The recent exchange between Bello Matawalle, the outgoing governor of Zamfara State, and Abdulrasheed Bawa the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have been comical if it weren’t almost tragic.
Nigeria is a country burdened with corruption. That this burden as costly as it is does not generate the amount of bother it ought to speaks more to the nonchalance of a country headed for the rocks than to the cost of corruption on the country’s resources.
Before Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the extremely perfidious military regimes had ensured that the foundations of corruption were firmly laid in the country. Years of free-flowing oil wealth and weak institutions embarrassed by their inability to demand accountability from thieving autocrats had set up Nigeria to always struggle to account for every kobo coming from its oil.
When he became President in 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo just like other presidents that have since come after him pledged to give corruption a fight. This presidential desire expressed as action was undoubtedly what led to the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2002.
Upon its establishment, the Commission, like a rabid dog, was tasked with going after those who, having had the opportunity, sold Nigeria short, spiriting away humongous sums of money in the process.
Under Obasanjo, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu chaired the EFCC bringing the anti-corruption body through some of its best days. If Nigeria’s quest to recover her money senselessly stolen by criminals masquerading as public officers was always a thing of beauty, it was not always without blood.
The commission has witnessed some brutal days in which it was left with a bloody nose as it went after the big beasts of Nigeria’s corruption. In a country where everything can be easily and effortlessly sensationalized, the commission has been caught in its fair share of headwinds in its anti-corruption mission.
A lot of these headwinds have been political, the handiwork of corrupt and compromised public officers desperate to shield their loot and lackeys from the long arm of the law.
Unfortunately for the EFCC and Nigerians, pervasive politics has sometimes penetrated the highest decision-making quarters in the country to ensure that corruption got away. A case in point was in 2022, when the Council of States sat and decided to free Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, two ex-governors who had been convicted for stealing billions of Naira in office. Their trial had taken a tyrannical toll on the EFCC in terms of cost and effort.
Under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari who is counting days to leave office, the EFCC has huffed and puffed but done little else amidst swirling allegations that it has been nothing more than a tool of political vendetta in the hands of the present administration. It has appeared like this for eight years now.
In Nigeria, 36 states orbit the Federal Capital Territory. Each of these states has a state governor who has almost absolute powers within their states. Experience has lavishly shown that many of these governors suffer from the corruption of power.
With many of the state governors counting days to leave office and thereby shed their immunity like snakes shedding skins, trepidation has engulfed many of them over their fate when they leave office, especially as they would be unable to account for how they spent money accruing to their states while in office.
The EFCC recently beamed Its searchlight on Bello Matawalle, the outgoing Zamfara State Government. Characteristically, the commission has sought to sensationalize the fact that it is looking into allegations of misappropriation of public funds against Matawalle.
But Matawalle has fought back in a manner only dirty Nigerian politicians know how to. He has without mincing words accused the EFCC Chiarman Bawa of demanding the sum of $2 million dollars from him. Of course, Bawa has denied the allegation, hinting that Matawalle would be arrested once he leaves office.
Who should Nigerians believe now? Between a commission that has somehow conspired to hemorrhage itself of every last drop of credibility and a governor who belongs to the league of those who have bled Nigeria dry, whose words can Nigerians afford to take with more than a pinch of salt?
It would be Interesting to see what happens once Matawalle leaves office, but what is obvious is that a crucial anti-corruption war continues to hit unnecessary roadblocks because avoidable credibility issues plague those who should lead the fight.