- Group urges Buhari to call anti-graft agency to order over Saraki
- Senate president not above the law, commission insists
Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has explained that the anti-graft agency intervened in the recent general election in Nigeria, in order to checkmate and prevent the moneybags from determining the emergence of leaders arising from the polls.
This is coming as a pro-democracy group, The Advocates for New Nigeria (TANN), has however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call Magu, to order over his incessant harassment of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and members of the opposition.
But the anti-graft agency yesterday insisted that the Senate president was not above the law.
The Head, Media and Publicity of the commission, Tony Orilade, in a statement issued yesterday quoted Magu as stating this in Kampala, Uganda, during the ongoing 9th Commonwealth Regional Conference for Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa.
In a paper titled “Creative Initiatives in the Fight against Corruption in Nigeria”, Magu who is also the outgoing Chairman of the Commonwealth Regional Conference, noted that the EFCC’s intervention during the presidential and National Assembly elections on March 9, and the governorship and state assembly elections on March 23 paid off with positive results.
While disclosing that huge cash of different denominations were seized from politicians and their associates, Magu added that arrested perpetrators of the infamous act were already being prosecuted, just as a councillor from Gombe State has been convicted.
“For the first time in the history of electioneering in Nigeria, operatives of the commission were deployed to monitor polling stations and collation centres to discourage vote buying.
“The efforts culminated in some cash seizure and arrests. Some of those arrested have been prosecuted and convicted. The presence of EFCC operatives, according to some of the election monitors, was a major deterrence to dubious politicians and their associates”, Magu added.
He said that with the general election slated for first quarter of 2019, the focus of the commission’s enforcement activities in 2018 was checking money laundering and illicit financial flows, saying steps were taken to explore the relationships that exist between the EFCC and other ACAs especially in the West African sub-region to tighten the screws and make trans border cash smuggling difficult.
He said: “Strategic deterrence meetings were held with compliance officers and chief executives of deposit money banks and Bureaux De Change to prevail on them not to allow their institutions to be used as platforms for money laundering by politicians.
“International airports and other exit ports in the country were placed under surveillance, leading to huge cash seizures at a few Airports.”
Sharing his experience and the achievements of the EFCC under his watch, Magu revealed that the agency secured 189 convictions in 2017 and recovered more than N437 billion, $98 million €7 million and £294,000.
Magu said: “We have sustained the momentum. Indeed, the Commission’s movement into a new head office complex, which commissioning was witnessed by some of you, energised the workforce, resulting in dramatic improvements in all the mandate areas of the commission.
“In the last one year, the commission almost doubled its conviction return with a record 315 convictions in 2018 and over N236.16 billion worth of assets recovered.
“Assets forfeited in the year include 350 properties, 141 automobiles, 100 real estate, three vessels, 37 plots of land, two hotels, one barge, gas petrol stations and 44 bank accounts.”
Regarding the tackling of corruption, the EFCC boss said there was the need for the people to own the fight, saying that the way forward remains active participation by the people and other stakeholders.
Magu said: “Tackling corruption in a complex multi-ethnic society with a population of nearly 200 million people requires a robust prevention strategy. There is so much the anti-corruption agencies can do without a buy-in by the people.
“Public ownership of the fight against corruption is therefore pivotal to any quest for success in the fight against corruption In Nigeria or elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy group, TANN, has called on President Buhari to call Magu, to order over his incessant harassment of Saraki and members of the opposition.
In a statement by its National President, Abdulrahman Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, TANN specifically questioned EFCC’s rationale for probing Saraki’s salaries, emoluments, estacodes and other payments while he was in office as governor between 2003 and 2011 – eight years after he left office.
It wondered whether Saraki is the only public officer who left office within the period.
The group queried why he should singled out for such investigation.
The group noted that the EFCC has refused to be professional, especially the way and manner it chases perceived enemies, thus becoming his weakest link in the realisation of the anti-graft war.
“Magu’s obviously bitter chase after Saraki is worthy of concern for everyone, who can see the pattern and where it could lead the nation.”
“An adage in Yoruba says when you chase after a man unsuccessfully, wisdom presupposes that you cease to chase after such a person and instead, retreat tactically for a review of strategy. Unfortunately, the EFCC is not guided by this age-old wisdom.”
Speaking on the latest move against the Senate president, the group said, “The commission is asking to probe into Saraki’s salaries, emoluments, estacodes and other payments while he was in office as governor between 2003 and 2011 – eight years after he’s left office – for what? Is Saraki the only one who finished within the period? Why single out the man for no reason in the name of doing what investigation?
“This is particularly curious when indeed there are governors, who just finished from office a few months ago, with a legion of petitions already in their trail. The EFCC chairman has descended fully into the arena and this is worrisome, because a critical national institution is being subjected to personal use and victimisation of both perceived and real enemies,” the group explained.
Meanwhile, the EFCC yesterday declared that the Senate president was not above the law.
In a statement signed by Acting Spokesman of the agency, Tony Orilade, the commission said the move to investigate Saraki was in tandem with its obligations by law to enthrone probity and accountability in the public space, which it pursued “without ill-will or malice against anyone”.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has taken note of the reactions of the Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki to the commission’s inquiries regarding his earnings as Kwara State governor as well as on the quality of his financial stewardship in the Senate.
“While it is his prerogative to ventilate his views on the matter as he deems fit, the commission takes great exception at the desperate attempt to cast a slur on its investigative activities by portraying Saraki as a victim of persecution,” he said.
EFCC said it “finds the attempt by the Senate President to tie our inquest to his International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) appointment and his approaching life out of power as misleading, knowing too well that the background to our current inquiries reaches several years back.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC is obligated by law to enthrone probity and accountability in the governance space and has supremely pursued this duty without ill-will or malice against anyone.”
“It is in the interest of the public, and for Saraki’s personal good, that he is not only above board, but be seen at all times to be so”.
The agency said “all the instances in which the EFCC have had cause to probe into his financial activities either as a former governor or president of the Senate were driven by overarching public interest and due process of the law.
“Against the background of the possession of indicting petitions and other evidence available to the EFCC, even Saraki will agree with the commission that putting him through a legitimate forensic inquiry is the legitimate route to establish his integrity as a public servant”.
The statement further noted that “the distinguished Senate President has no need to fret so long as he has no skeletons in his cupboard.
“The commission has a sacred mandate to rid the country of corruption and corrupt elements and restates its unflinching resolve to achieve these, no matter whose ox is gored,” the statement added.