Opinion

EFCC: The Fish Rots From the Head in Nigerian Corruption Watch


There are a couple of things that will always happen in an African election. First, the incumbent will repeatedly promise not to stand, and then run anyway. Second, the loser will always, always cry foul at vote rigging (usually with good reason). And thirdly, the winner will always, always, always promise certain things on victory. Such is the predictability, you can play ‘Bingo!' with it: ‘the economy'/ ‘education'/ ‘trade' / ‘corruption' HOUSE!!

So it has been in Nigeria.

President Buhari made a particularly noisy song and dance throughout his entire campaign about diversification, about exports and, most emphatically, about stamping down on corruption in the oil and gas sector. Some progress has been made on diversifying the economy, even the oil export sitation is better than it was. But it is on this last point that President Buhari has entirely failed to act. He has been a limp, flaccid instrument in the face of graft.

And nowhere is his incompetence better exemplified than in the pathetic, coughing mule that is The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Bloated on its own sense of self-importance, the EFCC has perhaps been paying so much attention to corruption that it is beginning to resemble more closely those it has set out to prosecute than any respectable enforcer of the law.

They say that the fish rots from the head, and the EFCC is showing a good example of why these metaphors stick around. The EFCC is headed up by the upstanding Ibrahim Magu, a man so committed to rooting out corruption that he insists on flying business class (just to check Dan Etete isn't aboard, presumably). Yes Magu is a man with so many question marks above his head that the Senate has twice refused to confirm his nomination. The reward for ‘acting' like a crook? He remains ‘Acting Chairman' of the EFCC.

And what news today from Nigeria's very own pillar of ethics? Only that Abdulrasheed Maina, the disgraced former head of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, was secretly shuffled back into the Buhari administration and then given a promotion. All this after he was ousted unceremoniously for his role in a massive, massive fraud scheme. The EFCC has scrambled to deny the reports, passing the buck to some poor civil servant, and has launched a ‘new man hunt.' Very reassuring. If they couldn't finger him when they DID know where he was, I'm not holding my breath now that he's on the run.

Why am I being so hard on the EFCC? Because it gives Nigeria a bad name, and their haphazard witch-hunts have ruined the prospects of legitimate Nigerian businessmen. Since Buhari's inauguration, the EFCC have been responsible for more scandals than prosecutions and all the while the reputation of Nigeria as a good place to do business suffers.

I am not saying corruption isn't a problem in Nigeria, nor am I saying that some of the things that went on in the Goodluck administration shouldn't be targeted by Buhari. But we are trying to create an environment where business can be trusted again and the EFCC should stick to policing the day-to-day and doing it properly, not trying to grab headlines by mounting feckless witch hunts against the business people that are helping Buhari deliver on his promises to diversify and strengthen the economy.



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