EFCC and the extinction of an equalizer
First, Ibrahim Magu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wore a badge promoting the second-term ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari to an official function. Then, shortly after the All Progressives Congress roared to victory in the Ekiti State gubernatorial elections, the EFCC fired off a controversial tweet that was at once gloating and grotesque.
The greatest gift that democracy gives is the grail of the rule of law. From this grail, futilely sought in most of the developing world, comes, arguably, democracy`s most glittering garland: equality before the law. Section 17(2a) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(As amended). Equality of all persons and places before the law. In entrenching this equality, the law acts as an eminent equalizer.
In acting as an eminent equalizer, the law expects and irreducibly demands that all those who profess to act under its dictates, mandates and prescripts do not act or refrain from acting in infraction of its equality or even a perception of such an infraction. The EFCC by the action of its highest office holder and the agency of its twitter handle has shown that it does not give a monkey`s.
Since a seismic shift in the political puzzles of Nigeria unexpectedly launched President Muhammadu Buhari into power in May 2015, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, oddly quiet and subdued in the previous administration, has whirled to life. Its frenzy of activities has shaken Nigeria at its core, leaving a long trail of triumphs and recriminations. The reasons are near us. President Muhammadu Buhari, vaunted by many for his whistle-clean public office record, had as earlier as his victory speech vowed not to tolerate corruption. On assumption into office, Nigerians were feverish with expectation, for if there is one thing Nigerians hold responsible for the near comatose state of the country, it is the ravenous cancer of corruption. President Buhari, it seemed, immediately deployed the EFCC to battle corruption. It is proving a long and costly battle. Not that Nigerians really mind. Nigerians recognize that unless the leaks are plugged and plugged fast, the ship will continue to sink and the saboteurs of the Nigerian cause will win. However, detractors and even some neutrals alike have cast wary and weary eyes at the zeal and zest with which the EFCC is going after corruption and those who sow it in Nigeria.
Firstly, the EFCC is haunted by its own history. In a country of many competing interests like Nigeria, everything can quickly be soiled by the stain of politics, ethnicity or religion. This makes any sensitive assignment particularly tricky. EFCC, from its very beginnings, has always been commissioned for sensitively critical national assignments. In the course of carrying out these assignments, many toes have been mangled, many oxes gored. The expostulations have been expectedly shrill from many who feel that the EFCC always acts as a battering ram against the political foes of whoever is in power. The EFCC has not always helped with its feeble defence of its occasionally curious actions. For a body entrusted with the task of fighting a monster as reprehensible as corruption, any action which calls into question its independence, integrity and impartiality is a grave one, made graver by the frighteningly steep consequences it can spawn.
Secondly, Magu, the current acting chairman of the EFCC has had a running battle in the court of public opinion. This battle has found its way into Nigeria`s highest legislative body – the Senate on more than one occasion. The reservations Nigeria`s most prominent legislators have about him explain why he is yet to be confirmed. Yet, it seems he does not care in the slightest. Possibly, his non – confirmation is a political stand-off, yet, it is safe to say that he did not exactly cover himself in glory on the occasions he appeared before the Nigerian senate. By wearing the pro-Buhari lapel and overseeing the office which tore out the tweet, he has stripped the critical institution he represents of crucial layers of glory.
The fact that the law equalises all of us in Nigeria is a chillingly bitter pill most public officers would rather avoid. This is most unfortunate because in trying to avoid the equality of the law, they become saboteurs desperate to savage the Nigerian cause. All public officers are in a position to propound and promote the equality of the law by their words and actions. Yet, most would rather not. They would rather the law is malleable, docile to subjective interpretations and applications. They would rather things remain the way they are with a fraction of the citizenry cruising in opulence while large sections lurch about in indigence. However, let all those who wield any form of public power remember the many perils the law keeps away from us and recall the words of Italian letter carrier, Claudio Paolini, who said that “If the law must be equal for all, then it should be equal also for those who represent us.”
Obiezu wrote from Abuja.