By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers, living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gaining at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions. How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our worrying about these questions but almost all of us worry about them some of the time”, (Stephen Hawking & Leaonard Mlodinow; “The Grand Design”).
I was actually going through this amazing book which i picked up in Stratford in the United kingdom in April which incidentally is jointly authored by a physicist and another world’s acclaimed cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking alongside another book by Dean Burnett titled “The idiot brain” when it occurred to me that too many things are indeed wrong about modalities for law enforcement in Nigeria.
I observed that there are too much of conflicts of functions and bitter inter-agency rivalries to an extent that one is forced to reflect on what indeed is the grand design for establishing these law enforcement institutions?
What really informed the establishment of the different security agencies and why are there too much of conflicts and what seems like organized confusion on the specific grand designs and mandates for each of these agencies?
For instance, last week, the Nigerian police force raided a night club in Abuja and physically tortured girls who were reportedly dancing nude. Some of these girls alleged that they were sexually violated by some of these police operatives that came in the name of Abuja Environmental Protection Agency.
The question that arouse from this despicable act of these rogue police operatives is why officials of the anti-human trafficking agency (NAPTIP) did not embark on this specific raid rather than these highly untrained and poorly behaved police operatives.
Also, in Calabar, Cross Rivers state, the officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) reportedly invaded a brothel and arrested prostitutes and their patrons and handed them over to the NAPTIP office.
Now, you want to find out why the secret police or the Department of State Services (DSS) should get involved in this ordinarily routine policing job that could have been done by NAPTIP and the police.
I was told that NAPTIP and police have been having running battles because the police often give out tips to human traffickers whenever they are given tips that NAPTIP is about to raid a premises to arrest suspected human traffickers and owners of brothels whereby underage girls are kept for commercial sexual activities.
I am told that NAPTIP would rather embark on operations with the DSS instead of police because the DSS do tend to keep secrets of would-be operations close to their chests.
However, the father of all confusion is when we keep reading of several raids and parade of young boys by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which often accuse these boys of engaging in advanced fees fraud or what is commonly known as 419 which is the digit of the criminal code that outlaws obtaining money by tricks (OBT).
So the question that should be asked is what really is the grand design for the formation of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? Was EFCC set up to go after “Yahoo Yahoo” boys who really do not constitute serious national security threats to our national economy as such which ordinarily should be the exclusive preserve for the police?
Has the police force collapsed to an extent that catching “yahoo yahoo” boys some of whom are paraded for duping unsuspecting foreigners of money as small as $1,000 (one thousand dollars) has become the primary and almost exclusive mandate of a multibillion Naira funded EFCC?
A certain fraudster in Sokoto was even paraded by EFCC for stealing ATM cards and defrauding the owners of one hundred and twenty thousand naira only.
Was this the reason for setting up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the Olusegun Obasanjo – led administration for which billions of tax payers’ funds have been used to administer this anti-corruption agency or is the framing of the enabling law faulty to such an extent that catching small fraudsters become the major task of EFCC whereas big thieves in government offices and their cronies with links to the ruling class are walking free?
Although it can be argued that the activities of fraudsters have brought terrible image to Nigeria to an extent that foreign direct investors are weary of doing businesses with even genuine local investors. But come to think of it, do we not have a police force that should take charge of arresting and prosecuting these “yahoo yahoo” boys whilst the EFCC go after politically exposed persons who are engaged in serious crimes?
In the United Kingdom, there is the serious fraud office that investigates and prosecutes serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption. It is this agency which is what EFCC in Nigeria is patterned after that deals with complex cases of fraud involving serious criminals such as those politicians who divert public budgets for roads, hospitals, schools to their private offshore and onshore accounts.
There is also the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom otherwise called MET.
This policing institution it is that which handles such anti-social behavioral crimes like what these small criminals known as “yahoo yahoo” boys do. Metropolitan Police deal with cases of fraud whereas the serious crimes office deals with the big crooks.
Why has the EFCC in Nigeria reduced itself to a small agency that now operates based on hearsay and gossips and goes about arresting persons whose only offence is that an angry neighbor reported to EFCC that the person just bought a brand new motorcycle?
Basically, the major reason for setting up EFCC is because of the need to have a very strong institution of law enforcement that would serve as effective bulwark against complex and serious economic and financial crimes by big time players in both public and private sectors whose criminal activities cripple Nigeria’s economy.
These big criminals are all over the place and the EFCC is well aware of this fact and ought to know the grand design for establishing that institution for which tax payers fund worth over #20 billion was spent by this current government to set up an imposing administrative office in a choice area in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
For instance, a citizen recently urged EFCC to investigate the immediate past governor of Edo state who is the national chairman of All Progressives Congress – the current president who anointed Ibrahim Magu as acting chairman and has kept him on that job even when he failed to secure the mandatory legislative confirmation. But EFCC failed to act.
This petitioner went to Federal High Court for mandamus to force EFCC to open up investigation on accusation of theft of humongous wealth belonging to Edo state. EFCC asked the court not to grant the mandamus even as the court comically struck out the matter on the ground that the citizen who came to court could have done so within 3 months that Adam Oshiomhole left office and that in any event, the EFCC can still bring up the matter. Case closed. The man accused of siphoning billions of dollars belonging to Edo state is moving about not only a free man but the big boss of these EFCC officials. Governor Rochas Okorocha has just stated that Adams Oshiomhole is manipulating the EFCC to go after him. Although Okorocha has a case to answer going by the economic devastation he unleashed on Imo state, but his comment goes to show that EFCC may have lost its bearing.
Why is the EFCC afraid of going after politically exposed persons accused of corruption only because they are in the good books of the current president? Why is EFCC fixated on chasing after “yahoo yahoo” boys when even right next to them, there are widespread allegations of crimes in places as strategic as Aso Rock clinics, NNPC, National Insurance Scheme and even within the presidency? What about the big pension thief who is a top member of APC now?
President Olusegun Obasanjo, as he then was when he established EFCC said that: “Bad governance – at once the cause and effect of corruption and economic crime – has for long frustrated our ability to bring development, progress and prosperity to our people.”
The EFCC was established because of the determination of the Federal Government to combat fraudulent activities of some Nigerians and foreigners, mismanagement in the economic sector, corruption by public officials and lack of accountability and transparency that led to the listing of Nigeria as a haven for money laundering and other financial crimes. The EFCC was therefore established with the mandate to sanitize the system, so says an entry in an official website.
How is the Commission managed on a day-to-day basis? Officially, the structure of the commission consists of: Board; Management; Directorates and Units.
The Board provides policy direction for the operations of the Commission and it’s composed of the Executive Chairman, Secretary to the Commission/Head of secretariat and members representing various interests and institutions. The Management of the Commission has the Executive Chairman as the Chief Executive, assisted by the Secretary to the Commission/Head of secretariat. Others are Heads of Departments and Units. The Departments and Units are established to undertake the day-to-day running of the Commission.
The EFCC board consists of twenty two (22) members and the Secretary to the Commission, who is also the head of administration.
What laws does EFCC enforce?
By Section 7(2) of the Establishment Act 2004; EFCC is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of laws relating to economic and financial crimes, including:
· The Money Laundering (Amendment) Act 2004 and 2013 as amended
· The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006
· The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, 1994
· The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991; and
· Miscellaneous Offences Act, 1985;
· Any other law relating to economic and financial crimes including the criminal code and the penal code
· Terrorism Act, 2011
So how is EFCC funded? The EFCC receives its funding from the Federal government of Nigeria and sometimes, technical support from donor agencies.
To the important question on what Section of the EFCC Act empowers the Commission to prosecute people living above their known means of livelihood, we officially learnt that: “Section 7 (1) (b) of the EFCC Act 2004 empowers the agency to cause investigation to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s life style and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”
The last section mentioned here is misunderstood by the EFCC’S current officials to mean that EFCC is now basically an anti-yahoo yahoo agency. The background of EFCC started from chasing after big thieves and multibillion dollars fraudsters.
“The historical background to the existence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission derives from the recognition from the late 1980’s of the need to create a special interventionist agency to investigate economic and financial crimes. At that time, the menace of Advance fee Fraud, with its negative impact on Nigeria had been recognized. At the same time, it was recognized that the sophistication of economic crimes were such that there might be the need for a special Commission to handle its investigation and prosecution as opposed to the regular law enforcement agencies”.
“By 2002, Nigeria found its way in the Financial Action Task Force’s list of Non-Cooperative Countries and one of the conditions for being taken off that list was compliance with Recommendation 26 of the FATF’s then 49 recommendations, which required the creation of a Financial Intelligence Unit. Consequently, the EFCC was created in 2002 and Nigeria’s Financial intelligence Unit domiciled therewith. The Statute creating the EFCC was first enacted in 2002 and subsequently re-enacted in 2004. The EFCC started operations in 2003” (Farida Wairi, retired Assistant Inspector General of police; in a paper dated 7th May 2011).
The Statute creating the EFCC vested it with the mandate to:
1. Investigate and prosecute economic and Financial Crimes. Section 47 of the enabling acts sets out financial crimes to cover several issues such as bank frauds, tax evasion, capital market fraud, futures market frauds, etc.
2. Be the national coordinator for anti-money laundering.
3. Be the designated Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.
4. Implement the provisions of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, Failed Banks Decree, Money Laundering Act and the Banks and other Financial Institutions Decree.
Farida Waziri said thus: “From a practical point of view, the EFCC sees its mandate as the provision of financial security for the Nigerian economy. It implements the mandate through tackling those menaces such as official corruption, tax evasion, bank fraud, Advance fee fraud, illegal bunkering and several other shades of economic crimes that can distort key economic indices and inhibit growth. It also seeks to create a level playing field for all stakeholders within the Economy”.
In as much as this writer has not under estimated the gravity of the offence of advanced fees fraud, i do think that EFCC should let the Nigerian police force to go after these small rogues whilst EFCC concentrate on going after big rogues who today wine and dine in State House in Abuja and government houses all over the nation.