It appears that there are contentions within the Presidency that may be construed as serious inhibitions against President Muhammadu Buhari’s intention to fight corruption in the country.
Though the President has identified corruption as one of the major challenges facing the country, recent developments where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials were obstructed from carrying their duties when they moved to arrest the former Director General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Ita Ekpeyong, and the sacked head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, has become a fresh cause for worry in how far the President could go in the fight against this menace.
It was equally reported that the ex-pension reform task force boss, Abdulrasheed Maina, enjoyed the protection of the DSS and police personnels even when he was on the EFCC wanted list before his eventual sack by the President after the lid on his secret reinstatement into the civil service was blown open.
The confirmation of the perceived rivalry among the EFCC, DSS and NIA, agencies considered to be key to the success or otherwise of the anti graft war, by obstructing the arrest of the two former heads of the DSS and NIA, suspected to have soiled their hands while in office, could only lead to a suspicion that the agencies may be aiding and abetting the suspects.
The stoppage of the arrest of the two men may transmit the wrong message that some officials in and out of power consider themselves as untouchables and thus above the law. If an EFCC, in the course of its duties could arrest others, one wonders why it would be prevented from doing same for these two suspects.
Juxtaposing the roles played by the DSS with the latest development with its reports leading to the eventual refusal of the Senate to confirm the appointment of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, one may be tempted to conclude that the anti- graft helmsman is being held in contempt by certain power brokers in the Presidency.
The incidence equally portrayed the likelihood of supremacy battle among the agencies which, of course, may indicate functions overlap. This, however, indicated absence of communication, cooperation and coordination among the three critical agencies in the anti-graft war.
Had there been communication, cooperation and coordination among the three agencies, the DSS and NIA would have been alerted about the EFCC moves and rough edges would have been addressed instead of the ‘rofo-rofo’ show of might amounting to nothing but supremacy battle.
This inter-agencies disconnect is, to say the least, dangerous to the government’s avowal to rid the polity of corruption and corrupt practices among highly rated government officials. Should this be allowed unchecked, the anti-graft war could be imperiled as reality may contrast public perception.
The immediate implication is that public confidence in Buhari’s administration’s anti-corruption fight may wane and this could further embolden others who may have the propensity to loot public funds.
Already, some critics have gone to town with the arguments that only the President and a few members of his men believe in his anti corruption crusade.
Timothy Adewale, Deputy Director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in his response to the development said the rivalry among the agencies could hamper the government whistle-blower policy as it may discourage the public from providing requisite evidence to the authorities.
“Protecting suspected perpetrators from facing justice for corruption may suggest that officials of SSS and NIA are trying to cover-up allegations of corruption against those involved,” he said.
Underscoring the need for interdependence among the agencies in the onerous task of fighting corruption, the anti-corruption crusader said “Fighting corruption is not just for the EFCC alone or any corruption-specific mandate agencies but it is for all state security officials and law enforcement agencies to cooperate and work together to support the government to achieve its oft-repeated commitment to combat grand corruption and impunity of perpetrators.”
Already, the feud had attracted the attention of lawmakers in the Senate who resolved to institute a probe into the crisis. The pertinent question of why the President has yet to rein-in the heads on the agencies by conscientizing them on the need to work together for the overall success of his anti-graft war has remained a puzzle. Critics believe that the feud between the agencies, especially the EFCC and DSS, ought to have attracted his intervention before their latest macabre dance in the market place.
Public actions of the heads of these important agencies are obviously not in tandem with internationally acceptable ‘modus operandi’ adopted by men who are serious in the onerous task of fighting corruption.
To this end, the SERAP man, like most Nigerians, submitted that the President should move in and do the needful by probing into the actual cause of these frequent frictions among the agencies. He said “By moving speedily to stop this kind of behaviour by the SSS and NIA officials, Buhari would be making clear that under his watch those accused of grand corruption would not be allowed to circumvent the law no matter their status in the society.”
Preventing re-looting of recovered funds
In apparent move to ensure accountability and transparency in the management of the recovered funds, the President has set up a three-man committee to audit the accounts into which the monies, both in local and foreign denominations, are being kept.
Prior to the inauguration of the Audit Committee on the Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets within and Outside Nigeria, there have been rumors that recovered loots may have been re-looted by some unscrupulous officials. There were allegations that certain funds had developed wings.
The President, in his inaugural speech, equally indicated in his speech that there may be meat in the rumors when he said “In the course of implementing this exercise and given the number of agencies who are concurrently pursuing specialized initiatives and making recoveries for Government, it has become obvious that fundamental gaps still exist in ensuring that the recovered assets are accounted for, and managed in an accurate, transparent and logical manner.
It was in realization of this and due to our determination to ensure that in pursuing the anti-graft war, we do not create new room for dishonorable conduct by any individual or agency that I directed, earlier in the year, that all agencies should send in detailed reports of all their recovered assets as at March, 2017.”
He continued “The decision to inaugurate this Audit Committee on the Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets within and Outside Nigeria today is therefore the next step in ensuring that all returns filed by the various agencies are accurate and consistent with actual recoveries made.”
Sensing possible hindrance to the works of the panel, the President ordered all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), banks and companies to cooperate just as he hinted that required laws may be invoked to ensure compliance.
This step has further rekindled the hope of economic and political watchers who hitherto haboured the fears that the recovered loots may eventually not be of benefit to the country.
Buhari has once again demonstrated his zero tolerance for corruption in his administration. But there are consensus that the President must be willing to go the whole hog by prosecuting anyone found culpable at the end of the audit.