The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) offers its congratulations to Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa on his appointment, and subsequent confirmation as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Despite the several unresolved issues emanating from the unceremonious removal of his predecessor, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the former Acting EFCC helmsman, it is in order that the Commission now has in place a substantive leadership.
It is equally refreshing that the leadership of the anti-graft agency is in the hands of a young person, who has the right set of credentials to transform the institution, if he has the commitment. As Bawa settles into the role of leading the Commission, CHRICED believes there are several lessons he needs to learn from the travails the institution has faced in the past. The EFCC has not lacked men and women of conviction; what it has lacked is the unflinching support of the political leadership. The corrupt political elite bent on looting the country dry will stop at nothing to ensure the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies are hobbled, and disempowered.
Starting on what appears to be a clean slate, Mr. Bawa must navigate the murky terrain the EFCC finds itself with courage and wisdom. CHRICED believes that despite the many contradictions, and external influences undermining the Commission, a good helmsman with the strategic direction can still build a worthy legacy, if he is driven by patriotism and empathy for long suffering citizens bearing the brunt of economic and financial crimes. CHRICED is of the considered view that the new EFCC leadership should cultivate the courage to fight corruption with all his abilities. To do this, he must stave of pressures from entrenched political interests, which have over the years undermined the anti-corruption campaign. Although the act of appointing the EFCC Chairman is facilitated by well-heeled political forces, the occupant of the office must however maintain serious distance from all political interests, if it is to project integrity and legitimacy.
As such, CHRICED calls on the new Chairman to work assiduously to tackle all pending cases of corruption, no matter the personality, political or ethno-religious affiliation of the persons involved. One way to demonstrate this kind of resolve is to put in place a mechanism to resurrect and diligently prosecute several cases, which appear to have been abandoned by the Commission. Importantly too, CHRICED calls on the EFCC to expand its focus beyond the grand scale corruption happening at the federal level.
It is critical for EFCC, and sister anti-corruption agencies to show enduring interest in what is happening in the states and local government, where incidents of petty corruption and financial crimes are equally pervasive. This call becomes imperative because corruption at the level of the grassroots is seriously affecting the lives of citizens because it worsens already devastating social conditions. Corruption in basic service delivery such as education, healthcare, rural infrastructure is taking a serious toll on governance at the local government and community level. This anomaly is making citizens lose faith in democracy, and its ability to bring about development.
CHRICED also calls on the EFCC helmsman to prioritize the welfare of men and women within the Commission, who are putting their lives at risk to fight the monster of corruption. Given the billions and trillions of Naira which the operatives of EFCC are responsible for recovering from corrupt elements, it is only logical that they should be properly remunerated. This will ensure the Commission’s operatives are immune from undue influence from corrupt elements. Finally, CHRICED hopes the new EFCC Chairman will act at all times on the side of the people of Nigeria, to whom he ultimately owes his allegiance. If he stands with the people to fight corruption, his name will be recorded in the right place in history. However, if he decides to do otherwise, generations to come will be there to review his record.
Comrade Dr. Zikirullahi is the Executive Director of CHRICED