Efcc Chairmen And Their Controversial Ouster
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003, it was in response to the pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). FATF listed Nigeria as one of the countries with global anti-money laundry deficiencies. Back home, Nigeria’s fight against corruption was never void of controversy mostly because some people viewed EFCC as a tool in the hands of the government to prosecute political opponents. The reputation of EFCC is currently on a vicious downward spiral aggravated by the removal of the past heads of the Commission under controversial circumstances.
During the reign of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC, who served between 2003 and 2007, Nigeria scored some points in the fight against corruption. EFCC recorded high profile convictions most notably the arrest and conviction of the former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, former Governor of Bayelsa, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori. The popular slogan under the Ribadu led EFCC was, ‘the fear of Nuhu Ribadu is the beginning of wisdom’. Few weeks before the end of then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure, he reappointed Ribadu as Chairman of the EFCC and promoted him to the position of Assistant Inspector General of Police. About eight months into his reappointment, the travails of Mallam Ribadu began.
First, it was a public disagreement with the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa who accused EFCC of usurping the role of his office. Then the Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro ordered that Ribadu be temporarily removed from his position as EFCC chairman to attend the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) for a mandatory one-year course. While Ribadu was at NIPSS, the Nigerian Police Service Commission (PSC) demoted him from Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) and dismissed him from the Nigerian Police force. On December 27 2007, 15 days after EFCC arrested James Ibori, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sacked Ribadu as the Chairman of EFCC.
As if the circumstances that surrounded Ribadu’s removal were not controversial enough, there were allegations that James Ibori, who was arrested by Ribadu, played a major role in the appointment of Ribadu’s successor, Farida Waziri as EFCC Chairman. Those allegations deepened when the Waziri led EFCC gave questionable clearance letters to Governors that were under investigation by the Commission including Ibori. Furthermore, critics alleged that EFCC’s anti-corruption war under Waziri from 2008 to 2011 grew timid and lethargic in comparison with Ribadu’s tenure. Even though she was able to score one of the commission’s landmark prosecution that led to the former National Deputy Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Bode George serving a two-and-a-half year sentence, like Ribadu, Waziri also had a fallout with the Attorney-General, Mohammed Bello Adoke over EFCC’s prosecution of cases.
In addition to the various controversies and allegations of corruption surrounding Mrs. Waziri, under her tenure, EFCC did not get the required co-operation from international donors and partners. In one widely reported instance where the international community did not hide their distrust for Waziri, former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders threatened to walk out of a meeting with then Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Madueke, if Mrs. Waziri attended the meeting. The Minister walked Waziri out of the meeting and subsequently, President Jonathan removed Waziri from her position as the EFCC Chairman on 23 November 2011. Although she alleged in her book: “Farida Waziri, One Step Ahead” that one of the reasons she was sacked was because she refused to back down on some oil racketeers, former President Goodluck Jonathan said her removal from office has a lot to do with reasons relating to Nigeria’s interest and global standing.
On the same day President Jonathan removed Waziri from office, he announced the appointment of Ibrahim Lamorde as Acting Chairman of the EFCC. Waziri and Lamorde have a history given that they both served at the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigerian Police Force and Lamorde was the Director of operations during Waziri’s tenure as EFCC Chairman. More so, Lamorde first took over from Ribadu in acting capacity before he handed over to Waziri when President Jonathan appointed her as the substantive Chairman. Lamorde’s leadership of EFCC left a great deal to be desired. Unlike his predecessors, EFCC recorded no major conviction under Lamorde. Instead, the EFCC battled to protect its image and that of Lamorde following a petition by George Uboh, who accused the EFCC boss of diverting N1 trillion worth of recovered loot. In response to the several allegations against EFCC, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Justice directed that Lamorde should proceed on terminal leave ahead of the formal expiration of his tenure in February of the following year. He was thereafter, investigated over allegation of money diversion. On 9 November 2015, President Buhari sacked Ibrahim Lamorde and appointed Ibrahim Magu as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC.
Now, barely few years into his tenure, Magu also is currently under investigation for alleged re-looting of recovered funds. He also is being grilled following allegations raised against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, Abubukar Malami. In addition, twice in late 2016 and March 2017, the Senate rejected Magu’s nomination following repeated State Security Service’s reports that Magu failed the integrity test and will eventually be a liability to the anti-corruption fight. The unfolding allegations against Magu seem to justify the decision of 8th Assembly to reject Magu. Eventually, the presidential probe panel headed by retired President of the Court of Appeal, Ayo Salami invited Magu over allegations bordering on corruption and financial misconduct. After 10 days in police detention, on July 7 2020, President Buhari suspended Ibrahim Magu from office.
This suspension follows a trajectory reminiscent of the exits of the previous chairs of the commission. In 2016, former President Olusegun Obasanjo likened the activities of EFCC to ‘taking a step forward and further steps backward’. The weighty allegations against the suspended EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu have again raised a dust of uncertainty about the future of the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria.