The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is one of Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies that investigates financial crimes such as advance fee fraud (419 fraud) and money laundering. The EFCC was established in 2003, partially in response to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), which named Nigeria as one of 23 countries non-cooperative in the international community’s efforts to fight money laundering.
The agency has its head office in Abuja. The EFCC Establishment Act was first enacted in 2002 and amended in 2004.
Currently headed by Mr. Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, the Commission has indeed had its fair share of troubles to contend with especially regarding how it goes about its duties of crime fighting.
Recently, the Commission took pride of place in the social media following a sarcastic tweet on it’s official handle @officialEFCC, seemingly deriding the Ekiti State, Gov. Ayo Fayose.
A day after the recently concluded Ekiti State Governorship election in which the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was declared winner, a tweet appeared on the EFCC’s official twitter handle telling Mr. Fayose that the Commission was waiting for him.
The tweet, which has already been taken down read: “The parri is over; The cloak of immunity torn apart, and the staff broken. #Ekiti Integrated Poultry Project/Biological Concepts Limited N1.3bn fraud case dusted off the shelves.”
A few days after the tweet appeared and perhaps following the lashing from the public, the EFCC took down the tweet and on its Facebook page put out a statement to the effect that it was not responsible for the post.
The post titled “Court to Decide Fayose’s fate,” read, “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has observed with interest, reactions to a tweet that purportedly appeared on the Commission’s Twitter handle July 15, announcing the imminent revival of the criminal case against Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State.
“In the opinion of most commentators, the tweet coming a few hours after Fayose’s protégé, Kolapo Olusola of the People’s Democratic Party lost the governorship election to his All progressives Congress rival, Kayode Fayemi, betrayed the partisanship of the EFCC in the political contest in Ekiti State.
“Against the background, Commission is constrained to state that the purported tweet does not represent the views of the EFCC. As a law enforcement organization the Commission is apolitical and was not involved in the recent Ekiti election. It therefore has no reason to gloat over the political misfortune of any candidate or political god-father.”
The Next Edition spoke to a few people on their views/ perception of the contentious tweet in particular and the EFCC and its modus operandi in general.
Mr. Ifeanyi Uhuegbu, a UK-based Nigerian, shared his thoughts on the EFCC. “It’s very obvious that the EFCC is this government’s agency used to witch hunt opposition. Any reasonable Nigerian wouldn’t buy the agency’s argument. Reason being that its operations are not transparent.
“A crime czar should operate transparently for it to be believable. This is because she needs good image for the public to support her efforts. We haven’t seen this with the EFCC. The agency only remembers that any Nigerian is corrupt when he/she criticises the government.
“Because Nigeria is a country where forensic/CCTV investigation is lacking, anybody can be labelled as fraudulent. To add insult to injury, the government can manufacture evidence. That is exactly what the EFCC is doing to many innocent Nigerians that disagree with the government.”
According to Mr. Uhuegbu, the challenge in picking and choosing who to fight depending on the side of the divide they belong “is that the system gets messed up the more. The criminals are set free whilst the innocent are hounded. Look at this scenario, all the known people that have defrauded our system but joined APC or speak good about Buhari are never visited by the EFCC. Even those with pending cases who joined the party, are let out of the hooks.
“In fact, the EFCC is the attacking dog of the government. It should be neutral to be able to do its work effectively. But we’re not seeing this. The irony of it is that many Nigerians are having false excitement because of the media trial of politicians. To them, whatever that can be done to strip any of them of the money they have made is welcomed. But the danger in that is that with selective arrest of people, the truth will never be known.”
He said further, “this is not to say there are no corrupt Nigerians. They’re ubiquitous. But if we punish some and leave others because they’re members of the ruling party, we haven’t solved the problem. We have just amputated it. Surely, it will germinate from the sides and brutally too.
“The question you should ask yourself is, are Nigerians afraid of stealing money or getting involved in any form of economic or financial crime? The answer is no. They know that if you’re connected to the party in power or even EFCC members, you’re immune. It shouldn’t be so. There should be no sacred cows.”
Speaking more on the Commission being a tool in the hands of government, Mr. Uhuegbu said, “I don’t know whether the military mentality and vindictive nature of OBJ and Buhari are responsible for why they used the agency to fight opponents. Obj used it to fight his common political foes just as Buhari is doing. This defeats the purpose of the agency.
“The character of each president reflected on how the EFCC acted. Jonathan by nature is not vindictive. He’s also a man that wanted our democracy to evolve. That he believed could be achieved by letting institutions do their jobs according to the statutes establishing them.
That was why he never interfered in the way INEC operated. That cost him the presidency but gave him prestige in the eyes of the international community and some honest Nigerians.
“You can see how the INEC is operating now. The government is using them to win election in her favour. This is contrary to the impartial role it’s supposed to play. That is exactly the tragedy that has befallen EFCC.
“Jonathan and Umaru Yar’adua are in the same class. Both came from the academia and wanted the rule of law to prevail. They knew the implications of impunity and how it has destroyed our country. Unfortunately good things don’t last.”
Mr. Merriman Samuel, a business man, believes the Commission has not done badly. “To an extent the EFCC is impartial, but human beings, being what we are, man being political animals, they can be swayed by the incumbent administration. I think we just have to continue to hope and pray that they employ the use of fair play and equity as much as possible in discharging their duties. If I’m to score them on a scale of 10 to 100, I would give them 55%. I really think they’ve been able to make a mark.”
However, regarding the tweet concerning the Governor of Ekiti, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, implying they are waiting for him, Mr. Merriman said, “I don’t see that befitting an organisation of that status. It smirks of unprofessionalism. It is really wrong of it to go that route. It is highly unprofessional.”
Mr. Fidel Ozugha, an online Publisher, reacting first to the controversial tweet said, “There is a way things should be done professionally. What the EFCC did was just very childish. Of course, Fayose seeing such a tweet will not take them seriously. It lacks professionalism. With issues like that, the EFCC should not belittle itself or diminish the its status. Such an issue is a serious one and should be treated with all seriousness at the appropriate time. Issues taken to the social media are oftentimes seen as not serious but if they write him, Fayose, directly or wait till his tenure is over, arrest and take him to court, that would be a more professional approach and the right way to deal with such matters.
“As for the body being a tool in the hands of the government in power to witch hunt its ‘enemies,’ we must remember that anything human cannot be perfect. There must be room for human infallibility. But really the way this current regime is ‘using’ the body, whereby those who have one thing or the other in their cupboard, if they want to be saved move over to the ruling party and EFCC will close its eyes on them but focus their searchlight on those who are on the opposing side is quite disheartening. That does not portray them as being professional or impartial in the discharge of their responsibilities.
“The EFCC is supposed to be an impartial judge where financial crimes are concerned irrespective of who is involved. If they say they are going after those who have embezzled money or who are corrupt, it should be without bias. They should be very neutral, not minding the political party the individual belongs to not when somebody is very vocal or critical of government they will bring all manner of accusations and dust the person’s file and start pursuing the person.
“If you look at the activities of the EFCC against world standard or best practices, they have not really done well. Nigeria is said to be the giant of Africa so whatever we do should be by the world standard and nothing less. I will not give them the credit that they have done their job without bias.”
Mr. Emeka Nwaneri, a legal practitioners, said while he does not have enough facts to speak on “such a generalised and sweeping conclusion that the EFCC is a tool in the hands of the government in power, there is no denying the fact that Nigeria is yet to attain a regime of ‘strong Institutions’ as opposed to ‘strong men’ as opined by Barack Obama. The EFCC is not an exception.”