Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
You would think that an EFCC that has just come out of slumber would be helped to stay awake and alert. That its new found vigour would gladden even hearts worried about neutrality and due process lapses. Because some lofty aspirations are only desirable as superstructures on a foundation of firm deterrence.
Only an agency inflicting some determined damage on impunity has the chance of being polished beyond vindictiveness and de-wormed of political bias. The EFCC has sloughed off lukewarmness.
Unbridled,riotous, impunity cannot be checked by domesticated zeal. That is why the ICPC with all its resources languishes in anonymity and docility. Where crime control is hamstrung by weak structures and lack, patriotism must demand more than routine sense of duty.
Only aggressive, result- oriented, activism can generate the semblance of predictability of sanctions that can deter criminals. The aggressive crime control mandated by our prevailing circumstances would always leave due process deficits. So,inevitably, so much room will exist for criticisms, and for improvement.
But Chameleons will insinuate themselves into these gaps .These forces of occupation, disoriented by the efforts to instill some public accountability,will become emergency civil rights activists .They once hid under the pretense of checking Nuhu Ribadu’s excesses and arbitrariness, and emasculated the EFCC. Ribadu exceeded bounds, abused his powers.
But Ribadu unleashed telling blows on entrenched corruption and rampant impunity. When excesses are largely unchecked but aimed at salvaging a horrible mess, they should be excusable. The gang that flew the flag of rule of law sneaked in not to save, but to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Magu,who was there at the beginning, has revved the engine that has been idling since Ribadu left.And history is struggling to repeat itself. The ‘untouchables’ want a quick return to tepidity.
Corruption has left the nation prostate, and the people ravished. But the public has never managed to muster undiluted anger. The anguish of the brunt of profligacy and hopelessness finds no mollification other than cheap sophistry and subterfuge. When not held captive by divisive sectional politics, the public is tranquilized with religious sentimentality.
And rather than hanker after deterrent punitiveness and redemptive rigorous accountability, an already enervated public submits to the seduction of the wiles of rogues singing hymns of victimization. Ordinarily,attempts to prune the wings of any anti-graft agency whose shortcomings rest more on bullishness would attract opprobrium from the dispossessed. Perhaps that explains this need for disguise. Demons robe as angels, and sneak in as champions of reformation.
The new NBA president had barely been inaugurated when he started preaching reformation. The courts are in nauseating shambles, the police are still rickety and the bar is riddled with incompetence and sharp practices. Yet, AbubakarMahmoud’s priority is the odd agency that is conscious of the enormity of its task. Mahmoud wants EFCC stripped of prosecutorial powers tomorrow.
It is true that in England and the United States investigations and prosecutions are run by different bodies . And the idea is to check arbitrariness and abuse of power by investigators. But in those jurisdictions, the state has such formidable institutional investigative capacities that criminals are like ants chased by an elephant .That makes protection of the rights of suspects such a huge priority. So the filter of a distinct prosecution body sifts cases and contains overzealousness and abuse of police powers. In Nigeria, the state is a dog , barking and chasing elephants – criminals. The priority in Nigeria must be to bark so loud, and bite so hard.
Mahmood didn’t give reasons for wanting the EFCC denied prosecutorial powers. But the arguments for such a separation are chiefly – specialization and improvement of efficiency; and protection against abuse of power. It is true that the fight against corruption and crime has suffered from poor and ineffective prosecution in Nigeria. This is particularly troubling in the regular police where most of the prosecutors are not trained lawyers. Endemic corruption complicates institutional incompetence. The EFCC is not immune. The EFCC , however, differs in having a better staffed legal department.
The EFCC is also not exempt from the affliction of dwelling on arrests and falling short on diligent prosecution. Because when noise is not backed by convictions, the agency becomes a circus clown. But Magu has initiated tighter and tidier prosecuting process. Days when the commission conspiratorially stoked the flames of corruption by playing to public gallery are gone. Then, orchestrated media trials were smokescreens for criminals to saunter away. Magu is re-instituting earnestness and professionalism. The EFCC,like other government agencies, has bad eggs and dead woods. But internal control mechanisms in the EFCC are now alive and fairly well.
The EFCC’s pacesetter attitude has returned. Lawyers are attached to investigating teams, helping to direct investigations. The result is that evidence gathering is tailored to meet the requirements for conviction. The EFCC has the best detention facilities in the country.
The recent death recorded in the agency’s facility must be objectively investigated, so that facts alone can stand. Since inception, torture has remained anathema. The rights of detainees receive better protection in the EFCC than any whereelse in the country. Arbitrary detentions that tarnished Ribadu’s era have been curtailed. The cyber- stalking incident remains sore and condemnable.
The singular factor that determines EFCC’s attitude to corruption is the will of the president. And that is why the combination of the experience and fearlessness of Magu, and the firmness and acclaimed aversion for corruption of president Buhari, offers a unique opportunity to get back at corruption. But the dark forces aren’t letting up. And in Magu’s words, the vultures – gang of rogue elements- are circling.
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