The Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is an agency of government I admire greatly since its creation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and when its pioneer chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu held sway. Those were the days when the fear of the EFCC was the beginning of wisdom for all especially the guilty ones, and there were many guilty ones then and even now.
It has not always been smooth for the agency as it has always been trailed by criticism. During the Obasanjo’s years, it was accused of being a tool for political witchunt. The President, Obasanjo was accused of siccing the agency on perceived enemies. Over the years , the criticisms have not stopped. Another of the major accusations against EFCC is its being high-handed. That most of the people accused of corruption had been adjudged guilty by the agency even before they were taken to trial. There have also been complaints about the gestapo-like arrest method of the EFCC which reminded one of the Hitlerian period. But the most enduring of the angst against EFCC is what has been considered its media trial of suspects or its victims. Those invited are alleged to have been demonized and adjudged guilty before being taken to court. When any high profile individual is arrested, the media is immediately awash with the result of the incomplete investigation of the agency. It is a known fact that some of these stories are also pushed out by the agency. Some people would say the criticism against EFCC would not stop because of the job it is doing- bringing the corrupt to justice.
But are there any substances in the allegations against the agency? Could the EFCC have done its job differently? What happens to people who had been dragged before the public through the media and have not been found guilty of any offense? Do we even have such cases in this country? It is rare. All are guilty and have fallen short of the honesty standard. It is even more difficult in this clime where poverty is rife and lip service is only paid to the welfare of the masses of this country. As a Nigerian, my take has always been for the anti-corruption agencies to fight and bring to justice all those who had brought this country to this sorry pass. Though the EFCC has the mandate to do this, some of us still believe that the war against corruption is selective and the action of EFCC is selective. Not only that, the EFCC is seen to be working towards the answer in its anti-corruption crusade. Let’s take the case of former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Femi Fani-Kayode. Let me state quite clearly here that Fani-Kayode is not my friend and I have never had any dealings with him in my life. The only time I ever saw him was when he visited someone in Abuja and I was there on that particular day to see the same person. And when I saw him, I never put it together that he was the one. That is as far as my relationship with him went. But I am curious about his case. The EFCC had invited him to answer to issues pertaining to the monies he collected when he was the spokesman for the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation. He eventually honored the invitation. He was allegedly quizzed for several hours. The next we heard was that the EFCC had already got a two weeks remand order for him which could also be extended. This, to me, is working towards the answer or rather premeditated, as lawyers would want to argue. So the EFCC had already decided that it would detain Fani-Kayode even before he got to their office. That to me is unfair and has confirmed most of what has been said about the agency. If after quizzing him when he appeared and they were not done, why would the agency not allow him go home and come back for further interrogation. We all saw that he walked into the EFCC office, so why can’t we do the simple, courteous and proper thing instead of resorting to such strong arm tactics. If the agency was afraid that he would run away, his traveling document could have been seized pending the conclusion of whatever investigation had to be done. I am not sure EFCC had pronounced him guilty since it does not have that power unless his crime is that he was part of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. By all means, if Fani-Kayode is guilty of misappropriating our money, the full weight of the law should be visited on him, but the impression of premeditated action by the EFCC in the course of investigating corrupt practices should stop. This is especially important so that all its actions would not always be viewed with suspicion by Nigerians especially those who have found themselves in the opposition or the other side of the divide.
Finally, FG bites the bullet
On Wednesday the federal government through the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu announced a hike in the pump price of petrol or PMS to an amount that would not exceed N145 per liter. I would not want to say it was not unexpected. This administration had always expressed concern about the petroleum industry and its management especially as it concerns the issue of subsidy, later statement gave the impression that it would still continue with the subsidy regime especially with the scarcity of the product in the past few weeks. But this, from indication was to buy time especially when all promises made to end the scarcity failed. Reasons were given for the hike by the minister and the bottom line in all this is that it would reduce pressure on the naira and the foreign reserves while anybody can now bring in the product so long as the importer adhere to the expected standard.
The decision is good considering that Nigerians have been buying the product at a cost above the official rate as a result of the scarcity. The hike would also put an end to the subsidy regime which has made so many rich at the expense of the poor as the money ended in private pockets. The argument has also been that with subsidy removal, the money saved would be re-directed towards developing some other critical areas in the country.
Yes, there are many positives to the subsidy removal, the critical question is whether this is the most appropriate time to introduce it. Already, Nigerians are crying over the economic situation in the country which has continued to pauperize. The poor have become poorer. Many Nigerians have been finding it difficult to meet their obligations. This new price regime will only worsen an already worse situation. One would have expected the government to put in place some palliatives to reduce the negative impact of this increase. This negative effect would soon start to manifest. There would be hikes in transportation, the markets will also react as prices of goods and services would go up. I am not sure this is what Nigerians bargained for when they voted for the Buhari administration.