Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Abuja
The Justice Ayo Salami presidential panel investigating the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has recommended that appointment of a new chairman for the anti-graft agency be done outside police.
The panel also recommended two year exit plan for over 900 police personnel on secondment to EFCC to pave the way for specially trained core staff of EFCC whose promotions have been stalled for years to take over command.
They made the recommendation while submitting the Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the Investigation of Magu, to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the panel noted that the four chairmen of EFCC since inception were from the police and recommended that in appointing a new chairman consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and core staff of the EFCC as provided in the EFCC establishment Act of 2004.
Salami said that Magu, and 113 witnesses appeared and testified before the Commission, adding that 46 petitions and memoranda were presented by individuals and organisations with complaints against the suspended Acting Chairman, EFCC or both.
The retired Justice disclosed that the Commission also embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, comprising real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.
He said the panel inspected all forfeited property across the country and observed that many are fast deteriorating .
He commended the President for the initiative to dispose all forfeited assets “because of the poor condition of the assets we saw during our physical verification nationwide.”
Salami said: “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception, have been drawn from the police, therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004). It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC, therefore an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of no promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years during which period, arrangement would be made for appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism.”
President Buhari described as an abomination for head of an agency to be named in corruption case, vowing that the fight against corruption is one that must be fought without fear or favour.
According to him, his desire is to make Nigeria a country that has no tolerance for corruption, but one where the menace is vigorously battled.
He said: “Corruption is present in all countries. Some Governments treat it with levity. Some fight it all the time. I want Nigeria to be counted among those countries that do not tolerate but fight corruption.”
In order to protect Nigeria’s political and economic systems, and the continuous existence of the Nigerian State from the serious threat of corruption, the President called on all stakeholders, and indeed every Nigerian to own the fight against corruption at their respective levels.
The President said further: “The sad reality confronting us as a people is that there is corruption almost everywhere; at many levels of government, and nearly every stratum of our society. Mindful of the threat that corruption poses to us as a nation, this administration has specifically focused on the fight against corruption.
“As a government, and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership. A lot of efforts have gone into building and development of our anti-corruption institutions.
“We have so far kept faith with our promise and shall remain committed until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attain a prosperous economic status and surmounts her security challenges.
“However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes. It is an abomination that strikes at the root, and undermines the Government’s anti-corruption programme.
“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a Panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
“We recognize that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”