There is more that could be done to restore sanity to the agencies

The drama at the home of a former Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Ita Ekpeyong last Tuesday between men of the DSS and operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was a sad development that exposed not only the failure of our national security infrastructure but also that of leadership. While the DSS and the EFCC have been at loggers for over a year following a damning report by the former to the Senate not to confirm the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, the latest development has raised a most pertinent question: how could the state permit armed men representing two agencies of the same government to clash so openly and disgracefully?

Before the Senate decided to set up an ad hoc committee to probe the incident, many lawmakers had expressed the feelings of Nigerians on the disgraceful episode. “This is the first time we’ll see gross irresponsibility in government whereby there is no arbiter; no one to come in between two agencies that belong to one person. The two agencies report to the Presidency and now we find them fighting on the pages of newspapers, it’s a shame”, said Senator Abiodun Olujinmi, a view we ardently share.

It is unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari has allowed the situation to degenerate to this level. No decent society should condone the pervading lawlessness. If Mr Ekpeyong is wanted by the EFCC on credible grounds of criminal infraction, it is wrong, if not criminal, for the DSS to use their operatives to block his lawful arrest. On the other hand, Magu must realise that the EFCC remains a civil commission, not a Gestapo outfit. Storming the residence of a former security chief with combat ready squads of goons is not exactly a civilised alternative to courteous invitations.

While the DSS stands condemned for its indefensible action, what the EFCC has also failed to understand is that we live in a nation governed mostly by perceptions. Once someone’s home is subjected to armed official invasion, their innocence in court becomes difficult to prove while the trauma to the suspect’s public image is irreversible. But more importantly regarding the current issue, agencies of government must not be seen to be in open conflict. We therefore call for an approach that goes beyond drama to a sustainable solution that rests on a proper understanding of the issues involved.

Meanwhile, it must be said that dealing with the kind of allegations the EFCC is investigating requires some measure of tact and sobriety. It is not something that can be subjected to media sensation lest national security is compromised. But the person who bears the ultimate responsibility in this unfortunate drama is President Buhari who must demonstrate leadership by resolving whatever the differences are between the heads of these two critical agencies. Besides, the untidy, if not cynical, manner in which the confirmation of Magu has been handled by the presidency calls to question the leadership being exhibited at the highest level in our country.

While we believe it is important to quickly resolve the issue of Magu’s confirmation at the Senate, the EFCC as an institution under him also needs to change tactics. As we have consistently argued on this page, a war against corruption that is guided only by a blanket notion of naming and shaming will ultimately exhaust its ammunition and record ephemeral success. Fighting corruption in an environment such as ours goes beyond the sensational arrest of persons to putting in place structures that will lead to trials and convictions of those that are guilty without tarnishing the reputation of innocent citizens.