Olusegun Obasanjo gave us EFCC

Olusegun Obasanjo gave us EFCC

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Programme against Corruption has organised a ‘Your No Counts Campaign’. Participants in the anti-corruption campaign are encouraged to say NO to corruption and advocate widely and express their support for the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and UNODC’s principles.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption – which entered into force in December 2005 – is both a cause and an effect for this campaign. That Convention provides the most comprehensive, universal and even-handed measures for tackling corruption.

On their website, the UNODC notes that attitudes on corruption are changing. It claims that as recently as ten years ago, corruption was only whispered about. But today there are signs of growing intolerance toward corruption and more and more politicians and chief executives are being tried and convicted.

But the assertion that corruption was only whispered about 10 years ago is not true with regards to Nigeria; Nigeria had long realised that corruption is one of the greatest impediments to the development of the country. Chinua Achebe gave corruption a prominent place in ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’.

In his January 15, 1966 coup speech, Chukwuma Nzeogwu warned against “bribery and corruption” and proclaimed; “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent”.

Since then, the entire coup d’états had always mentioned corruption as one of the reasons why they struck. Murtala Mohammed made the war against corruption the centrepiece of his administration.

The name of Muhammadu Buhari is synonymous with the ‘War against Indiscipline’. Shehu Shagari and Ibrahim Babangida professed to battle against corruption. Even the goggled one, Sani Abacha, executed a “war against Indiscipline and corruption”. Yet corruption remained an intractable problem.

One of the greatest problems was how to judicially define correction to encompass its legal elements and apply them to the particular facts. I remember very well, my undergraduate years; barrister Okey Onunkwo took delight in pointing out a long list of cases that met premature death at court rooms due to inelegant drafting by barely educated policemen who had great difficulty in differentiating between corruption, stealing and obtaining by false pretences.

Some individuals charged for corruption should have been prosecuted for stealing. Some who were being prosecuted for corruption had their cases thrown out by virtue of the fact that they were not Public Officials (see chapter 12 of the Nigeria Criminal Code)  while some who should be prosecuted for obtaining by false pretences were wrongly charged for stealing. –R v Nwafor Orizu epitomised the confusion.

Come The Economic and Financial Crimes commission Establishment Act (2004). The EFCC Act sought to free the prosecution for corruption from the constraints of due process and similar old-fashioned ideas of protection against overzealous state intrusions by focusing on disruption and on situational strategic prevention of money laundering. 

The Money Laundering Act 1995 had earlier criminalized “money laundering”. But the then criminal government cannot enforce its own laws and the legal instrument was largely ineffectual.

As pointed out by Nuhu Ribadu, money laundering is an umbrella and sort of covers all sorts of corruption and financial crimes. And ‘corruption certainly is a predicate of money laundering’.

Money-laundering is a unique crime. Unlike the underlying offences – drug trafficking, bribery, extortion, etc – money-laundering consists of a set of actions; each is innocent by itself but in total they add up to an attempt to hide the proceeds of a criminal act.

The Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 gave sweeping powers to the EFCC to have unfettered access through the banks and other financial institutions, to the financial details and other activities of any individual or organization under its investigation.

Armed with EFCC, Nigeria’s anti-corruption drive took a life of its own. Corruption ceased to be a vague, high falutin omnibus characterisation of public officials’ malfeasance. When you accuse someone of being corrupt, there follows a detailed outline of the offence backed by hard facts, with time, place and figures.

The financial intelligence unit (FIU) of the Agency is at the centre of the investigative savvy and collects stores and share information on important economic and financial matters and serving as Nigerian arm of the global intelligence unit.

This Unit goes to painstaking lengths to trace and cooperate with other countries financial crime fighting agencies to gather incriminating evidence from abroad.

It is significant that since the sacking of Ribadu, there is no more news of suitcase packing randy governors being arrested at Heathrow Airport with millions of cash. We had believed it was the Metropolitan Police getting fed up with Nigerian politicians turning London into the money laundering capital of the world. Now we know better!

Nigerians got to learn that rather than saying for example; Rufai Garba is corrupt; he looted the funds of Anambra State; he sold off government vehicles to his family, friends and cronies; he decorated his abode in Benue State with gleaming cars the way you landscape your compound with flowers.

No, through the efforts of the EFCC, Nigerians now say that Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is corrupt because he was a Director of an offshore company named Solomon & Peters Ltd (two middle names) and there are four (4) London properties he bought and registered in the company’s name. These properties are:
247, Water Gardens, London, W2 2DG, which is the registered address of Solomon & Peters Ltd. This property was purchased for £1.75million on 20/8/2003,
14, Mapesbury Road, London, NW2 4JB. This property was purchased for £1.4million on 6/7/2001. He was also investigated for a multi-million US Dollar oil refinery in Ecuador.

This current reality is being demonstrated on two forums I came across last week. On Nairaland, a posting of the face of corrupt politicians seek to let the world know the face of the men and women that have been raping the country and keeping the citizens in perpetual penury. Their motto is, “Let the world identify our corrupt leaders, and know that Nigerians are leery of their own leaders. Let their future generation know that their progenitors are armed robbers, thieves and pen rogues”.  

But the display on goes further. In keeping with the tradition of the EFCC; it does not only display the names and the faces of the ‘corrupt rulers’, it backs the charge up with hard data.

This is an appropriate response to the epistle according to Michael Aondoakaa that there is no convincing evidence or information about the cases to warrant the prosecution of anyone, the government is handicapped. For added effect he said: “All these names you get, let me make it clear to you, government does not prosecute out of the newspaper reports”.

As pointed out today by Simon Kolawole of ThisDay, “No matter our misgivings with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and his anti-graft war, he did what no head of state had ever done: sack an Inspector-General of Police, remove ministers and prosecute ex-governors all for corruption. You can say he was selective or vindictive, but for as long as no innocent person was persecuted, the vindictive argument would remain tenuous”.

However, as the two efforts mentioned above show, on fighting corruption in Nigeria, the initiative is being taken away from the hands of the government.