A Losing Battle

by Bolaji Aregbeshola

Mrs. Farida Waziri on assumption of office as the EFCC boss appeared ready to face all odds in her fight against corruption with a promise to step on toes in ridding the nation of this cankerworm. Barely four months into her emergence as the new chair, she advocated for a revolution in order to completely get rid of corruption at all levels in Nigeria. She also lamented that the normal court system is being abused because the arrested public officers are being released after some time to go and enjoy their loot but Professor Ndi Okereke-Oyuike, the Director-General of the Nigerian stock exchange whose petition by a Lagos lawyer was received by the EFCC for her alleged promotion of an initiative tagged “Africans for Obama” (which raised =N=100 million in a dinner/concert organised in Lagos) was released barely two days after her arrest by the EFCC.

Despite the EFCC’s promise that further investigation would be carried out on the group’s activities, the release of Professor Ndi Okereke Oyiuke was the last we heard of the matter. There is no doubt that the professor must have contravened the laws of the land somewhere along the line in her bid to raise funds for the Africans for Obama initiative but the EFCC has failed to present the Nigerian people with the result of its findings. Several other politicians and public office holders are yet to be persecuted after their alleged involvement in the misappropriation of public funds. They include the daughter of the former president, Iyabo Obasanjo–Bello and the former speaker of the House of representatives, Olubunmi Patricia Etteh to mention but a few. The release of these public office holders by the EFCC without persecution as well as missing case files of ex-governors including that of former president Obasanjo cast doubts on the commitment of Mrs. Farida Waziri to fight against corruption. It would not be surprising if she has suddenly given in to the pressures coming from the powers that be. According to a newspaper report, she claimed to be working on the case files inherited by her and that she is building up new ones but the question is: how did the case file of ex-governors get missing? Besides, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) which presented a petition for the second time against former President Olusegun Obasanjo after Mrs. Waziri’s statement that “she has not received any petition against the immediate past president ” said through its leader that a petition against the former president had earlier been submitted. Perhaps this petition also got missing along with those of the ex-governors. It is obvious that the two anti-graft bosses are trying to shield public office holders from persecution. Some months ago, the ICPC chairman, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola threatened to persecute people who present frivolous allegations against individuals or government. This is a clear indication that the two anti-graft agencies are fighting a losing battle. If truly the ICPC under the leadership of Justice Emmanuel Ayoola is committed towards fighting corruption, he would not bother himself over which petition is genuine or not.

The two commission’s responsibility should be to act on the petitions that are real when discovered no matter how many frivolous petitions were presented along with the genuine ones. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola’s reasons for this is not far-fetched as it would make the public withdraw themselves from petitioning corrupt officers besides how do you determine whether a petition is genuine or false? The two anti-graft agencies in recent times have disregarded many genuine petitions against the indecent acts of some public office holders, this is probably due to the fear of attack which has led the former chairman of EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to seek protection with the judiciary. Ribadu in a newspaper report was quoted as saying that “his demotion was meant to punish him for his anti-corruption efforts”. This sounds true because so many questions remain unanswered especially with regards the removal of Nuhu Ribadu as the EFCC chairman. He was expected to return as the EFCC boss after a course at Kuru in Jos but was thereafter replaced by Mrs. Farida Waziri. This was the basis for Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s argument that Ribadu’s seat was not vacant when Mrs. Farida Waziri was appointed. There is no doubt, the two anti-graft agencies are faced with so many problems in eradicating corruption and one wonders how successful the fight against corruption can be with the different twist and turns. It is my hope that the chairs of the two agencies are not trying to defend some of their friends who are public office holders. The only way the two commissions can achieve their fight against corruption and gradually curb the menace is by persecuting individuals in their net. This will make the general populace tighten up. But unfortunately, further steps are not taken after bail of these unscrupulous elements and these allegations flicker and die. It is also sad how petty thieves rot in the police cells while the mega ones are given the liberty to walk freely on the streets and contest public offices. Currently three former governors out of eleven have been arraigned on corruption and money laundering under Waziri but the ICPC, on the other hand does not seem to have a very solid plan in its campaign against corruption. This is going by the recent programme planned by the agency through its chairman. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola said the enlightenment campaign of his agency was to mobilize people to challenge those in government and also make them accountable but this statement contradicts the chairman’s position on the submission of petitions. It is high time the two anti-graft bosses became careful of their utterances and show some guts so that they will be remembered by posterity for their courage and will-power to rid the nation of corruption.

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