Friday, 2nd June 2023

EFCC and politically exposed persons 

By Zubaida Baba Ibrahim 
10 May 2021   |   3:11 am
It is no more news that a former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha was recently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)


It is no more news that a former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha was recently arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged misappropriation of government assets. Yet, it whets my interest to know why EFCC has not been proactive on its statutory mandates. Money laundering and embezzlement by Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) in Nigeria have become unstoppable despite the number of agencies put in place to rigorously implement the prevention and enforcement of Anti-money laundering (AML) regime. 

Contextually, it should be mentioned that falling under the threshold of the PEP isn’t synonymous with being corrupt; however, it puts them at high risk of money laundering because of their substantial authority over state assets, funds, and other public expenditure.  

Nonetheless, the likes of Late Nigerian President Sani Abacha, Former Delta State Governor James Ibori and now Imo west senate representative, Mr. Okorocha, have unfortunately made the phrase a euphemism for a person who is fraudulent. 
The methods by which PEPs launder money have become no secret to the common Nigerian in recent times. It is well known that financial institutions are the insidious arrangers. 
According to EFCC pioneer boss, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, several money laundering frauds in Nigeria happened with the active connivance of banks and their workers. In fact, Nigerian banks and other financial institutions involvements in money laundering has put the nation on the pedestal as one of the most corrupt countries in the globe.  
But for their crooked contributions and violation of the Anti-Money Laundering (AML), the fight against money laundering may have been triumphant.

The perilousness of it all has deterred the growth of the country among the comity of nations, with over 70% of its citizens earning below minimum income required to secure basic necessities for survival, while a few are in possession of the combined wealth of the disparate group.

Despite being Africa’s largest economy, this grim statistics is evidence that money laundering by the PEPs has had serious ramification on Nigeria’s financial, economic, political and social growth, making its inhabitants suffer the more. 

Undoubtedly, the nation has created significant tactics to curb this menace by establishing varying regulatory mechanisms and institutions that enact certain laws, yet there are issues affecting its efforts. So it is kind of one step forward two steps backwards.  Some of the challenges affecting the results are conflicting messages from the government; taking advantage of the crime-fighting agencies as a tool to exact vengeance; judicial corruption, and immunity clause. These elements have made whatever progress made to be considered microscopic in comparison to the damage it continues to inflict. 

Seeing that the Commission’s reactions to money laundering have become redundant with PEPs being almost untouched, the question still remains as to why can’t the Commission proactively keep an “eagle’s eye” before these ruses of corruption and political chicanery occur? Why can’t it be prevented?  

The EFCC (Establishment) Act Section 6, states that the Commission shall be responsible for the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc. In addition, section 7(2) of the Act also states that the Commission shall be the coordinating agency for the enforcement of the provision of the Bank and Other Financial Institutions (BOFIA) Act as amended. 

The failure of Nigerian banks to abide by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act that impels financial institutions and designated non-financial institutions to report to the EFCC transactions, lodgments or transfer of funds in excess of 5 million within 7 days is already punishable by law. But how many banks have been sanctioned because of negligence to fulfil the reporting obligation? And even if reported, how many have been investigated up to a conclusion based on this report?

It makes one believe that the AML system is only ‘for show’ and not for use. The disposition of the government and anti-graft agencies, if anything, has only made it convenient for banks to operate with a devil-may-care attitude, having little to no regard for anti-money laundering obligations. 

For the anti-corruption agency to think that financial institutions will be of help in the enforcement of the AML when enablers and culprits are stakeholders is a fallacy. It is pertinent for anti-corruption bodies, especially the EFCC and its sister agency Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC) to strike the iron while it is hot.  
Let them investigate and bring money laundering facilitators to book. They should make scapegoats of the perpetrators forewarn other syndicates if they must prove that they mean serious business in curbing money laundering. 
Ibrahim wrote from Wuye District, Abuja.