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Corruption: Making the EFCC more effective

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EFCC PHOTO:Twitter


The recently released 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), in which Nigeria scored 25 over 100 points and thereby moved down to 149 rank out of 180 countries shows that the war against corruption is not making the desired impact.

It is unimaginable that at a time Nigeria claims to be waging a fierce battle against corruption, rather than moving up, the country dropped three steps down from the 146 position she scored in 2019. Analysts say this is the worst ranking since 2015 when the anti-corruption battle was launched.

According to Transparency International (TI), Nigeria’s rating was based on lack of transparency, nepotism, lack of better anti-corruption legal framework and the way bribery and extortion pervades the Nigeria Police.

Interestingly, the damming ranking for Nigeria came at a time a new anti-corruption czar was appointed by President Buhari to head the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the person of AbdulRasheed Bawa. The damming score presents a daunting task for Bawa. Can he make a difference?

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TI defined corruption as the misuse of entrusted power for private gains. However, corruption does not necessarily entail breaking the law. It has been observed that in many corrupt societies, the legal system is quite flawed. Corruption essentially is about breaking socially established norms of appropriate behavior. The most cited forms of corruption are bribes and kickbacks, which include payment of a fixed sum, a certain percentage of a contract or in-kind favors.

Fraud involves manipulation or distortion of information, facts and expertise for private gain by people entrusted to cater for the public good. Fraud is a purposeful act and does not include unwilling misconduct or negligence. Favoritism, clientelism, cronyism and nepotism are all forms of corruption. They entail the use of entrusted power to provide preferential treatment to friends, family, kin or anybody close. These forms of corruption stand out, as they concern the distribution of resources as opposed to its accumulation. In Nigeria, ethnic sentiments thrive always based on these forms of corruption.

Corruption is active when political influence is used to get preferential treatment like in the award of contracts. There is passive corruption when a public official overlooks the pollution of a water source. That means negligence and abdication of responsibility are corrupt practices, passively, in the sense that money may not have been involved. However, the fact that the responsible public official failed to perform his duty, which in turn affects the people and the economy makes it corruption. Passive corruption is partly responsible for the decay of our infrastructural facilities nationwide.

There is distinction between grand and petty corruption. Grand corruption is typically less frequent but involves sweeping huge sums of money being amassed by the corrupt officials. This is the type of corruption that involves highly placed public officials. The public officials involved in this type of corruption adopt the hit and run strategy because as political appointees, they have limited time to stay in office. They exploit the opportunity offered by their offices to amass as much wealth as possible within the shortest possible time. In Nigeria, these corrupt officials believe that nothing would happen to them which is why the EFCC should change that notion. Those involved in grand corruption constitute only about 2 per cent of the population. So far, the EFCC has focused its searchlight on this small group, leaving the other 98 percent of the Nigerian population.

Ironically, the 98 per cent of Nigerians are involved in petty corruption. This is more frequent and involves lesser sums of money or favors. This form of corruption is endemic and widespread. When we say that corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society, it is this form of corruption that is mainly referred. Because petty corruption is most widespread, it is the most destructive. It causes go-slow in every sector of the economy and stalls the wheel of progress. Since no individual is immune to corruption, virtually every person is involved, from the office messenger (who would deliberately misplace someone’s file), to the permanent secretary who manipulates information and resources.

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Also, there is institutional corruption. This is where public institutions overtly or covertly aid and abet corruption. The DISCOs are in the practice of issuing illegal estimated electric bills to consumers. The company forces consumers to pay fraudulent electric bills for services not rendered. The Water Corporation also deliberately issues consumers with fraudulent water bills, which they are forced to pay. The various examination bodies are in the habit of issuing unmerited grades to some candidates. While this can’t be said to be officially approved, institutions such as JAMB and WAEC are aware that such illegal practices are being perpetrated by some of their unscrupulous staffers yet they do nothing to stop it. Some universities are literally selling honorary degrees to dubious and questionable characters for monetary benefits.

The foregoing shows the various forms of corruption and their dynamics in Nigeria. There would be no eradication of corruption in Nigeria unless its roots were uprooted. The EFCC has the option of waging the war on all fronts at the same time or adopting a more institutionalised systematic approach. It is easier to deal with the lesser devil than the big one.

The EFCC is the most important thing in this dispensation. This is because corruption has literally held Nigeria hostage. There is practically nothing that is working; no sector of the economy is exempt; the federal government is involved; no state government is exempt and no local government council is free from it. Consequently, no amount of reforms will change the fortunes of this country as long as there is this ravaging corruption in the land. Corrupt public and private interests would always thwart the well-intentioned government programs to their own advantage.

The result of the debilitating corruption is that living in Nigeria has become a nightmare. The country’s global image is tainted. The EFCC must be made strong enough for it to confront the corruption monster. One thing that would make this country move forward is a return to a corruption free society, where public officials would see their position as a call to service and not an opportunity to amass wealth to the detriment of the people. What the EFCC has done so far is a tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the task is yet undone. If the EFCC is really serious and committed to eradicating corruption, as Nigerians are desirous, it should be made stronger along the following lines:

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(a) Adopt a sectoral approach in the fight. There is presently no clear-cut approach in the prosecution of the corruption war by the EFCC. The only thing that is apparent is that most of the culprits arrested and or prosecuted so far are political figures. This gives the impression that only politicians are targeted. It is also on this perception that EFCC is being accused of being partisan and selective. But corruption in Nigeria is a general malaise involving the citizenry. There is corruption in every aspect of the economy – water sector, education sector, banking sector, social service sector, etc. The EFCC should create departments to deal with corruption on sector by sector basis. This would make this campaign achieve the desired objective of stamping out corruption.

(b) Open state offices nationwide. Nigeria is very large and the task at hand enormous. The EFCC cannot fight corruption effectively all over the nation from Abuja only. There should be offices in every state capital equally equipped and strong enough to fish out corrupt persons at every nook and cranny of the states. EFCC should be resident in the states to avoid the situation where corrupt officials desert their offices each time EFCC personnel go to the states. If the EFCC is resident in the states and be part of the daily affairs, corrupt persons would have no hiding place.

(c) Boost manpower capability. The EFCC should increase the number of its personnel. There are thousands of qualified graduates throughout the federation who should be recruited and trained to raise the tempo of the anti-corruption campaign nationwide. The task is much and the road rough, therefore more hands are needed in the commission to prosecute this campaign.

(d) Increase budget. The task before the EFCC cannot be accomplished with empty hand. This organisation which has the potential to save this nation from failing should not be starved of funds. The EFCC should have adequate budget to prosecute its anti-corruption war. The success of the EFCC is in the national interest. If the EFCC fails, the country is doomed.

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(e) Merge the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) with the EFCC. These two organisations are essentially doing the same thing. Having the two as they are now amounts to duplication of duties. The two bodies should be merged and their resources pooled together to boost the cause of the campaign. The National Assembly should review the Act setting up the two and create a big organisation that would match the task at hand. Many Nigerians share this view. Also, a group in the United States, Africans in America Inc., had expressed the need to merge the two bodies for effectiveness.

(f) The campaign against corruption should not be limited to what is happening now. The battle should be extended to what happened in the past. The corruption and atrocities committed against the nation and its people in the past should be revisited. Those who looted the treasury in the past should be called to question even if they have left the public service.

(g) The EFCC should be independent and autonomous not attached to the whims and caprices of the president or anyone else. This is the only way the organisation would be able to perform its duty without hindrance.

It is important to stress that water is used to wash dirty stuff. But if water becomes dirty and filthy, it can no longer be used to wash anything. If the EFCC becomes corrupt and compromised, then the country is doomed. The EFCC should remain above board and maintain high integrity at all times for it to succeed in this battle.

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