The attention of the under listed civil society organisations has been drawn to the needless rift between the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which further deteriorated with the recent ill-advised statement by Salihu Othman Isah, media aide to the AGF, pointing to the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, as the one undermining the war against corruption of the current administration.
We see the deepening disharmony between the two government institutions as an embarrassment to the federal government and it is capable of weakening its anti-corruption efforts. We are alarmed that someone in the office of the AGF could be making such sweeping and grievous allegation without an atom of proof. We want to believe that Mr. Isah did not speak the mind of his boss given that the AGF himself had dismissed any notion of quarrel or disagreement between him and Mr. Ibrahim Magu as widely reported in the media a couple of weeks ago.
In our estimation, if there is anyone who will not give an inch to the corrupt, it is the current acting chairman of the EFCC. How will such a person become a stumbling block to the fight against corruption? It simply does not make sense.
The story of what led to the suspension of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) from the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, an informal network of national financial intelligence units, is already well known and has nothing to do with the person of Ibrahim Magu or the EFCC. Since the government has set up a committee to address the issue, we urge that the committee be allowed to do its job without interference, though we believe the committee has already been infiltrated by fifth columnists who are using the committee’s name to push personal objectives.
By calling for all case files of politically exposed persons, we see the desperation of the AGF to assert his position as Chief Law Officer of the Federation. That position is not in doubt and we don’t want to believe the EFCC as an institution has given any indication that it was unwilling to yield to the directive. We are reliably informed that a good number of cases have been sent by the agency to the AGF, including the controversial Malabu case which sources in the AGF office confirmed receiving in January this year. As at the time of this release, the AGF has done nothing about the case?
We also want to draw the attention of the public to the fact that even in cases such as the ones involving judges arrested for alleged corruption by the Department of State Security (DSS), the AGF has not fared well in prosecuting them. We would like the AGF to tell Nigerians the successful convictions his office has secured in the fight against corruption in the last 2 years. On the other hand, this year alone, the EFCC going by records available to the public, secured 124 convictions as at the end of July.
The Commission reportedly recorded 194 and 103 convictions in 2016 and 2015 respectively. And some of the convictions were even handled by lawyers seconded to the Commission from the Office of the AGF! So, who is frustrating who? Is it Ibrahim Magu who is working with lawyers seconded from the Ministry of Justice or Malami who is instigating his aides to incite the people and the President against Ibrahim Magu?
In addition to these convictions, the quantum of assets recovered under the current acting chairman of EFCC is unprecedented. Several assets worth billions of Naira have been frozen by court orders pending the determination of substantive cases. Others have been recovered under the civil recovery process. The AGF should tell Nigerians how much stolen assets it has repatriated from foreign countries since he assumed office about two years ago.
If the EFCC appears reluctant to yield to the AGF’s demand for case files of high profile suspects being prosecuted by the Commission, our belief is that it is not without reason.
In 2013, the Federal Government worried by the loss of revenue through oil theft and pipeline vandalism set up a Committee on Crude Oil Theft headed by the then Vice President, Namadi Sambo. The Committee set up other sub-committees, one of which was headed by the then AGF and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, who was given the task of prosecuting oil theft cases.
Though, EFCC originally had no representative on the committee, it was invited by the committee when it realized that the bulk of the oil theft cases were being prosecuted by the Commission. It was then directed to transfer original case files dealing with crude oil theft to the Ministry of Justice for evaluation and prosecution. Although, the Commission forwarded over 100 duplicate files to the Ministry of Justice with a good number of them at various stages of prosecution, up till this moment there is no news about the status of these case files from the Ministry of Justice and the suspects freely walking the streets with their proceeds of crimes. Had the Commission sent the original case files as demanded, all the oil theft cases being prosecuted in courts would have been thrown out for lack of diligent prosecution.
During the banking sector reform initiated in 2009 by the then Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a number of bank executives were arrested and detailed for prosecution. The then AGF, Mohammed Adoke, and the then EFCC Chairman, Farida Waziri, assembled a consortium of lawyers made up of SANs who were paid humongous legal fees to handle the cases.
But as far as we can remember, only the case involving Cecilia Ibru, former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, was concluded through plea bargain. Till date, nothing again has been heard of the other cases. Based on this unpalatable experience, we are aware that the current leadership of the EFCC had to review its prosecution strategy by placing greater emphasis on the use of in-house prosecutors in prosecuting high profile cases instead of farming out its cases to external counsels many of whom are motivated by financial gains.
The challenges being faced by EFCC in the prosecution of high profile cases are well-known. They include blackmail, intimidation and petitions against some judges who are trying corruption cases by the defence counsels who are mostly SANs.
Once these counsels perceive that the odds are against their clients and the judges are not yielding to their delay tactics, they attack the judges.
Instead of engaging in “petty shadow boxing,” what the country needs at this moment, particularly in the war against corruption, is focused leadership. In our opinion, this is no time to give in to the wiles of inordinately ambitious fifth columnists.
We can’t afford to allow emotions ruin the fight against corruption.
We don’t think the action of the AGF is in tandem with the anti-corruption agenda of Mr. President!
Chido Onumah (African Centre for Media & Information Literacy)
Olanrewaju Suraju (Civil Society Network Against Corruption)
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani (Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre)
Mohammed Attah (Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative)
George-Hill Anthony (Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group)
Ibrahim Modibbo, (Democrats of Conscience)