When the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established in 2003 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was given a clear mandate to root out corruption in the polity in all its manifestations and return Nigeria on the path of sanity.
Hitherto, corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigerian society. Everything was in a tops turvy, a state of confusion or anarchy. There was no proper order of things. It was a race of individual survival, survival of the fittest as it was virtually impossible to get anything from the system without greasing somebody’s palms, or somebody asking for some kickbacks.
Outside the country, Nigeria was said to be stinking and seen as a den of corruption. This had made the country a laughing stock among the comity of nations, while its citizens were harassed in almost every part of the world. Corruption had also slowed down foreign investments into Nigeria as investors were afraid of being swindled in the process.
All these, combined were responsible for huge unemployment situation in Nigeria and the stunted growth of the country generally.
Corruption in Nigeria was not limited to those occupying public offices. It also had involved those in the private sector, such as those engaged in advanced fee frauds, popularly known as 419, examination malpractices, and what have you.
To fight this cankerworm, former President Obasanjo picked a young police officer named Nuhu Ribadu and charged him with the responsibility of ensuring that all corrupt cases in the country were thoroughly investigated and seriously dealt with.
Without much ado, Ribadu swung into action. He began to arrest and to detain, many people, both big and small, people he suspected had looted the country or had skeletons in their cupboards or had soiled their hands one way or the other. Among them were some top political office holders and government officials, including former boss, Tafa Balogun. They were all forced to disgorge their ill gotten wealth.
Subsequent heads of EFCC equally did their best in the fight against corruption and helped to instill discipline to the system.
Soon, Nigerians were woken up from their slumber. They became apprehensive, afraid that the EFCC could go after them, and their stolen wealth. The fear the EFCC then became the beginning of wisdom, and they began to put their houses in order. There was no more extravagant display of wealth in public places as the EFCC could whisk them away and ask them to explain how they made their money. And sanity began to return to the system.
In course of time, however, the EFCC was no longer seen to be neutral or to be professional in its war against corruption. Many people began to see it as an instrument in the hands of the powers that be to harass and intimidate perceived political opponents.
During the ill-fated Obasanjo’s third term bid, for instance, the EFCC was alleged to have been released against those who were opposed to it, in particular, former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamesiegha, who was literally chased out to London, but forcefully returned to the country and later impeached by minority lawmakers of the state House of Assembly.
In the present dispensation, not many people in the country now believe the EFCC to be neutral in its operations. This is because majority of those currently under the surveillance of the anti-graft agency are opposition politicians. They are constantly harassed, hounded and dumped in jail to force them to vomit their ill acquired wealth.
But known corrupt politicians who belong to the ruling party are hardly touched. They are seen as saints or angels, even with their baggage of atrocities.
To make matters worse, if you are a corrupt politician and you are in an opposition political party, once the EFCC threatens you and you cross over to the ruling party, you will become as white as snow. In other words, your sins will automatically be forgiven and nobody will harass you again.
Look at the case of former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio. This was a man known for his stupendous wealth, and who is said to be richer than Akwa Ibom state itself because of the massive wealth he acquired while in office.A few months ago, Akpabio who was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senate Minority Leader, was said to be under investigation by the EFCC.
After much harassment by the EFCC, Akpabio now decided to change camp to save his head. As a prelude, he traveled to London to visit ‘Saint Buhari’ who is holidaying there, to confess of his iniquities. With his sins now completely washed away, Akpabio has formally joined the political party saints, the All Progressives Congress (APC). As a member of APC, the EFCC will no longer touch him, just like many others before him.
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