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Anti-Graft And NFIA: Proposing Another Reason To Finally Kill EFCC

Source: pointblanknews.com
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By: Ifeanyi Izeze
Pathetically, the line that separates genuine patriotic intent and outright political mischief by operators of government of this country is so thin that it's safer to ssume it does not exist in the first instance. Putting it mildly, the idea of a Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIA) as an autonomous anti-graft organization was clearly an indecent proposal and another deliberate mischief fashioned not only to render the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) useless but kill and bury it finally.

Was the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal actually serious in his expressed concern at the floor of the  House over the spate of corruption in the management of finances of public institutions which according to him has culminated in the loss of billions of naira as stolen funds? And howbeit that the Speaker's thinking convinced him that the establishment of a new entity, the NFIA, would be the antidote to end the current era of heinous sleaze in management of public funds in the country even in the National Assembly itself?

Hear him: “We have all seen the consequences of the reckless and cavalier manner that public officials and civil servants manage public funds. Today, billions of naira go missing in this country every year as a result of mismanagement and outright theft of money belonging to the commonwealth. We believe that this level of financial impunity is possible because of dubious accounting procedures and the lack of a specialised agency that is able to get facts and details of this intricate web of corrupt practices and ensure that the perpetrators are successfully prosecuted.”

Question: what is the proposed agency going to do better and differently that the EFCC as we have now cannot and/or has not being doing? Do we agree that the EFCC in the first instance was not only modeled as a disabled entity but was deliberately structured to fail? If we agree, then how is the conscription of a new organization by the same people going to give us a different result from what we have today?

Is it not absurd that just when several recommendations are pending on ways to shrink cost of governance in this country by merging or outrightly scrapping some agencies and departments, certain interest groups are still bent on carving out niches for themselves? The Lagos-based Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, couldn't have been more correct in his position that, “The bizarre provisions in the NFIA bill go on and on to the extent that the bill can best be described as reckless and an attempt to draw the NFIU out with a view to killing it thus weakening the institution for fighting corruption and financial crimes in Nigeria.”

Do we need to be told in this country that the hottest spot of corruption, misuse of public funds, money laundering and even financing of some illicit activities is the government- political office holders and public servants? And funny enough, the EFCC as an anti-graft agency was tied at birth to the apron- string of government- the Presidency and the mercy of National Assembly. Is it not surprising that the EFCC exists as an outright appendage to the Presidency for breastfeeding (funding sustenance)? So how does anybody expect any credible fight against corruption when the most corrupt spots ( at least as alleged) are where the agency that is supposed to be fighting corruption goes to beg for money for their operations (to catch the thieves)?

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act (2004) mandates the EFCC to combat financial and economic crimes. The Commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes. It is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, including: The Money Laundering Act 1995

The Money Laundering (Prohibition) act 2004; The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 1995; The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994; The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991; and Miscellaneous Offences Act.

Now, the proposed bill seeks to establish a separate agency for the Financial Intelligence Unit which is currently being housed in the EFCC pursuant to Section 2 (c) of the EFCC Act which makes the Commission the designated Financial Intelligence Unit in Nigeria charged with the responsibility of coordinating the various institutions involved in the fight against money laundering and enforcement of all laws dealing with economic and financial crimes.

If the sole essence of the proposed agency, as indicated by the Chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotic and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba, was to establish an “autonomous national agency that will be responsible for the receipt of information from financial institutions and designated financial bodies for analysing and documenting such information for the purpose of converting this information into financial intelligence that could be transmitted to the relevant law enforcement agencies such as, EFCC, ICPC, DSS, ONSA, DMI, NPF, NSCDC, NIS! NCS, NAPTIP and DIA, for the purpose of apprehending crimes within and outside the country,” then there was something ourightly missing in the final wordings of the bill. And the missing line is: let us outrightly scrap EFCC and replace it with NFIA.

What information is the proposed agency going to generate and disperse on money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes that the EFCC is not doing and cannot do better if properly funded and allowed to be more independent?

Throughout the discussion so far on the proposed agency at the National Assembly, no single mention has been made of the deliberate underfunding or even non-funding at all of the existing anti-graft agencies- the EFCC and the ICPC? When we create NFIA, is the funding situation going to be different?

The problem of our fight against corruption in government and business has nothing at to do with capacity of the two existing agencies- EFCC and ICPC rather it has more to do with the actual independence from presidential/political manipulations and unholy interferences. Poor or rather non-funding of the of the existing anti-graft structures and institutions has remained the bane of Nigeria's fight against corruption in government and its various departments and agencies.  And this could outrightly be blamed on the National Assembly which deliberately support the government under-funding of the EFCC in order to weaken the agency from going after the Assembly itself. We all remembered what happened in the EFFC under Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman. Then Farida Waziri came and after her initial squabbles with Aondoaka and crossfire exchanges with her predecessor, she started doing worse things than Ribadu and was later dismissed under controversial circumstances by President Goodluck Jonathan on 23 November 2011. She was replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde as Acting Chairman, who was later confirmed as substantive chairman on the 15 February 2012 by the Nigerian Senate. The question is: has anything changed in the operating setting from the Ribadu era to now Lamorde? No! It is still a case of the “oga-at-the-top” (since the days of Obasanjo as President) deciding who should be investigated and prosecuted and who should not. Let's call a spade a spade because that is what it is.

IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Political Consultant and can be reached on: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)