Who Is Afraid Of An Independent Financial Intelligence Body?
At the recent World Economic Forum, the Nigerian President Dr. Good luck Jonathan steered up a debate when he reportedly told the international audience that Nigeria's problem is not corruption but rather the insecurity situation that has not allowed productivity to reach a commendable height and for the democracy dividends to reach the millions of unreached rural poor Nigerians.
Most Nigerians immediately opposed this way of analyzing the very serious and weighty existential problem afflicting Nigeria which obviously is corruption that has not allowed Nigeria to grow optimally and this climate of corruption has created widespread poverty and hunger in the land and has led to the systematic collapse of vital national assets and infrastructure thereby exposing a lot of Nigerians to insecurity of lives and property coupled with the unprecedented rise in armed insurgency in parts of the North.
Corruption is Nigeria's most important problem and must be seen as such. Those who are entrusted with the duty of fighting corruption are expected to be accountable and transparent in all their activities and the administration of the institutions that wage war against corruption and economic crimes must be cured of all maladies relating to abuse of power and corrupt enrichment of the officials. There is therefore the clarion call internationally for the creation of an independent body that will check and balance the activities of all the anti-graft institutions so that no particular agency of government acquires the larger than life tendency of thinking that the officials of these agencies are above the law.
Therefore the creation of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit was geared towards making sure that all financial transactions meet with international best practices and indeed this body ought to be independent enough to be able to also monitor, collate and circulate intelligence to all the agencies of law enforcement charged with the constitutional duty of keeping Nigeria free from money launderers and international kingpins who engage in illegal capital flight that contribute to the economic downfall of Nigeria.
The advocacy for the creation of a body of legislation to empower the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit to become autonomous is said to be stridently opposed by some persons in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Chairman is fingered as one of those fighting the passage of this bill by the National Assembly because he feels threatened that some of his executive powers would be eroded if this department is made independent. This opposition has led to public spat between the acting director of this Financial intelligence Unit and the chairman of the EFCC to such an extent that the media is awash with reports that a detachment of well armed mobile policemen on the alleged orders of the EFCC chairman took over the offices of the NFIU thereby chasing away the acting Director and refusing her access to her personal belongings. In this era of democracy should any official of government be allowed to grow too big to be controlled by the relevant laws? This and many other questions are expected to be answered y the National Human Rights Commission so as to save Nigeria from international opprobrium that may result from the determined effort of a cabal to undermine the independence of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.
A highly trusted and competent source at the National Human Rights Commission hinted me last weekend that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission[EFCC] Ibrahim Lamorde, an assistant Commissioner of police has been dragged before the Rights commission following a very strong petition alleging abuse of power and threat to the life of one of Nigeria's best known anti-corruption legal experts who is said to be heading the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Listed as " PETITION AGAINST THE EFCC CHAIRMAN MR LAMORDE ON ABUSE OF POWER, THREAT TO LIFE ,INTIMDATION AND VICTIMIZATION OF BARRISTER JULIET IBEKAKU", the petitioner through her lawyer is praying for a number of reliefs among which is the clarion call on the authority to ensure that the precious life of this distinguished female lawyer who incidentally is a pioneer senior staff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is not endangered by elements who are afraid that her bold moves to secure total autonomy for the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit may undermine their unpatriotic dealings.
In the petition the lawyer representing this refined female legal practitioner, the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission headed by the Professors of Law Chidi Odinkalu as Chairman of the governing council and Bem Amgwe as the Executive secretary and member of the Governing council, is expected to investigate a wide range of allegations which require very meticulous, transparent, courageous and independent probe to unravel the veracity or otherwise of the claims without any further waste of time since there is a serious and grave allegation of threat to life. It is important that the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission attend to this petition especially at this period that the nation is passing through an inclement climate of violence and targeted killings.
A copy of the said petition which I obtained exclusively, the National Human Rights Commission was told the following facts; "We write on behalf of BARRISTER JULIET IBEKAKU, a Directorate Staff of EFCC (hereinafter referred to as OUR CLIENT). Pursuant to OUR CLIENT's patriotic fervour and in pursuit of her zeal to help establish a world class Law enforcement Agency, she left her job at THE UNITED NATIONS to join the EFCC in 2004".
The petitioner also stated that For the past 10 years, his CLIENT has been serving the EFCC in various capacities and was appointed acting DIRECTOR, NIGERIAN FIANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT (NFIU) in 2012.
Some of the critical accomplishments of the critically acclaimed female anti-corruption lawyer within one year of her appointment to this national assignment were: the delisting of Nigeria from the FATF blacklist, which received the generous support of PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN and the cohesive collaboration of the relevant stakeholders; the development of a strategic plan for the NFIU that led to a collaborative approach to intelligence sharing between the NFIU and other law enforcement agencies in Nigeria, particularly in the area of anti-money laundering, combatting terrorism financing and international support for Nigeria.
She was also instrumental in the development of measures to stop the reckless movement of illicit cash out of Nigeria by BDCs and other unscrupulous individuals.
To ensure that the NFIU was operating within international standards as provided by the FATF, the acting Director was directed by Mr. President through the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate the Bill for the establishment of an independent NFIU . This is because it was discovered that the domestication of the Unit in EFCC has created a crisis of confidence amongst the other law enforcement agencies and ultimately inhibited the efficiency in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. This position was reflected in an Executive bill on the establishment of a “Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency” endorsed to the National Assembly for consideration.
"This Presidential directive which she wholehearted complied with was vehemently opposed allegedly by the EFCC Chairman. Allegedly enraged by this development and allegedly blinded by his parochial consideration to retain the UNIT in EFCC by all means, MR LAMORDE has since allegedly launched a brutal offensive of intimidation, repression and bare faced victimization against of the then Acting Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit which resulted in the widely celebrated show of crude power which the media also reported", the lawyer alleged.
In the petition before the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC]MR LAMORDE has allegedly personally and through proxies severally threatened to deal with OUR CLIENT adding an arrogant boast that he is so powerful '' that nothing would happen''.
"This weighty and menacing threat emanating from an office with an intimidating arsenal of cohesion cannot be dismissed even by the most lionhearted of men as idle. As a direct result of this, OUR CLIENT is highly traumatised and fearful for her life. She has been compelled to make strenuous security arrangements comparable to that deployed to secure a high flight risk prisoner". so says the petitioner.
In very specific terms, the National Human Rights Commission was further informed that Intent on the pursuit of his nebulous agenda MR LAMODE on November 18 2013 removed OUR CLIENT as the acting Director, Financial Intelligence Unit and punitively sent her to LAGOS, to report and work under a police officer of a lower grade than her with an intention to ultimately demote her and to achieve his promise of “dealing with her. This to me as well as other right thinking observers does not only amount to an abuse of power but is unconstitutional, illegal and void. This lady being victimized is a pioneer staff of EFCC whereas the overwhelming number of police officers detailed to work in the EFCC are only part time staff since originally they belong to the Nigerian Police Force. This aspect of the domineering presence of the Police operatives in this commission is a topic for another day.
Sadly, on 20 December 2013, while going to the office to finalize her handover notes, MR LAMODE allegedly sent more heavily armed anti-riot Policemen, who invaded OUR CLINT's office in a GESTAPO like fashion, brandishing sophisticated automatic assault rifles. They invaded the NFIU forcefully REFUSED her and other colleagues access to the office and assured her colleagues that they had the orders of the Chairman to shoot her if she enters the office. They then took possession of the whole building, immediately changed the lock on her door thus denying her access to her office and valuable personal belongings. This brazen naked display of crude and brutish force embarrassed the Nigerian intelligence community, shocked the International community and was extensively reported by several National dailies as shown in the attached newspapers.
"The EFCC Chairman in total disregard to the relevant Staff Promotion regulations has stagnated OUR CLIENT in the same position for over 10 years. In addition to that, Mr LAMORDE ignored the proper procedure for Substantive confirmation of an officer in an acting capacity for six months as provided in the EFCC staff Regulations, paragraphs 21 and 46 given that OUR CLIENT has been in an acting capacity for one and half years", the petitioner stated in very unambiguous terms.
The petitioner further alleged thus; "This typifies MR LAMORDE's style of leadership that selectively favours Policemen to the detriment of core EFCC staff. OUR CLIENT'S objection to this divisive treatment of staff and manifest injustice has further earned her the wrath of The Chairman to the point that she is now being threatened with an outright dismissal from service".
"Despite several memos to the Chairman notifying him that her rank and posting was in breach of the EFCC Act, including calling his attention to the fact that the Lagos office is headed by a junior police officer in breach of the procedure for appointing senior staff and despite having requested for annual leave, the chairman ignored all the memos sent by our client and instead authorised the junior police officer to send a query to OUR CLIENT AS AN AFTER THOUGHT ON DECEMBER 16, 2013", the lawyer claimed in the petition before the Rights Commission.
The petitioner is praying for the following reliefs since no one in Nigeria is above the law that the National Human Rights Commission investigates the activities of the EFCC Chairman as it relates to abuse of power, intimidation and victimization of OUR CLIENT; that the Commission issues a cease and desist order restraining the CHAIRMAN OF EFCC, MR LAMORDE from further threatening, harassing, intimidating dismissing, demoting and victimizing OUR CLIENT.
Other reliefs prayed for before the National Human Rights Commission are that the Commission directs the EFCC to pay OUR CLIENT damages for the embarrassment, psychological trauma and money expended on getting security to protect herself and her family since the date of invasion till the determination of this matter.
The petitioner is praying that the Commission orders the restoration off all entitlements due to OUR CLIENT and other affected EFCC staff, maliciously denied by the EFCC CHAIRMAN, MR LAMORDE.
The National Human Rights Commission is expected to attend to this petition on time to save this great Nigerian patriot from being unduly victimized for standing by her principled conviction to promote the fight against financial crimes in substantial compliance with international best practices.
Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and [email protected]; http://www.huriwa.org/