EFCC: Several Arrests, Few Convictions

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is no more a dreaded anti-corruption agency. These days, corrupt politicians and other public officeholders no longer dread the institution that made its name during the Ribadu era. The reason is simple: the commission has

 failed to get convictions for almost all the corrupt politicians it has arrested.

Throughout 2008, no major conviction was recorded.  Apart from the hype that goes with their arrest, the cases linger in court for many years.  Once they are able to secure bail, the case is as good as forgotten. The EFCC Establishment Act mandates the commission to combat financial and economic crimes.

The commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes.  It is also charged with enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes.

However, many fear the commission has been less potent of late, failing to strike any fear into a political class that has stolen billions of dollars in public funds.” The EFCC is a bull dog. It can only bark but it cannot bite,” a prominent politician told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY.

Other Nigerians have also blamed the current administration’s rule of law of being a major hindrance to the dispensation of justice. Corrupt politicians are accused of hiding under the rule of law to perpetrate corruption.

Thirty-one of the thirty-six governors in the last dispensation were declared corrupt by former EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu.  A handful of them were arrested, including Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, Saminu Turaki, Rev. Jolly Nyame, Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State, Orji Ozor Kalu of Abia State and James Ibori of Delta StateOf these, only former Bayelsa governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and his former Edo counterpart, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, were convicted. Both now walk as free men, flaunting their wealth and attending political rallies.  

The major conviction in 2008 would have been that of former the Edo State governor.  Igbinedion was, in December 2008, convicted on a one-count charge of corruption by the Federal High Court, Enugu.  The former governor, however, did not go to jail as he was merely fined N3.6m. The light sentence was the result of a plea bargain arrangement the former governor entered into with the EFCC. Igbinedion had himself pleaded guilty during the trial. The EFCC expressed dissatisfaction with the case and appealed the conviction.  

The question on the minds of millions of Nigerians is: when will any of these corrupt public officers ever go to jail for looting the public treasury? The commission claims the judicial procedure in the country is to blame for its inability to convict the corrupt politicians.

Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC chairman, while testifying before US House Financial Services Committee last Tuesday, identified the problem of the commission. He said: “By 2007 we had secured convictions in over 275 of the near-1,000 cases in the courts. It was modest but revolutionary. “Indeed, one of the governors of the delta that we investigated offered me $15 million in cash to stop the investigation against him. We charged him both for the theft of state revenues and for bribery attempt.  Sadly, today, he is still one of the most powerful figures in both the ruling party and the country.”

Continuing, he said: “The entire team responsible for these successes, which was trained by a variety of agencies in the US, has been moved out of the EFCC. I personally have been dismissed from the service.” This is why, today, many of the law enforcement agencies that used to work hand-in-hand with the EFCC are no longer willing to partner with the EFCC or the Nigerian justice department.”  

On the contrary, the current EFCC boss, Mrs. Farida Waziri, has repeatedly blamed the slow pace of trial of some of the allegedly corrupt governors in various courts on the judiciary and the antics of their defence counsel.

Speaking at a recent press briefing, she said: “The cases are ongoing, the cases are very slow – some were taken to court by my predecessor and some were taken by myself but some of these cases’ trials have not even commenced. They have not said: are you guilty or not guilty? It has not happened. That is why I was worried. People will want to blame EFCC but it is the judiciary and their defence counsel has a system of delaying the case using different excuses.  

Also, during her visit to LEADERSHIP corporate headquarters in Abuja in March, Mrs. Waziri expressed her frustration with the judicial process, blaming the judiciary for the unnecessary delay of court cases and also debunked the impression that the corruption war was dying. She said, “We are working very hard. Cases in court are ongoing but the judicial process is very slow and some defence counsel makes sure the cases don’t move.  Some three-year-old cases have not commenced at all. The defence counsel challenges the jurisdiction of the court, and so the case cannot move.”

There is a vast difference between the EFCC and the judiciary. Sometimes, the EFCC may seize a passport and the judiciary releases it to the owner. You cannot separate sentencing and crime-fighting because the punishment is supposed to serve as a deterrent to others who may be nursing the same ambition.  This development is very frustrating to us.”

Speaking to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, EFCC spokesperson Femi Babafemi said that, in the last one year, the commission has charged over 300 corrupt individuals to court and has succeeded in convicting 55, recovering more than N50 billion in the process.  He said this includes the conviction of 13 Filipinos to 65 years imprisonment.

According to him, the high-profile cases which the commission is currently handling include that of ten former state governors, eight of which Mrs. Waziri met and three which she has handled.It also includes that of former ministers Adenike Grange, Babalola, Aduku, Femi Fani-Kayode, Nasir el-Rufai, five UBEC directors, and the chief of staff to Rivers State governor. 

He said foreigners that have been charged to court include George Elder, the Australian aviation contractor; Indian billionaire Patrick Fernandez; Alex Usman, the Lebanese contractor to UBEC; and six Ghanaians .According to him, “Last December, in Kaduna alone, 58 persons were arrested and charged to court.” 

This year, the commission has arrested Ondo State former governor, Olusegun Agagu; the chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Ransome Owan and his commissioners; Senate committee chairman on power, Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane; his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, and six other colleagues. Shouldn’t there be a special court for the EFCC to try corrupt officials?


See also: The New EFCC: Ribadu and El Rufai



By By Michael Oche, LEADERSHIP