The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been in the news of late with its reported recovery of N5 billion stolen by oil subsidy fraudsters. At a town hall meeting on fuel subsidy organised by two Non-Governmental Organisations – Africa Network of Economic and Environment Justice (ANEEJ), in collaboration with Justice for All (J4A) in Abuja last August, for example, the agency’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, made reference to the recovered money, stressing that the Commission was also prosecuting 13 different oil subsidy cases. He was quoted as saying on that occasion: “Investigation and prosecution of fuel subsidy cases have not been too easy for us, but we are resolute in our determination to ensure that we push all those cases to logical conclusion”.
At a recent public function a couple of days ago, Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, reiterated the feat, saying that no fewer than 40 of the affected suspects were being prosecuted in court.
Of a truth, the EFCC could be doing what might be its best in fighting corruption in the country, within the limitations and stumbling blocks consciously erected by unscrupulous politicians, ‘powers from above’, a corrupted judiciary and dubious senior members of the bar, who jointly help to shield acclaimed thieves from the axe of justice. We recall how frustrating it was for the Commission prosecuting high wire corruption cases during the era of Mrs. Farida Waziri as EFCC chairperson. It got to a stage that Mrs. Waziri publicly condemned the unpatriotic acts of those she identified as ‘senior members of the bar’ who rake up all manner of technicalities to delay or totally scuttle the prosecution of many high profile corruption cases.
The successes the EFCC is currently showcasing, such as the recovery of the N5 billion, diligent prosecution and imprisonment of 45 Nigerians, 10 Ghanaians, 13 Pilipinos, three Indians, two Togolese, one Cameroonian and one Myanmar nationals; as well as other financial sector fraudsters and sundry dupes the Commission is currently investigating, or that are in various stages of prosecution, are commendable. No less encouraging is the revelation that EFCC now has a full-fledged section charged with the investigation of issues that have to do with oil subsidy and the nation’s extractive industries. But we must quickly add that our commendation of the Commission is premised on the expectation that better and greater results will follow, and more high-brow corrupt public officers and their private sector fronts brought to justice.
When it is considered the dumbfounding rate at which public funds are being plundered by those in whose hands they are entrusted; on the one hand; and the feeble effort being invested by all the nation’s anti-graft agencies put together in tackling corruption, on the other, it becomes obvious the reason why the achievements of the EFCC appear not impressive enough to many Nigerians. Concerning the fuel subsidy scam, for example, it was public knowledge, how the nation lost billions if not trillions of naira to dubious oil marketers who were paid for doing nothing. And whereas the EFCC has been courageous enough to say N5 billion has been recovered, it has failed to go public with the identities or details of the oil marketers who coughed up the N5 billion for record purposes. The accentuation of positive values in the country may be hard to achieve if the identities of acclaimed thieves are being hidden. Our guess is that among those from whom the N5 billion was recovered could be scions of corrupt politicians and private businessmen, some of whom might be struggling to be voted into power come 2015. Therefore, exposing the names of the fraudsters is very imperative at this time; and we so demand, to enable Nigerians know those that do not qualify to hold public offices or come close to any public treasury.
Besides, many are still shellshocked that the EFCC is yet to bring to book many of the governors and other public office holders who looted the country blind between 1999 and 2007, especially. Has the EFCC given up on the N243 billion which the affected officers allegedly siphoned? Is it not a grave insult that is being hauled at Nigerians, as a lot of the discredited politicians are still walking tall; and some of them are being positioned by some political parties to stand for election in 2015? Is this how a serious-minded nation goes about fighting deeply-rooted corruption?