Anti-corruption CSOs faluts EFCC’s searchlight on ex-gov Bello

GodGift Ifunanya
10 Min Read

 A group of Anti-Corruption Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Wednesday faulted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC’s) recent searchlight on ex-governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi and his administration.

The CSOs strongly advised the anti-graft agency under the leadership of Ola Olukoyede to refrain from allowing “cankerworms of the previous management left in the system” rubbish his credentials as the head of the commission.

The over 300 anti-corruption activists, under seven broad frontline organisations, in a statement issued in Lokoja, noted that it was pertinent for them to raise an early alert in view of misuse of the EFCC by political gladiators as a veritable tool of victimisation and score-settling.

The statement was signed on behalf of others by the Director, Publicity and Research, Sustainable Initiative for Nurturing Growth, Mr Fisayo Abayomi; Chairman, Zero Graft Coalition, Dr Olusegun Adesanmi; and National Coordinator, Integrity Forum, Mr Mohammed Zakari.

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Others included the President, Transparency Movement of Nigeria, Barr. Esther Ezechukwu; Chairman, Stop Corruption Coalition, Arc. Samuel Ogedegbe; Executive Director, Africa Accountability Centre, Godwin Ozogula; and Comrade Isiak Aderounmu for
Youthcentric Advocacy Initiative.

The anti-corruption coalition also advised the EFCC boss to sit up and stop the commission from being accessed by “political miscreants who think EFCC is an extension of their political structures to be manipulated at will”.

They specifically referred to the Kogi Government’s press statement issued on Tuesday, alerting the public to an alleged fresh move by the commission to witch-hunt the ex-governor with spurious claims for political reasons.

The activists pointed out that the crux of the latest persecution, going by the EFCC’s amended charge sheet, which featured Bello’s name, showed a clear case of desperation for spurious claims to whip up public sentiment against the target, adding that any litigation on corruption founded on political conspiracy will always have no merits to pursue it.

“While we stand solidly behind any credible anticorruption drive, we, however, oppose and condemn unequivocally any and all corruption allegations with the trappings and trademarks of political victimisation as this Kogi case clearly seems to be,” they declared.

They described the latest amended charge as extremely embarrassing, saying: “A Court document at our disposal submitted to the Court by EFCC is alleging that the former Governor and his nephew, one Alli Bello, converted Kogi State’s money to the tune of over Eighty Billion Naira since September 2015!

“This looks like a hurriedly prepared amendment targeted at an individual without paying much attention whatsoever to facts. Except the Commission is able to prove before the court that the duo had been involved in financial transactions with Kogi State money before Yahaya Bello assumed office in January 2016 as Kogi State Governor, then they have a lot of questions to answer Nigerians.

“This is always how bad-intentioned and politically motivated allegations are exposed and it smacks of a profound dearth of professionalism on the part of the EFCC. If they come up with a nebulous excuse of typographical error, this further exposes their lack of professionalism and calls to question the competency of the EFCC leadership and legal team/department,” the activists stated.

They vowed to expose political actors behind the incessant EFCC political victimisation, saying: “We are working with others across the country and we are ready to expose those behind this witch hunting and also expose their dirty dealings which have continued to undermine the current administration’s efforts at economic revitalisation, to the public.”

While referring to a recent statement by Olukoyede against the conduct of some EFCC officials, the anti-corruption activists, said: “If the EFCC chairman doesn’t want the embarrassing public image he personally painted and actually known to all Nigerians to continue, he should sit up and get rid of all politically motivated allegations and stop the EFCC from being accessed by political miscreants who think EFCC is an extension of their political structures to be manipulated at will.”

They further stated that: “After two decades of its establishment, we believe that the EFCC should have garnered enough experience to be strictly professional. But, alas, that doesn’t seem to be the case now. The Commission commits unforgivable legal and procedural faux pas that makes it lose considerable percentage of its cases in Court. For one, the Commission’s agents don’t seem to be thorough enough in their investigations especially in cases that have political undertones.

“Due to lack of merits in those cases, oftentimes, the Commission exposes itself to unnecessary public ridicules and embarrasses itself in Court. Any litigation on corruption founded on political conspiracy will always have no merits to pursue it because the Courts won’t ever be convinced otherwise.

“We can see that one of the major agenda of the current administration of President Bola Tinubu is also to fight corruption. We doubt very much that the Commission can meet up with the expected standards as envisaged by the current administration,” the group added.

Giving a background of their age-long activities geared towards fruitful anti-corruption struggles, the frontline acitivists said: “As rights anti-corruption organisations, we have been in the vanguard of clamouring for corruption to be eliminated from Nigeria’s civil service and governance for years. We are convinced that corruption, above any other factor, is responsible for the myriads of developmental challenges confronting Nigeria from a long time even before now.”

They stated: ”That was why we celebrated the establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission in the year 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003, believing that these two elite anti-corruption agencies would stamp out corruption from our system if not completely but, at least, considerably. It was a good step in a good direction.

“But we have observed a disturbing trend in the operations of one of these two anti-corruption agencies, the EFCC, which tends towards political witch-hunt. Of course, this didn’t start today but we

but we have to exorcise that spirit from the soul and body of the EFCC.

“There are two major disagreeable patterns in EFCC’s modus operandi for a long time now that should never have been part of any anti-corruption regime and these are politicisation of cases and media trials through excessive sensationalism of cases under investigation.

“We have witnessed occasions in this country when the EFCC arrested all members of a state assembly, whisked them to their Abuja headquarters, only for the latter to return to their state and commence impeachment proceedings against their state governor. Any anti-corruption exercise that applies tools of intimidation and blackmail loses its integrity and public trust ultimately, including international support.”

“We remember vividly how only five out of a 24-member legislature of Plateau in 2006 met at 6:00 a.m. and ‘impeached’ ex-gov Joshua Dariye after their alleged meeting with EFCC operatives.

“We cried out at that time that politicising the operations of the commission would kill its noble objectives. Moreover, you don’t need to use extra-constitutional means in fighting the anti-corruption war because you cannot use corrupt means to fight corruption successfully.

There were, at least, three more instances in this regard,” according to them.

“After much advocacy by NGOs and other concerned activists, this trend seemed to stop for a while only to rear its ugly head again under the ignoble tenure of Mr Rasheed Bawa. That error of judgment and the heavy corruption allegations against Bawa were mostly responsible for his premature but well-deserved removal from office last year.

“We had assumed that that would be the end of such misuse of the EFCC by political gladiators who have discovered the use of the commission as a veritable tool of political victimisation and score-settling. But it does seem now that we are wrong.We are disappointed that the current EFCC leadership seems to have decided to tow the line of the ignoble Bawa way of doing things the wrong way,” the group said.

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