The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders CACOL, has expressed it disagreement with the Federal Government’s attempt to sideline the official anti-graft agencies in recovering stolen loot.
This came on the heels on the statement that President Muhammadu Buhari may not involve the anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission ICPC in his effort to recover the looted funds.
According to media reports, a top government official, who is familiar with the Buhari’s effort at recovering looted funds, said that the President might rely more on people outside the system to achieve good results.
The official said, “The President’s body language as far as the anti-corruption agencies are concerned suggests that he does not have so much confidence in them. Most of the recovery job may be done by people outside the system, like consultants.” He added that the Buhari’s reliance on outsiders had started yielding positive results.
Reacting to the news, the Executive Chairman of the Coalition, Mr. Debo Adeniran averred that the seeming lacklustre performance of the agencies could be responsible for the president’s decision.
He said, “We know that it has been a different political party that has been ruling Nigeria since 1999 and the last regime of Goodluck Jonathan has been seen as a regime that protected corrupt leaders rather than prosecuting them. That could have been the reason why the present system lost confidence in any structure that the past administration left behind.
“We need to also realize that the past regime used some of their agencies to intimidate the present ruling class before and during the election and there had been several public exposed persons that had been let-off the hook because the anti-graft agencies are not well equipped to fight corruption in Nigeria and because these anti-graft agencies do not have the requisite training, equipment, the necessary personnel and protection, they have not been able to achieve much.
“That could have informed the loss of confidence in them by the President Muhammadu Buhari and you can’t blame him because most of the cases of the public exposed persons in Nigeria had been lost by the EFCC and ICPC; although not totally lost, most of the cases were dismissed which means that the anti-graft agencies can still re-file them and the people would be prosecuted.
However, the President could have strengthened the anti-graft agencies to be able to do exactly what he wants them to do rather than spend more money on consultants or private debt-recovery firms.
“It will amount to double expenditure on the same cause because as long as the anti-graft agencies are still there, allocations will be going to them and if we hire consultants, they are likely to take even more than what the official agencies would take.
Basically, rather than go out and look for private persons or private firms to recover these loot, the anti-graft agencies should be strengthened; they should be given more funds, more personnel and if there are bad eggs among them, those bad ones should be weeded-out and if it is the entirety of the personnel of the agencies that are untrustworthy they can be changed; not that they should be rendered impotent because by the time they lose confidence in them, members of the public will also lose confidence in them.
“As a matter of fact, most of the problems that faced these anti-graft agencies are not caused by the agencies themselves they are caused by the regime that puts them in place and who are supposed to fund and oversee their functions.
We should remember that there was a time the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, went round the courts to withdraw several anti-corruption cases against the wishes of the anti-graft agencies; we should also remember also that he came up with a gazette that actually paralyzed their capacity to prosecute any criminal that has stolen more than 50 million naira or those criminals that have international dimensions. That means that there is hardly any case they could prosecute on their own without the hand of the AGF.
All of these combined to paralyze the nation’s anti-graft agencies and if these impediments are removed by President Muhammadu Buhari, we are sure the anti-graft agencies would be up to the task. With our own study of the anti-graft agencies, we are sure they have qualified and committed personnel that are very patriotic, and those that could not be corrupted.
Also, there is nowhere in the world that the EFCC and ICPC cannot contact for the purpose of recovering the looted funds, there is mutual legal assistant treaty with many of the countries where these monies are kept. Is it the United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland and other European countries? Nigeria has mutual assistant treaty with them and that is what they could have exploited. We should remember when the former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori’s case was being pursued by the EFCC, several times they have to make contacts with the US and the UK including Switzerland to get information about where the looted money was being kept and they were successful and that was the basis on which they crafted the 170 charges that was levelled against him in Asaba Federal High Court. What impeded their progress was inadequate funding; they could not sustain their men who had to travel outside the country, they could not hire qualify lawyers while the criminal was able to hire many Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
So, it is really not so much of a problem for them to get in touch with other anti-graft agencies outside the country with a view to recovery this looted funds; they have links with FBI, British Police and several others. We have held some programmes with them with all of these foreign investigators and anti-corruption agencies.
We believe that with more capacity in terms of training, in terms of funding, in terms of equipping and protection even to the investigators themselves they are likely to do better than what they are doing. There is no reason why we should hire foreign investigators because some of these foreigners are also collaborative with these public exposed persons who have looted this country’ funds
So basically, it is the change of tactics not actually strategies that the present regime needs to prosecute its anti-corruption war. The strategies can still work, it is the tactics that should be amended such that everyone that is suspicious of having soiled his hand or having had a mind of being corrupted should be weeded-out and should be sidelined in the effort to recover the looted fund, not the EFCC and ICPC as a whole; even the Code of Conduct Bureau has a role to play if it is well strengthened.
SOURCE: Universal Reporters.