OTHER NATIONS APPRECIATE OUR ANTI-CORRUPTION MODEL — WAZIRI

By NBF News
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The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri has drawn the attention of her critics to the fact that other countries are coming around to understudy the EFCC model. 'Countries are coming around to understudy the EFCC model. Do people copy failures and never-do-wells? So, we have done enough for our admirers to commend us and far enough to make our critics green with envy.'

On what to expect from the agency in the next one year of President Jonathan administration, Waziri promised Nigerians more dividends of anti-corruption fight.

She gave answers to several questions on the journey of the EFCC under her watch in an online interview with Saturday Sun.

How will you assess your administration so far?
Since I assumed office about two years ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has witnessed tremendous changes in its mode of operation, organizational structure, operational arrangements and administrative development. We take a long-range perspective of things, to build an institution that will survive the vicissitudes of time and season; a workforce that is competent and competitive, well motivated for challenges. We have been able to respond to the dynamics of our nation, changing the perception of the people who had been seeing the commission as a Gestapo-like agency to the image of a friendly, result-generating law enforcement agency.

The journey so far has been quite challenging but God has been helping us. Since I assumed duty in June 2008, there have been a number of things we have put in place. Administratively, I have tried to chart a new course for the commission. Immediately I came in, I began some processes of revitalization, restructuring, re-orientation and repositioning to build the EFCC as an institution having structures and processes. In one of such initiatives, we employed the services of PriceWaterhouse Coopers to study the administrative structures of the commission and to come up with a blueprint that will guarantee a career path for officers, motivate them and ensure the realization of the EFCC's mandate.

Also, a management retreat was organized for the first time in the existence of the commission to design a strategic work plan. I have also been taking practical steps to recruit and train fresh officers that will take over from all officers seconded to the commission from different agencies. The objective of this is to build a virile and autonomous workforce. The existing staff is motivated through remuneration upgrade and other incentives all aimed at insulating them from external pressures and temptations.

We also initiated and got the Federal Executive Council's approval for insurance cover for staff and assets of the Commission with effect from February 2010. We also processed land allocation for staff residential quarters so as to ensure the safety and convenience of our staff. Additionally, we have secured 5.5hectares of land along the airport road, Abuja to build a permanent office complex in order to harmonize all the units littered in various parts of Abuja. We also processed another 1.5 hectares of land in Nyanya for a training ground, weaponry, shooting range and recreational facilities for officers of the Commission.

On the aspect of the delivering the right fight against corruption, since I came on board, we have secured 100 convictions and recovered funds and assets in excess of $3.5 billion. Though I inherited about 10 high-profile cases from my predecessor, we have taken other 50 of such high profile cases to court. So, you can see that in just two years, a lot of grounds have been covered.

It seems the agency is becoming cold in prosecuting the arrested bank chiefs. Almost one year now, there has been no conclusion in any of the matters.

That, in my view, is not a fair commentary on the energy, devotion, commitments and integrity with which the commission has been handling the issue of the former bank executives. Our banking sanitization initiatives have seen the EFCC cracking heavily on indicted former managing directors of banks and secured temporary forfeiture of their assets worth over one trillion naira. All the former bank executives indicted for various infractions have all been arraigned and are still being prosecuted. The speed with which their prosecutions were done is unprecedented in the history of law enforcement anywhere in the world. Over $3b has been recovered till date through us. Where in the world have more than 30 former executives of banks been so investigated and brought to book with such speed and efficiency? Their cases are in the courts. Don't forget that we cannot be the accuser and the judge in our own matter. We should be patient with the courts to do their job.

In the next one year, what should be the expectation of Nigerians from EFCC in the fight against corruption?

Nigerians should expect more arrests, arraignments and prosecutions of the corrupt ones in our midst. They should expect more commitments to adherence to the rule of law. They should expect an EFCC that will remain unbending, incorruptible and competent in its mandate. They should expect greater relief from the burden of corruption and a greater local and international appraisal and appreciation of the work we are doing. In short, Nigerians should expect more dividends of anti-corruption fight from the EFCC.

Is it true that Ibori's matter is beyond EFCC to handle and it intentionally allowed him to escape?

The answer to this question is simple. If Ibori is still very much in the country, in what part of the country is he? If the EFCC is insincere in its declared manhunt for Ibori, is the Nigeria Police, the State Security Service and other security agencies insincere? Is his much-reported arrest in Dubai a farce? EFCC is doing its work and doing it very well. Ibori is not the first politically exposed person to run away from the country as a result of the manhunt for him. So, in what serious way can we say that EFCC is just making noise of prosecuting him?

Many Nigerians believe you are not doing enough compared to your predecessor?

Well, I just took you through some of the things we have been able to do in just two years. I inherited 10 high-profile cases from my predecessor. Within two years, We have instituted 50 high-profile cases. Within the same time frame also, we have secured over 100 convictions and recovered funds and assets in excess of over $3.5 billion. We met almost a zero administrative structure on ground. Now, the EFCC is globally renowned law enforcement agency in its administrative arrangement. We now have by far a more operationally and strategically built workforce that can square shoulders with any workforce of any law enforcement agency in the world. Countries are coming around to understudy the EFCC model. Do people copy failures and never-do-wells? So, we have done enough for our admirers to commend us and far enough to make our critics green with envy.

Why did you hit your predecessor recently, alleging that Ribadu was giving Nigeria a bad name?

I don't know how you arrived at this question, except that you are trying to cry wolf where there is none. We know those who are helping to build the image of our nation by their disposition and commentaries on the works going on in the country and we know those who are merely working and talking to satisfy some interests.

Do you think that corruption can be completely checkmated in Nigeria?

If we all join hands, we will succeed in our crusade against corrupt practices. We have said it so many times that EFCC is not pretending that it is its task alone to rid our country of bad eggs and criminals. It is our collective work. Part of what we have even done in this regard is to declare a revolution against corrupt practices. All of us must be vanguards in this regard. Corruption is our collective migraine and its cure must also come from our collective resolve. I believe that we can do it.

What are the major challenges of the EFCC?
The challenges are enormous. Some of them are life threatening, some image threatening and some normal challenges that a commission like EFCC should expect to face. The task of fighting corruption is demanding, complex, difficult and dangerous. The elite constitutes the bulk of those committing economic and financial crimes. They have enormous resources with which to blackmail, frustrate and threaten those investigating them. This constitutes a serious challenge to us.

Challenges are coming from members of the Bar, especially many defence counsel who know that their clients have terrible cases and resort to all manner of tricks to frustrate prosecution by delaying trial. We have many high-profile cases in court but the attitude of counsel to those being prosecuted leaves very much to be desired. Even the masses of our people who should not be seen supporting the corrupt people in our midst are not helping matters. It is strange the kind of support our people are giving criminals and cheats among us. We are daily blackmailed and called different names.

Our officers are harassed, hunted and attacked. Some of our operatives have been severally attacked by gunmen. But we are not deterred. We remain committed in our resolve to make Nigeria rise again. The war cannot be frustrated because we all have more to gain from a corruption- free nation than a corruption-ridden one.