Mrs Waziri

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chair Mrs Farida Waziri reignited on old debate yesterday, with her call for psychiatric tests for would-be leaders and public officers. This, to her, is a way out of corruption in public office.

She advocated psychiatric tests because, in her view, some aspiring leaders “are mentally and psychologically unsuitable for office with the way they amass public wealth”.

Mrs Waziri was delivering the keynote address at a workshop in Kaduna on transparency and accountability in the public service.

She said: “Having dealt with many corruption cases, I am inclined to suggest that public officers should be subjected to some form of psychiatric evaluation to determine their suitability for public office.

“The extent of aggrandisement and gluttonous accumulation of wealth that I have observed suggests to me that some people are mentally and psychologically unsuitable for public office. We have observed people amassing public wealth to a point suggesting ‘madness’ or some form of obsessive-compulsive psychiatric disorder.”

In her address entitled: Transparency and accountability in public service: the role of anti-corruption agencies, Mrs. Waziri said the culture of accountability could only be entrenched in the public service if the proper legislation is in place.

“As you may all know the struggle has been on to get the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill passed into law. Closely related to this is the bid to have a whistle blower act passed into law. Let me emphasise that the future of the anti-corruption war may depend on what happens to these efforts.

“If we truly expect a public service that is accountable to the people of Nigeria, then the Freedom of Information Bill must be passed. If you deny the public the right to know, the anti- corruption war is lost, “she said.

Calling for collaboration among the various anti-graft agencies, Mrs Waziri said: “When these agencies work together, they are potentially capable of creating an environment which could make corruption a very hazardous affair for a public officer.”

She urged Nigerians to be involved in the war against corruption, adding that it is only through their active involvement that the nation could be saved from the menace.

Mrs Farida said: “When I launched the anti-corruption revolution (ANCHOR), skeptics thought it was just another jamboree. But I think the crisis rocking the banking sector has justified our efforts. Were it not for the swift intervention of the Central Bank and the EFCC, we were surely leading for a crash that would have rubbished our financial system along with your money; your pensions. You cannot afford to be neutral in this war; make it your war.”

She urged organisers of the workshop, especially the Kaduna State Government, to create an anti-corruption watchdog in the state public service that could work closely with the EFCC on information and intelligence gathering, budget tracking and project implementation, grassroots anti-corruption mobilisation, anti-corruption education and awareness as well as whistle blower activity, among others.

It was also an opportunity for Mrs Waziri to defend the EFCC’s integrity.

Lamenting that many states in the country were not doing enough in the fight against corruption, Mrs Waziri noted that Nigerians were in the habit of condemning the commission.

She said it was sad that when the commission takes a step to fight corruption, it is opposed and antagonised.

Mrs Waziri said: “When I arrest your friends, you criticise me and call me all sorts of names; you say I have lost track and I’m not doing my job the way it should be done, but when I arrest your enemy you now say I am doing a great job. It mustn’t be so

“Good governance is not necessarily attained because good road or a hospital has been attained or fertiliser has been provided to farmers, because even dictatorial regimes where the rule of law is completely absent provide these, but the question to be asked is: was due process followed in awarding the contracts?

“Has any public officer directly or indirectly benefited? The state of Nigeria today is a fact that most of our public servants are still lacking in transparency and accountability. The private sector does not fare better too

“Menace of corruption is still a large challenge to our developmental efforts as a country. Everybody seems so concerned about corruption but you wonder why it is still happening.

“It is everybody’s fight and not just that of the EFCC. Regrettably, corruption is still seen largely as a Federal Government responsibility.”

She noted that it is sad that after 49 years as an independent nation, Nigeria is still where it was because of corruption, adding that it was regrettable that everybody is a victim of the menace.

Mrs Waziri is sure that the passage of the FOI Bill by the National Assembly would help check corrupt practices and curtail rumours of corruption where it did not exist in the country.

“In order for information to be readily available, I am one of the advocates of the Freedom of Information Bill because once the information is not free, citizens tend to speculate and carry very dangerous rumours. All we need to do is to pass the bill and put in place checks and balances so that these laws are not abused,” she said.

Mrs Waziri disclosed that EFCC has recovered over N103billion from bank debtors across the country.

According to her, the commission has made giant strides in the recovery of loans within the short span of her tenure.

She said most of the recovered loans were the ones considered insolvent by the banks.

The loans, she said, were granted in complete disregard of banking procedures and questioned the rationale for the granting of a N15billion loan without collateral.

“Most of the recovered loans were collected without the intention of paying back at all.

“Imagine that somebody will collect such large sums without collateral and instead of paying back, they buy houses abroad and open offshore accounts,” she said.

Mrs Waziri challenged those criticising her for pursuing bad loans instead of executing her mandate to define the boundaries of her job for her.

She wondered what could be an economic crime if the refusal to pay bank loans was not.

She called on Nigerians to support the fight against corruption, saying: “We stand to benefit from the gains of a corrupt free society.”

Mrs Waziri lamented that the evils of corruption were responsible for joblessness, poverty and diseases.

She was, however, optimistic that the efforts of the present administration are paying off as Nigeria has leapt from its 147th position by international rating to 121.

The feat, she said, was accomplished by the strict adherence to transparency and accountability embedded in the concept of the rule of law.

The chairman of the occasion, former Chief Justice of the Federation Muhammadu Uwais, called on the media to expose all cases of corruption without regard to whose ox is gored.

Uwais bemoaned the dangers of corruption, saying it brought the society backward and caused the economy to remain stagnant.

The workshop attracted dignitaries within and outside the state. Emir of Zazzau, Dr Shehu Idris and Deputy Governor Patrick Yakowa were among those in attendance.