunity from prosecution.” But how else would partisanship be better described than EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu openly wearing a Buhari re-election lapel pin? Service chiefs who should never have, or be seen to have, political leaning were seated at an APC campaign rally!
We appreciate the little efforts the EFCC has made to at least put fear in the minds of potential looters, even though it doesn’t have enough funds to investigate cases properly. But it should not let those in power or those close to the ruling party be seen as saints or untouchables. If the Electoral Law, for instance, forbids huge campaign funding, the EFCC should strive to find culprits across all parties. Politicians who collude with civil servants at the end of every fiscal year (such as this period) to share billions and then cover up with non-existent projects could be found in the ruling party as well as in the opposition party. At the federal level, there is monumental corruption. But the thieves at the state and local government levels seem to have overwhelmed the EFCC, ICPC and all other agencies.
The expectation is that agents of an anti-corruption agency must live above board. Let no one pretend to be fighting corruption when they are fighting political enemies. Discrimination itself is a form of corruption, as is any act by a public agency to encourage election fraud under any guise. The EFCC’s slogan – “Nobody is above the law” – is a guide.
With: The Oracle Today