EFCC AND THE IMPENDING VOODOO ANTI GRAFT WAR

By NBF News
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Recently the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mrs Farida Waziri, started to sing in strange tunes. A macabre song and dance of sorts that no one knows how it would play out should the executive and the legislature join in the fray and the masses watch in dismay.

The commission led by her has been trying to drum up support for egregious proposals. It is a dance in which heads roll. Already, the vampires are swooping around preparatory to that feast of blood.

I have no doubt in my mind that the anti-graft body had stood justice on its head in the pursuit of anti-corruption, since the days of its former Chairman, Mr Nuhu Ribadu. The only time sanity crept into the fight was under the late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, who insisted on due process. But with Yar'Adua's sickness and eventual death, the commission seem to have gone back to its inglorious ways.

It is said that the assumption of innocence until proven otherwise is the basis of jurisprudence, but the commission under Nuhu Ribadu, and now under Farida Waziri, is trying to make it the other way round.

The latest pointer to this is the recent proposal by the EFCC, in the Asset Forfeiture  Bill, in which the committee intends to identify choice property in and outside the country and investigate. If the owners cannot explain their source then they are forfeited.

This is witch-hunting. If we should go from the known to the unknown, a probe of the nation's administrations from 1984 should be our starting point. When we are done we can now go into the probing of unexplained property.

But the sad thing in all this is that the EFCC by that proposal is trying to dodge a very important aspect of jurisprudence: The burden of proof. When one is an accuser in a court of law, the onus of proof lies on him. But by proposing that law, the anti-graft body is trying to evade that vital aspect. This is very dangerous. Like in the days before the DNA became acceptable as a basis for conviction or acquittal, many a man had gone to the gallows because they could not explain themselves out of murders they never committed and in some cases knew nothing about.

The import of this is that the EFCC should not comence investigations in cases it has no facts to prosecute, assets or financial. On this basis, I propose that we need an asset protection law, like there is in California,USA. Whatever crime anyone has committed, we should focus on the justice of it, and not on his property. This would discourage an anti-corruption war motivated by victimization.

Mrs Waziri, the anti-graft Czarina, also proposed a death sentence for corrupt officials. The question is where was the anti-graft body when all this crime was being committed? Needless to stress that when the heads roll not all heads will roll afterall. But should all heads roll, the Igbo man asks, the medicine man that cures cholera did he hang his anus in the chimney? The case of the returnee fugitive that once headed the anti-graft body serves as an illustration.

Bloodshed has never been known to work in Africa. Samuel Doe that convinced his countrymen that their problems were the corrupt Liberian elite, he ended up worse than those he executed, the escapee minister in that administration is today the first woman president in Africa. Jerry Rawlings that wiped off the entire political and military elite, before he left Ghana had one of the worst corruption indices, as announced by the world bank.

He himself also admitted this before leaving office, saying that it is very sad he could not do anything. But he left a legacy of democracy for which history has been very kind to him, but the bloodshed never worked. So the question is why is the anti-graft chair bloodthirsty? How many cases of corruption has the body successfully prosecuted? Has every corrupt person in Nigeria been investigated?

There is no doubt that enough is not being done to prevent corruption in this country. Regime after regime tries to loot this country dry. No mechanism is put in place to monitor budget proposal and implementation, except in very obvious cases. Much of what is budgeted for the upliftment of the standard of living of the suffering masses of this country ends up not trickling down to them.

Contrary to what the ideal situation is, political appointment is the only way to wealth and political power in Nigeria, making it almost impossible for people with genuine sources of income to participate and win political offices in this country.

In more developed countries, corrupt officials are discovered early and booted out and have no chance of remaining to pollute the electoral system. But here the reverse is the case.

The Nigerian constitution is enough to guarantee justice for every Nigerian citizen, why should we enact multiple and obnoxious laws, that in the end do nothing to curb the rate of corruption?

•Nwabueze, a medical doctor is based in Imo State.