EFCC’S RECOVERED $6 BILLION
Wednesday, 05 May 2010
THE Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Waziri, had been engaged in a hard sell. She is not like a rookie salesman timidly knocking on a door. She has been as bold as freshly polished brass. She wants to show, contrary to the belief in certain
quarters that her predecessor, Mr Nuhu Ribadu, is not a hard act to follow. Indeed, she does not want to follow in Mr Ribadu’s footsteps; she says they were heavy and almost crushed the rule of law.
BUT Mr Ribadu appears to shadow Mrs Waziri like a vengeful spectre. Or so Mrs Waziri must feel. She was unfavourably compared with Mr Ribadu by the American Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Clinton, though it is not in America’s place to tell Nigeria how to run its affairs.
THE case against Mr Ribadu at the Code of Conduct Tribunal was withdrawn a week or two after Dr Goodluck Jonathan became acting president and there were speculations in the press, probably secretly ignited by a government sources, that Mr Ribadu would be returning to the EFCC.
MRS Waziri went on the offensive to protect her job. It was not a charm offensive. Some articles in newspapers and magazines had called her integrity into question. She knew this was no time to smile like a politician trying to charm voters. She knew she needed to provide hard facts and figures to support her claim that she was not only doing a good job, but that her record was better than Ribadu’s.
THE EFCC chairman provided facts and figures in an interview with Economic Confidential. She said the EFCC had recovered $6.5 billion from corrupt people in both public and private life since 2003 when the commission was established. Her administration, she said, retrieved more than half of the stolen funds in only 18 months.
FROM Mrs Waziri’s figures, Mr Ribadu, with the help of the courts, recovered $3 billion from corrupt people during his time as chairman of the EFCC. Some of these people were convicted in sensational trials. They included a former state governor, a former police chief and a con artist. Their seized assets were listed and sold.
THE smell of scandal has clung to the sales of some of the seized assets. A newspaper investigation revealed that most of the companies that bought the houses that were seized from the former police chief were not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Mr. Ribadu has not responded to this very serious allegation, as far as we know.
MR Ribadu named some corrupt people, but Mrs Waziri did not mention the names of the people she said she had recovered $3.5 billion from in her interview with Economic Confidential. She said the EFCC had successfully prosecuted 80 people. Who are these people?
ARE these convicted people in jail or were they allowed to go home after surrendering a small part of their stolen wealth? Does the $3.5 billion include the N3 million former Governor Lucky Igbinedion was fined when the charge said he stole hundreds of millions of naira?
DID Mrs Waziri sell confiscated assets like Mr Ribadu did? If she did, who valued them? Who were the buyers? Did the EFCC advertise the sale of the assets?
WHERE is the recovered money? The Obasanjo government could not account for the millions of dollars that General Sani Abacha looted but which was returned to Nigeria by Swiss banks. Government’s vague explanation then was that the money was included in the budget.
CORRUPT people need to be shamed and should be named. It is true that some Nigerians can feel no shame. Convicted felons draw attention to themselves at public functions. They belong to political parties and even one of them was admitted to the Presidential Villa. There is great ambiguity about the anti-corruption war.
STILL, naming and punishing the corrupt can be a deterrent. The children of one prominent man convicted of corruption and who is now hardly seen in public, may not want to experience their father’s devastating disgrace. It was a mighty fall and many years after, the dust of disgrace has not settled.
ALL crimes must be punished. It is not enough to seize stolen funds and properties. The suspects must be publicly tried and plea-bargaining must be discouraged.
OPENNESS will aid and not hinder the fight against corruption. Mrs Waziri should name those she recovered $3.5 billion from.