The Nigerian anti-corruption agencies of President Muhammadu Buhari are poorly funded and their agents so poorly paid to investigate immensely wealthy looters oozing so much cash . . .
“The Lost War” was a report by a former BBC correspondent and author, Misha Glenny, published by The Washington Post on Sunday August 19, 2007. The war against drug trade in opium and heroin was a lost war. Poppies were growing outside the gate of the NATO base in Afghanistan. British army Capt. Leo Docherty realized that “poppy is the economic mainstay and everyone is involved right up to the higher echelons of the local government.” Glenny wrote.
President Muhammadu Buhari realized that corruption is a major economic mainstay in Nigeria and involvement goes right up to the highest echelons of the federal government. He made the war against corruption a primal message on his campaign stops. However, his war against the corruptible trade in fraudulent conduct: embezzlement, over-budgeting, contract-bloating, looting and money laundering (white-collar crimes) is a lost war, ab initio. No high profile conviction has been secured since inception.
In a Galaxy TV interview on December 24, 2017, former NBA President, Olisa Agbakoba SAN, said the EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri (2008-2011), once invited him to join the EFCC prosecution team. He declined. Agbakoba revealed that the looters have billions of cash and ready to pay defense lawyers ₦200 million to delay justice for upwards of ten years. EFCC is ready to pay prosecuting lawyers ₦1.5 million.
All President Buhari’s arsenal: Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC) including erudite Prof. Itse Sagay; investigating/prosecuting agencies of loot and proceeds of looting in Nigeria cannot stop corruption. The raison d’état is phenomenal.
EFCC statewide offices are in tatters. They look like their tattered cousins – police stations nationwide. EFCC front desks/back offices are uninspiring, do not animate policing confidence for agents involved in economic/financial crimes law enforcement. Any looter on getting to EFCC under arrest is emboldened by indigent environment toward the relief of indigence. There are reports of looters rescuing agents from official ratholes and squalid quarters.
Anti-corruption agencies are poorly funded and their agents so poorly paid to investigate immensely wealthy looters oozing so much cash. An EFCC agent akin to a bank teller handling and paying millions of cash, more than the equivalent of his yearly salary, often withdrawn casually by customers in the minutiae of everyday life. Training and orientation of agents come out of unknown individual backgrounds rather than change of position in response to external stimulus, especially with respect to specialized law enforcement against white-collar crimes.
The bane of law enforcement against white-collar crimes is the lack of infrastructure – the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., modern custodial cells, electronic surveillance equipment, state-of-the-art forensic laboratories, policing vehicles, appropriate equipment, information and communications technology tools, investigative tools, etc.) The whistle-blowing policy should be reformed with laid down procedures for determining genuine informant-information and prompt payment of whistle-blowers under strict anonymity.
EFCC must be rebranded with a new corporate image, from that of an agency invading suspects’ homes at unholy hours before investigations, and muddling up arrests, to a thoroughbred anti-graft agency undertaking thorough investigations and treatment of suspects with respect, in line with international best practices in law enforcement, to prosecutions of white-collar crimes. Special training in economic and financial crimes investigation should be introduced.
The introduction of systematic examination or research into cases with a formalized inquiry or systematic study and investigation(s) launched in the wake of allegations or cases pending in courts. The prevalence of media trials of suspects and detentions pending investigations is anathema to policing and must be discontinued.
Instances of suspects arrested on allegations, paraded and tried before the media to signify the ongoing anti-corruption war is against criminal procedure and the principle of “the presumption of innocence”: ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies), which is the principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. Investigate before arrest.
Engagement of in-house lawyers to handle solicitor work and outsourced criminal prosecution lawyers to handle legal advocacy, to be highly paid, considering the immense resources at the disposal of these looters. Special courts have been muted but not dedicated. Courts should be dedicated to the anti-corruption war in order to free the regular courts from overloading and constraints associated with justice delivery in Nigeria.
Anti-corruption war is selective and the government is unabashed by the provoked furor. Government should conduct a no-holds-barred war rather than the selective hounding of opposition politicians. Corruption must be eradicated within these anti-graft agencies in order to sustain equity. EFCC must be institutionalized and not dependent on the policing whims and caprices of the boss. Legal procedures for investigation, arrest, arraignment and prosecution must be internalized and enforced.
The judiciary is the arbiter and a bulwark in this war. They have a role to play even as judicial corruption ravages the bench and Rule of Law takes a backseat. The nexus between Rule of Law and the fight against corruption should be examined in order to provide corrective mechanisms for restoring Rule of Law. The hiring of highfalutin SANs by white-collar crime suspects has led to hinging every action(s) of (the comparatively indigent) federal prosecutors to infringement of Rule of Law.
How do you comprehend the nexus between a federal prosecutor who goes to court in a taxi to arraign a wealthy suspect charged with corruption with the suspect’s team of SANs who were chauffeured in American jeeps to the court? Buhari administration’s zeal for corrective mechanisms must be in tandem with the bar and bench. Like the Afghanistan war against drug trade in opium and heroin (which was the economic mainstay right up to the highest echelons of the local government in 2016) – unless aforementioned are adhered to or similar policies instituted, and the bench adjudicating without fear or favour in 2018, the anti-corruption war is the lost war.