By – Memoye Oghu (Port Harcourt)
The emergence of our nascent democracy 24 years ago necessitated the establishment of an ombudsman body that will checkmate the corrupt tendencies of political office holders as well as other citizens and residents in Nigeria in line with extant laws. Thus, former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 enacted the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), with the sole aims and objectives of combating economic and Financial crimes; prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize economic and financial crime offenders.
EFCC, as it’s popularly known across the country is also empowered with the responsibility of executing the provisions of other Laws and regulations that relate with Economic and Financial crimes in the country as stipulated in Section 7(2) of the establishment Act 2004. Those laws that can be cited by the Commission include, the Money Laundering Act of 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 1994; The Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 1991 and the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 1985.
Nobody knew why former President Olusegun Obasanjo seconded Nuhu Ribadu from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to the EFCC as its Chairman in 2003, apart from the fact that he was a fine Police officer reputed for bursting financial crimes. And that he was reportedly recommended to Obasanjo by his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, also from the same state and zone.
Ribadu, who served the Commission as its pioneer chairman for four years, from 2003 to 2007, a Fulani from Ribadu Town in Fufore LGA of Adamawa state was accused of being the political attack dog of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who many believed sent him after his perceived political opponents, particularly those against his third term agenda.
Consciously or unconsciously, that selection became the prism to zero into Adamawa State and northern parts of the country for the search of an anti corruption Czar to head this all important anti corruption body. Or perhaps, the pioneer chairman set the stage for this disturbing precedent.
A peep into the 21 years checkered history of the corruption ombudsman reveals the compelling need for a paradigm shift in the appointment of its chairman. The revelation that the eight occupants of the Commission’s top job so far came from one part of the country runs contrary to the spirit of our groundnorm, the 1999 constitution as amended and doesn’t speak eloquently well of us a people.
After Ribadu was booted out of office by late former President Musa YarAdua, Ibrahim Lamorde from Mubi town in Mubi LGA of Adamawa state was chosen as Acting chairman and he acted for over one year from 2007 to 2008 before the University of Lagos Law graduate, Farida Waziri from Gboko in Benue State, North Central Nigeria was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan as substantive chairman who served from 2008 to 2011.
As if that position is the exclusive preserve of Adamawa State and the North, Ibrahim Lamorde reappeared on the stage again. And this time around as a substantive chairman from 2011 to 2015.
Perhaps, to deviate from this trend and stir the body in the right direction as a true national body was one of the reasons the eighth Senate, under Senator Bukola Saraki as Senate President refused to approve the nomination of Ibrahim Magu, a Kanuri from Maiduguri town in Borno state as its fifth chairman.
For three times Magu was presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari for approval and three times, the Senators declined that approval. Nevertheless, President Buhari managed to force Magu on Nigerians for five good years, albeit on acting capacity.
When Magu’s tenure expired and the recalcitrant eighth National Assembly ended with the emergence of the nineth Assembly headed by Ahmed Lawan as Senate President, President Buhari appointed another Northerner, Mohammed Umar from Tudun Wada LGA of Kano State, North West Nigeria on acting capacity from 2020 to 2021 before his final choice of Abdulrasheed Bawa from Jega town in Kebbi state, North West from 2021 to 2023.
That’s to say the three zones in the North have at one time or the other taken a shot at the Commission’s headship to the detriment of their three Southern counterparts. If that’s not compelling enough, then consider the fact that all the organization’s thespians so far came from the same Moslem faith in a secular country with a legion of religious faiths.
The choice of another Northerner, Abdulkarim Chukkol, a Kanuri from Maiduguri in Borno State, also in acting capacity by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, after the suspension of Abdulrasheed Bawa has upped cries for a paradigm shift in the appointment of its number one job. Many Nigerians who applauded the president’s action as a step in the right direction want a total and an holistic overhaul of the body by beaming the searchlight down South for a truly anti corruption Czar that can truly take the corruption war to the corridors of fraudsters.
According to them, many Ribadus, Magus, Bawas and Faridas abound in the South. No zone in the Southern part of the country is lacking in these cadres of manpower, both within and outside the security agencies. Some can even be sourced outside our shores if we so desire, like the Ngozi Okonjo Iwealas during the Obasanjo era.
In the South there are highly trained Police officers with international training and experiences in Police Investigative operations. Some of these officers have headed United Nations Peace keeping operations in Somalia and Eastern Europe with meritorious badges of honour for distinguishing themselves in security services.
From available records, there are many capable Senior Police officers who have worked assiduously in areas hitherto seen as difficult terrains in crimes associated with sabotage of the nation’s economic mainstay. They distinguished themselves very well in maintaining peace and checkmated the activities of such unpatriotic citizens. Some of these officers even have legal backgrounds that helped shaped their experiences in financial crimes fighting.
They are in possession of advance Legal education qualifications as Lawyers, who are exposed to the intricacies of administrative crime prevention and prosecutorial eagles eyes which the Government of the day under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu can tap from.
For instance, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Akin Fakorede currently serving at the Forces Headquarters is one such material amongst the whole lot available in the South that would be a perfect match of a square peg in a square hole.
DCP Akin Fakorede is an internationally reputed expert in Forensic Investigations and Analytical Intelligence; National Security and Stabilization policies as well as Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency amongst others. His credentials is an array of ex this and ex that but always excellent.
Apart from the fact that the Ekiti State born cop is a reputed crime burster in security circles, he has held several command positions of responsibility including Divisional Police Office (DPO) in charge of many police formations across the country as well as an Area Commander of the Brini-Gwari Area Command in Kaduna State from 2019 to 2021. He capped his security duties as a Special Adviser on National Security to the Police Inspector General of Somali National Government (SNG) in Mogadishu from 2014 to 2015. He was also the Chief of United Nations (UN) Police Operations in Darfur, Sudan between 2007 and 2009.
Such a paradigm shift at the anti corruption agency will eliminate incidences of investigative reports not seeing the light of day as in the case of Ibrahim Magu who is seen as the looter of looters and several other high profile corruption cases.
It will also earn the trust of Nigerians and portray it as a true national agency fighting for the betterment of the country.