The Efcc Must Speak Up On Ownership Of Seized Funds
BEVERLY HILLS, April 24, (THEWILL) – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has made spectacular headlines in recent times. First, it was in relation to the Senate's refusal to confirm its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
But, by far the most intriguing network of the anti-graft agency's activities are its melodramatic voyage of discovery, which has unearthed billions of looted funds hidden across the country in local and foreign currencies.
The latest stormy revelation was the discovery of over N13 billion cash in a residential building in Osborne Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. The money was found in $43.4million, 27, 000 pounds and N23 million.
Earlier, several seizures were made in markets and other obscure places. We recall among others, that N49million was found in sacks at the Kaduna Airport and another N250million in a popular market in Lagos.
Also, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had disclosed that about $151million and N8billion were recovered from three other sources through the alarm raised by whistleblowers.
But while the EFCC could be commended for trending this path of historic feat, the entire epic is still cloaked in controversy, following the continued silence of the EFCC in disclosing the owners of the seized funds.
Magu over the weekend said the commission had confiscated at least N17 billion within the last 4 months.
It is the peak of crass insensitivity for the EFCC to remain aloof at a time when Nigerians are anxious to know those behind these monumental plundering. This is even as the issue has led to all manner of conjectures.
THEWILL urges the EFCC to, as a matter of urgency, disclose the owners of the monies that they have seized so far. Apart from the $9.2 million, which it publicly announced to have recovered from the former Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, several other recoveries are still within the corridor of speculations.
It is ridiculous that an agency that is entrusted with sanitizing the corruption turf could be entangled in circumstances that betray honesty and accountability. In the context, it is difficult to convince the people that whistleblowers could have divulged information about looted funds without revealing the looters.
Against the backdrop of allegation that the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government is protecting its own from ridicule and prosecution, we caution that the EFCC must not cover up any criminal intention or politicize this very over-bearing issue of corruption.
THEWILL urges Magu to demonstrate transparency by disclosing the owners, because the onus is on him to prove that the Department of State Services, DSS, was wrong in alleging that that he was not fit to lead the anti-graft agency.
We consider as insensitive, the statement credited to the EFCC's spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren that the ownership of the building at Ikoyi had not been established as “the matter is till under investigation.”
The question that the Commission has unwittingly failed to answer is whether its operatives did not conduct proper investigation before raiding these places.
This seeming display of unprofessionalism could be adduced for the many losses that the Commission had suffered in court in the prosecution of prominent corruption cases.
It is an act of insensitivity for the EFCC Chairman to continue to ignore the voices of those who he was appointed to serve.
At a time that the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke had publicly admitted that the recovered funds belong to the NIA, nothing short of a world press conference was expected to clear the air on the matter.
This is more so as Oke claimed that he had had a dialogue with the agency an hour before the raid, in which case the ownership question ought to have been rested.
Until the anti-graft agency provides answers to these knotting questions, the allegation by Governor Nyesom Wike linking the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi to the money could continue to fly alongside other permutations.
Keeping mute in such a sensitive matter could expose the recovered fund to further pilfering as had been alleged against a past leader of the anti-graft agency.
THEWILL urges President Muhammadu Buhari to compel Magu to disclose the owners if he is genuinely out to fight corruption. Also, the civil society groups must rise to mount pressure on the EFCC to come out clean, so that those who have plundered the country are not allowed to evade prosecution.
We commend President Buhari for constituting a 3-man panel to unravel the circumstances surrounding the Ikoyi apartment cash, which the NIA has claimed. We urge the president to make the report of committee public.
Seizing looted funds, whether in the forest or cemeteries, as alleged by Mohammed, without apprehending the owners is a disservice to the whistleblowers and others and an indictment on the Change agenda of the Federal Government.