Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nigeria: Fight for EFCC's Soul

ONCE Mallam Nuhu Ribadu left the headship of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for studies at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPSS), Kuru, Jos, there was no doubt that the controversy that trailed the man's tenure would be at the centre of whatever action anyone carried out on the institution.

Things are working out in frenzy. Lawyers of various esteems are claiming and counter claiming about the powers of the President to hire and fire the EFCC chairman at his pleasure. In this quest, the generous provisions of Section 2 (3) the EFCC Act which are clear that the President does not need any reason to fire the Chairman does not seem to matter.

It is rather worrying that these are preludes to appointing a new leadership for the EFCC, the main government agency charged with fighting corruption.

Although Ribadu got more than 100 convictions in court of law against corrupt persons and those who soiled Nigeria's name through Advance Fee Fraud popularly called 419, in addition to getting Nigeria's name struck of FATF notorious list, he sometimes got overzealous.

While it was desirable to have someone like him to give the EFCC bite at the beginning, his egregiousness lent some tainted bent to the fight against corruption.

What is going on at the EFCC may, at the end be some kind of reform. It is also a judgment on the past administration. But in correcting some excesses of the EFCC, care must be taken to ensure that the intention remains revving the fight against corruption.

As the Senate goes through the screening of Mrs. Farida Waziri, the new nominee for the position, it should also be asking itself whether the EFCC Act should not be amended to create more independence for the agency. The EFCC almost marred last year's elections by taking over screening of candidates, without any constitutional backing. This happened because the Executive wanted it.

The recent efforts at localising the importance of the EFCC chairman exhibits the extent of the desperation to whittle the powers of the agency. The Senate should screen the nominee factually, fairly, but firmly

Positions that diminish the importance of the post and the great job that is expected of the Senate in screening the candidate for the job should be disregarded.

The fight for the soul of the EFCC has resumed. The main casualty at the end of the day could be the EFCC which will never be the same again either because those who created it abused it thoroughly and robbed it of credibility or those who are taking over could wreck it because of known prejudices and self interest।

Culled from: The Vanguard newspapers