How Inter-agency Rivalry Hurts Anti-corruption War

How Inter-agency Rivalry Hurts Anti-corruption War
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By Mustapha Suleiman

It has become apparent that the different anti- corruption agencies in the country– Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) have been working at cross purposes, instead of working to enhance each other for a common goal.

In 2007, the then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa announced that the Federal Government was contemplating merging the EFCC, ICPC and the Code of Conduct Bureau because of overlapping functions of the agencies.
Aondoakaa made the announcement due to the running battle he had with the then Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu over the limit of the independence of the EFCC, as provided in its Act.
Thirteen years later, the overlapping of these agencies functions still remains, which has sadly culminated into unnecessarily rivalry.
Political analysts have identified the unnecessary rivalry among the anti graft agencies as the main reason for the failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration campaign to root out corruption which is the cardinal point of his administration.
Most of the high profile cases against individuals who looted the treasury of the country blind were lost by these agencies, largely due to the weakness of their litigation strategy, arising mainly from the lack of coordinated approach and undue rivalry among them.
This unnecessary rivalry has proven to be counter-productive in the present administrations fight against corruption, resulting in a string of losses of cases brought against high profile suspects. The overlapping and rivalry of these anti-graft agencies can be seen in the manners they embark on investigation and prosecution of corruption offenders. In doing this, their independence often proved to be an obstacle rather than an asset. The agencies, distinct in make-up and culture, tended to conduct their investigations separately from each other and even completely from the police, resulting in frequent overlap, rivalry and no coordination. This often negatively affects the evidence gathered and, in turn, the strength of the cases brought to court. In settings where resources are extremely limited, the lack of coordinated investigation is bound to undermine the efficiency of law enforcement efforts. If the police and the anti-corruption agencies operate in parallel without sharing information and evidence with each other in the early stages of investigations, this will lead to a huge failure to conduct more efficient investigations and contribute to a lack of trust and rivalry. The situation is even more complex with the two anti-corruption agencies, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Another issue contributing to the rivalry among the anti-corruption agencies in the country is the undue political interference in their conducts and operations by the government officials. This is contrary to the original aim of the anti-corruption agency’s independence which is meant to effectively safeguard them against political influence. Presidents and their allies are still able to intervene in the anti-corruption agencies’ investigations, as the Director General is appointed and dismissed by the President. It is, therefore, important for the present administration to strengthen and develop strategic and tactical inter-agency cooperation through concrete measures such as inter-agency task forces, a model that has worked well in the United States, for example. A Lagos lawyer and social critic, Femi Falana was quoted to have said that the anti- graft agencies have lost some high profile cases due to “official negligence and lack of inter-agency cooperation by the Federal Ministry of Justice, the anti-graft agencies and the State Security Service.” A further confirmation of this inter-agency rivalry was in evidence when, the then Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Okoi Obono-Obla, alleged that two of the anti-corruption agencies, the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, were not cooperating with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who is the chief law officer of the Federal Government. In particular, the President’s aide (Okoi Obono-Obla) said that the requests made for the case files of high profile cases, especially those involving former governors who were being investigated for corruption, were rebuffed. “They don’t want to work with the office of the AGF,” he said. However, the reluctance of the EFCC to cooperate may have been informed by past experiences when such cases were deliberately bungled whenever they were taken over by the AGF in previous administrations. A typical example is Michael Aondoakaa, a former AGF who was later barred from holding public office by a Federal High Court in Calabar for impeding the judgement of a court in an election matter. Besides being suspended as a SAN, he was also reportedly barred from entering the United States on account of his obstruction of the course of justice while in government. His role in freeing corrupt public office holders is well known. With just two years left in the life of this administration, it is time to reclaim the anti-corruption war from those who have hijacked it by establishing a leadership that will coordinate activities of the agencies in a symbiotic relationship. There should be a clearing house with somebody in charge of all the agencies, to direct their activities and reposition the war against graft. It would be a very sad situation if the government fails in this all-important assignment of ridding the country of corruption. All the agencies have to be organised under one leadership to offer this much-needed direction so that victory against graft will be ensured. The Senate’s rejection of the nomination of the sacked acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu was based on a security report from the Department of State Service (DSS). Though allegations against him were on corrupt practices, there are feelers that inter-agency rivalry could also not be ruled out. The report did not accuse Magu of maintaining large bank accounts or acquisitions of gargantuan properties even as he has served the police and EFCC passionately for more than two decades. In a related development, prominent civil society groups involved in anti-corruption have written to President Muhammadu Buhari, informing him of 14 high-profile corruption allegations against the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. The allegations range from financial sleaze involving him and his family to influence peddling. The groups in a joint letter sent to the President called for an immediate probe of Malami. The letter was signed by Olanrewaju Suraju of Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Debo Adeniran of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, and Ezenwa Nwagwu of ‘Say No Campaign.’ The groups said the immediate option before Malami was to resign and pave way for full inquiry into the corruption allegations leveled against him. The statement reads, “It has to be now or never. There are very strong allegations of corruption against Mr Abubakar Malami with clear evidence. President Buhari should act now. We have listed these corruption cases after painstaking compilation of high profile corruption cases involving the country’s No one law officer. The President must act without delay. “We are perturbed by these reports considering the revered position occupied by Mr. Malami, being the number one law officer of the country. Some of the allegations as conveyed in the media reports go to the root of breakdown of law and order and total disregard for the rule of law. These allegations serve as a slap in the face to your Excellency’s administration’s foremost goal of ridding the Nation of corruption. These allegations are totally opposite the core objectives of your administration and international perception of the country.” Top on the list is the alleged auctioning of vessels holding crude oil seized by the Federal Government, violating Section 31(2) and (4) of the EFCC Act 2004. It was also alleged that “The AGF also authorized the sale of these vessels by companies under EFCC prosecution for similar offence of illegal bunkering and this action was admitted by the AGF through his media aide pleading presumption of innocence on the part of the accused, in the case being prosecuted by the Federal Government through EFCC,” the statement added. Continuing, it said, “The minister also barred the prosecution of the former Comptroller-General of Customs, Mohammed Inde Dikko, through a suspicious deal between him and the immediate past DSS Director on one side and the Comptroller General of Customs to refund $8 million to the Federal Government. “The case was discontinued as Justice Dimgba refused to allow further prosecution of this matter under the guise that Mr. Dikko had kept his promise under the agreement by refunding N1,576,000,000 and more to the FG through the EFCC funds recovery account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The FG earlier accused Mr. Dikko of stealing over N40 billion. From all these alleged shoddy deals Malami financial worth has grown exponentially as he was alleged to have owned some of the properties listed in his name thus: a multimillion naira Rayhaan Hotels worth about N500million, located opposite Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Zaria Road, Kano State, a property worth about N600 Million locate at Ahmadu Bello Way, Nasarawa GRA, Kano, a newly constructed school at the back of Nitel at Gesse Phase 1, Birni Kebbi worth about N700 Million, a multi million Naira property built by Mr. Malami for his son located at Gesse Phase II in Birni Kabbi worth over N400 million, a mansion known as Azbir Arena allegedly built by Mr. Malami for his second son. Azbir Arena is an entertainment centre worth over N3 billion, with a big plaza and kids playing centre and hotel all combined in one expansive property. “At ICPC, Mr Malami also displayed his unpretentious hatred for the fight against corruption by writing a letter dated December 16, 2016 withdrawing the case of fraud filed against Mr. Godsday Orubebe, the former Minister of Niger Delta, in a case involving over N1.97billion, on the ground that in his opinion, there was no basis for filing the charge against him.” “We strongly believe that the above allegations are deserving of thorough, immediate and urgent investigation through an independent panel of inquiry and the Attorney General suspended from office pending the conclusion of this investigation; the veracity or otherwise of these allegations is essential for the sanity of the public service. “The law presumes any allegation as a suspicion until the suspect is so proven guilty; we as organizations, relentless in seeing transparency and accountability actualized and that due process is deployed in investigating corruption, abuse of power and office belief the allegations levelled against the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar.” Another civil society group, Committee for Public Accountability (CPA) which is a coalition of seven frontline anti-corruption and civil society organizations, in a letter dated August 2, 2020, addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, commended the president for coming up with the Justice Ayo Salami (retd.) panel to look into the operations and activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the suspended acting chairman of the EFCC. The letter was signed by the CPAs Coordinator Comrade Rasaq Oladosu and Secretary. Comrade Olufemi Lawson.
The group said that its attention was drawn to some allegations made against the current Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Malami, over abuse of office, graft and corrupt practices, saying while it was not out to defend or hold briefs for the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, but will appreciate if all issues raised in the petitions are properly investigated.
The groups said that the allegations must be properly investigated, because it was a general belief that, Mr. Magu’s travails was orchestrated by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, hence, the gang-up against the minister to distract public attention from Magu in order for him to escape from giving account of his stewardship.
CPA said, “Our concerns and view are that the signatories to these petitions are known allies and friends of the suspended Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu. It is a thing of public knowledge that their relationship is beyond official and is not limited to civil society’s partnership with the office of the suspended Acting Chairman. Our concern is that the petition is at best an effort to not only distract the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel as constituted by your office, but also to further truncate and discredit whatever is the outcome of the noble and timely effort. It is in our own view that each case must be treated on its own merit and as such the Ayo Salami-led panel be allowed to do his job to the hilt. The petitioners must be put under oath to establish their bias or otherwise, as it cannot be denied that their personal relationship and vested interests with Mr. Magu was what informed the said petition.”

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