News last week of former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido and his two sons being remanded in prison for about two to three months drove the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission further into the limelight. You could have been forgiven if you missed the Timipre Sylva corruption case fiasco but not if you missed the Lamido drama. For those who would cling onto anything to prove that change is truly here now, the Lamido case became the perfect template and it was trumpeted to high heavens.
But we remind them that in less than a week of former President Goodluck Jonathan being sworn into office, Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole was arraigned in court and under him, the like of former Govs. Alao Akala, Aliu Doma, Gbenga Daniel and several others were taken to court. I had lunch with Femi Fani-Kayode last week and observed he was looking a bit pale and he attributed it to his EFCC travails under President Jonathan. The courts finally freed him of corruption charges few weeks ago after long years of trial that saw the supposed embezzled funds reduced from the initial billions claim down to about two million naira.
EFCC’s problem has never been arraignment but conviction. No matter how bad a corruption case seems to sound at the beginning of trial, the EFCC always finds a way to let the accused go free with barely no more than a slap on the wrist most times. I have had cause to publicly call out EFCC lawyer Festus Keyamo on why he has never secured even one conviction for the EFCC and why he suddenly withdrew from the Timipre Sylva case which was withdrawn, consolidated, thrown out and now said to be ready for another presentation to the court yet again. Surprisingly, EFCC claims a record of 126 convictions in 2014 and 117 convictions in 2013. None of these however were the much celebrated cases of government corruption – I wouldn’t be surprised if those convicted are mostly yahoo-yahoo boys and bank loan defaulters.
The problem with EFCC is that it is not an institution that has proper structure and systems just yet. This is an agency that has in its employs lawyer of pedigree but always resorts to picking lawyers from outside to prosecute its cases. Apart from these lawyers not being familiar with EFCC procedures as regarding such cases and the roots and origin of such cases, outside lawyers are also open to external influence and pressure that may make them compromise the case. Indeed, one Emeka Ugwuonye who was on trial for corruption accused one of such EFCC lawyers of trying to blackmail him into parting with some money in order to bungle the case against him.
An institution like the EFCC cannot be run in such an haphazard manner where media trials and circuses are its most veritable tool not smart lawyers and court convictions that send a clear message into the polity concerning corruption. At some point in the past when the EFCC lamented the slow pace of court cases and said that judges were responsible for it, the then CJN Justice Dahiru Musdapher (the man who told Jonathan that ‘stealing is not corruption’) gave both judges and EFCC lawyers a period of six months to try each case or have it thrown out for lack of prosecution. As soon as the man left office though, the order went with him which brings us to the larger picture: continuity as a salient part of institutionalisation which is a missing concept in Nigeria. It is not only EFCC that is guilty of this but many other sectors. The idea of building institutions around persons is one that runs through our society and yes, one initially needs strong and clearheaded people to put an organisation firmly on the ground in its initial stages but keen attention must be paid to evolving a system and structure that can outlast one’s tenure. Nuhu Ribadu was seen as effective in his days as EFCC chairman but accusations of using the commission as President Obasanjo’s bulldog were not misplaced. Gov. Peter Odili was never impeached for corruption like Alamieseigha, Fayose or Dariye but when he was almost becoming the Vice-Presidential running mate to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, one of the things brought against him was that the EFCC was compiling a case of corruption against him and he was dropped.
The only places where EFCC has fought corruption effectively are in the places where it doesn’t make much noise about: business, internet scam and so on. The place where it has been least effective is the one place where it has made the most noise: political circles. EFCC needs to make less noise and win more high profile cases. There is no point in branding a man like Lamido and his sons corrupt only to have their trial go on for several years and end in them being let go by the court. Lamido himself has said that his trial is political persecution for his perceived presidential ambition in 2019. As one of those who will freely put my political acumen to task for a Lamido presidency in 2019, I say let the law have its way, let the court give him his day and let justice prevail. If he is found guilty, let him spend his time in jail. if he is innocent however, the EFCC will be guilty of chasing shadows, as usual.
Work To Do
- The Boko Haram killings seem to be on the rise. This was the subject of a Channels TV programme recording I did last week Friday to be aired today by 3:30pm. Continue to pray for the potential victims of their deadly attacks and for God’s guidance on Mr. President to lead Nigeria to prevail against them.
Have a great week…no matter what.
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