By Erasmus Ikhide
THE scourge of corruption is one of the reasons why Nigeria is not living up to its ‘Giant of Africa’ Shibboleth and has continued to crawl on her knees in adult diapers to the chagrin of her countrymen both at home and in the Diaspora. Since Independence, billions of dollars has been lost to corruption according to the global anti-corruption watch dog, Transparency International (TI).
On hindsight, it was commendable of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to have established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 to effectively tackle graft and corruption. That nearly twenty year old vision has yielded fruits as the agency is making sturdy strides in the gargantuan war against the malaise.
Corruption is too huge to be fought alone by the EFCC and we commend the EFCC for forging strategic partnerships with other agencies in the country to make corruption minimal. We recall during the heady days of the sinister apartheid regime in South Africa that the liberation fighters most notably Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela etc didn’t take the Boer regime headlong alone.
They sought collaboration among many nations like Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya etc for financial, technical and ideological support. Many South Africans in exile who were fighting the cause from abroad successfully lobbied the then Margaret Thatcher led administration to impose sanctions on the regime of the then Pieter Willem Botha led government. Mbeki, then based in London played a key role in the negotiations that led to the release of Mandela from incarceration after 27 years behind bars. The American War of Independence from Britain which led to the latter defeating the army of King George III had the backing of France. Noble causes are never fought alone. This piece will critically examine how the EFCC has partnered with Nigerian agencies to wage war against the hydra headed monster of corruption.
The EFCC has gone into a partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in 2020 for speedy investigation of infractions committed by oil companies in Nigeria. This is a step in the right direction as the oil sector – the goose that lays the golden egg for the Nigerian economy is bedeviled by many irregularities allegedly committed by the big players in it especially the International Oil Companies (IOC’s). Popular businessman and politician, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim told the world that he made his fortune as a tax consultant to the Federal Government by ensuring the government got billions of dollars in taxes from the IOC’s. Nigerians deserve a better deal from the black gold and this partnership is designed to bring home the bacon to the doorsteps of Nigerians.
In 2021, the EFCC and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) have gone into a partnership to ensure that the revenues due to the government in the oil and gas sector is remitted to the government and to also fight corruption in the sector. The Vanguard Newspaper on April 23, reported that the EFCC Helmsman, Abdulrasheed Bawa was quoted to have said when he received the NEITI Boss at the EFCC’s Headquarters in Jabi Abuja where he said “We have developed expertise in oil and gas investigation. We did oil subsidy investigation, we did oil swap investigation, we did OML and OPL investigations, which came with billions of naira recovered. We can work together to ensure that what rightly belongs to Nigeria is ours”.
He urged the Agency to take advantage of the Extractive Industries Fraud Section of the Commission, which was created exclusively to tackle fraud in the extractive sector.
“In 2012, the EFCC set up a special team for petroleum subsidy which I was part of, and at the end of our assignment, it was changed into a permanent section in the EFCC. It was changed from special team for petroleum subsidy to Extractive Industry Fraud Section, and the EFCC did not stop at that. We ensured that every Zone of the Commission have that section.”
The Thisday Newspapers reported on December 16, 2020 that the EFCC and the Department for State Services(DSS) have partnered to effectively tackle graft in Nigeria. A statement issued by EFCC said the Ilorin Zonal Head of the EFCC, Oseni Oluwasina Kazeem, made the disclosure Tuesday while playing host to the State Director, DSS, Patrick Ikenweine, at the commission’s office in Ilorin.
Kazeem, who decried the rate at which corruption had permeated every sector of Nigeria system noted that the cankerworm could only be tamed through collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, including the DSS. He commended the DSS for being a good partner in the fight and called for more robust working relationship between the two agencies.
Earlier, the Director DSS, Ikenweine stated the essence of his visit which he said was to familiarise with critical stakeholders in the State.
“I’m here to familiarise with you in a bid towards building on the existing cordial relationship with your agency.
“The DSS and EFCC have a record of good working relationship, which I hope should be sustained,” he said.
The EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) went into a partnership during the Chairmanship of Babatunde Fowler to fight tax evasion in the country. This collaboration, according to the FIRS Executive Chairman, Tunde Fowler, will ensure Nigeria’s financial security and independence, which he said are key to national development.
Fowler made this known in Abuja at the opening of International Conference and Capacity Building Workshop on the Use of Beneficial Ownership Information and The Recovery of Assets in Africa. He beckoned on Nigerians and the international community to collaborate in the fight against “any illegality”.
“Corruption is anything illegal. Whether it is money laundering, tax fraud, tax evasion or other illegalities. We must collaborate to fight them. When you are fighting corruption, you are taking back from the corrupt people, what they erroneously think belongs to them. That is why they resist the fight against corruption”, Fowler said.
The EFCC and the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) on August 3, 2021 reiterated the need for continuous education and enlightenment of artisanal gold miners and gold sellers in view of their vulnerability in being used to perpetrate sinister acts of money laundering.
A few days ago the EFCC encouraged the members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to embrace financial crimes in the country. “Add your voice to mine, because the fight against economic and financial crimes involves you and I. I will play my part, you will play yours.” The EFCC chairman stated this in a sensitization lecture on the Role of Youth in Curbing Cybercrimes presented on his behalf by officials of the Commission at various Orientation camps of the Batch B stream 1 set of corps members.
“Embrace hard work and shun crime, Yahoo-Yahoo is not a sustainable way of life. As dynamic young men and women, our desire is to harness your intelligence and energy for greater public good in your areas of primary assignments”, Mr. Bawa said.
The EFCC is extremely pragmatic in its strategic partnerships with other Nigerian agencies as they cannot win the anti-corruption war alone. We urge the EFCC to forge more partnerships especially with the media, religious bodies and the Civil Rights groups as the collaborative efforts will greatly reduce the scourge of graft and set Nigeria on the path to greatness which may dwarf the achievements of the Asian Tigers.
Ikhide writes from Lagos, Nigeria
Follow me on Twitter @ikhide_erasmus1
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