The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, the two main anti-graft agencies, say lack of adequate funding is seriously hampering their fight against corruption
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Mar. 10, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
NIGERIA may not succeed in its fight against corruption if revelations coming from its two key anti-graft agencies are anything to go by. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, said they could not successfully tackle corruption in the country because they were underfunded and lacked the required human and material manpower to rid the country of corruption.
Both agencies made the submission at the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday, February 27, 2014 when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotic, Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption to present their 2014 budgets.
What was supposed to be a simple budget presentation and defence session, however, turned out to be a show of lamentation, as officials of both agencies reeled out a number of reasons why corruption persists in the country despite efforts to eradicate it.
Olu Aina, acting chairman of the ICPC, who was the first to appear before the lawmakers, said the agency was performing below its capacity mainly because of lack of funds. He said with more funds, the commission would be able to arrest corrupt government officials and prosecute them in court.
When Victor Lar, chairman of the committee asked him why the agency was yet to intervene in probing some unremitted funds by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Aina said the commission did not have the capacity and the financial wherewithal to investigate such matter.
“The account of the NNPC is so sophisticated that it would require hiring financial experts to study it for needed investigation the cost of which however cannot be afforded by us due to under-funding,” Aina said.
When asked the same question, the EFCC team led by Ibrahim Lamorde, its chairman, said it had not intervened because the NNPC’s unremitted fund issue required some level of professionalism which was lacking in the agency at the moment. “You need a professional firm to handle this. This is not a common investigation. These are very technical things. Let the audit be carried out. Let’s know exactly what we are talking about, understand what the figures are and criminal investigation can follow. You can’t start an investigation on nothing. You need a foundation. You can’t put a super structure without a base. So we need that base to put our own investigation on it,” Lamorde said.
Although the EFCC boss also explained that the agency had not intervened in the matter because the National Assembly was still investigating it, he assured that the commission would commence investigation as soon as the legislators completed their tasks. “The issue about the NNPC is already being investigated by the National Assembly. For every investigation, once the National Assembly is on it, we have to wait until it concludes. The minister of finance said that they want to commission an audit firm to do a forensic auditing of the finances of the NNPC,” he said.
Explaining how much the commission had achieved in its fight against corruption, Lamorde disclosed that the EFCC secured a total of 117 convictions in various courts across the country in 2013. He added that between January and February 2014, the commission had secured 30 convictions and hoped to reach 150 before the end of the year.
Not satisfied with his response, a member of the Senate committee asked the EFCC helmsman if the agency was selective in its prosecutions as widely suggested in some media reports. But Lamorde denied the allegation and assured that the EFCC was ready to prosecute anyone regardless of their societal standing.
“The case of the fuel subsidy payment for which we charged people to court is still very fresh. Even the son of the immediate past PDP national chairman, Bamanga Tukur is one of the people standing trials. We did not go into the matter until it was concluded by the National Assembly and forwarded to us.
“We can’t just go into something that is still being investigated by the National Assembly. It’s not a mob kind of thing. There must be a sequence of events that would lead us to taking decision. Let the hearing of the National Assembly be concluded. Normally when it is concluded, it is forwarded to us for investigation.
“I think people are in a hurry. What people want to hear is that just because there is an issue today, tomorrow you are shouting kill him, stone him; we don’t do investigation by the media. When we are ready to charge the individual to court we would do so,” the EFCC boss said.
Like Aina, Lamorde also complained that the commission was starved of funds. He said the agency could reach its full potential if it was adequately funded. “We can achieve more if there are sufficient funds. For instance, we have started hiring external lawyers because we can no longer pay them,” Lamorde said.
Reacting to the complaints by the anti-grafts agencies, Chuks Alozie, a security expert based in Abuja, said poor funding was one of the many factors hindering Nigeria’s fight against corruption. “This is a very serious matter. If the EFCC and the ICPC keep complaining about poor funding, how do we expect them to fight corruption? They cannot do anything because many of the people they are trying to bring to book are richer than the two agencies put together.”