| Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusade is currently being perceived as a witch-hunting exercise. Hence, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is being viewed, by some people, as a grossly dependent institution, speakjng out vigorously against those that fail to support the third term bid of Mr President.
I find this line of thought disturbing; because, if it is shown to be true, it will strike at the very foundation of the anti-corruption regime in Nigeria. In additiont, it will affect our international image, considering that Nigeria for several years running, ranked very low in the global anti-corruption index.
Perception is a critical issue here. It is also a central issue in any analysis of justice, hence the principle that “justice must not only be done, but must be seen to have been done”. What I find monumental in that principle is that perception is a crucial aspect of understanding when justice has been done in a given case. The same reasoning will seem to apply in our analysis of EFCC, and how it discharges its sacred mandate to Nigerians.
Recently, I was involved in a heated argument with five other Nigerian post graduate students, just outside the lobby of the Institute of the Advanced Legal Studies, London. The theme of discussion was corruption and politics. Alamieyeseigha’s trial was on the front burner and sparked off intense controversy following a statement made by one of us, which surprisingly was approved by four of the discussants.
The statement was to the effect that the deposed Gov. Alams was being victimized for not supporting Obasanjo’s controversial third term bid. Although two of us vigorously opposed this view, with the argument that there was a clear case of money laundering, and it was not OBJ that procured or encouraged Alams to leave the country with such a volume of cash he could not account for, the majority opinion seemed to have carried the day. The minority opinion was, however, predicated on the fact that Nigeria’s underdevelopment is a result of corruption at the highest levels of government.
The minority made reference to the low level of under-development in Bayelsa, and the fact that Alams is but a metaphor of a well–rehearsed chronic corruption, perpetrated by people that should have leaded development, but ended up being impediments to its progress.
However, the view of the majority was that things are not what they seem. According to one of my friends in the group, some truths are told with bad intent; and a truth told with such intent beats all the lies in the whole world. It was pointed out that one only needed to examine the government’s manifested and exaggerated interest in this case to see the handwriting on the wall. It was argued that had the case been that Alams was an apostle of the third bid, he would not have suffered such a fate, and the Attorney General would not have had to travel to the UK, just to press for a conviction.
Since this discussion, my mind has been racing around issues of corruption and the EFCC’s renewed vigour in its fight. Each time I log on to Nigerian news online, I always find myself reading yet another story of a “big-shot” in the EFCC dragnet. But, it has struck me recently that one distinguishing characteristic of the people that now frequent EFCC is that each of them opposes OBJ’s third term bid.
In research, such trends are taken very seriously. The critical question is why is it that a majority of the people now answering one question or the other are those that are not in OBJ’s camp; or could this be mere coincidence? Does it mean that all the pro-third term crusaders are free from any charge of corruption? I do not have adequate evidence to prove that the EFCC has become a witch-hunting institution (this will require a scientific study that must involve qualitative and quantitative data), all I’m doing is raising troubling issues and perhaps inspiring research. I am however, worried about the impression being created, especially in the light of the fact that perception is crucial in issues of corruption generally, and that is why the global indicator in this area is termed the “corruption perception” index.
It seems to me that as 2007 draws near, the EFCC will have to demonstrate a high level of independence. How a country changes its laws to accommodate individual ambitions should also be a subject of a corruption inquiry. Many people I have talked to are not comfortable with the way the Nigerian constitution is being tinkered with for purely political strategy, just on the eve of a major election.
The explanations being offered by people like, Bode George, PDP’s Chairman, come handy and do not inspire at all. Recently, George was quoted as saying that Nigeria is today at a critical point, which required a tested hand, but failed to tell us what he meant by “tested hand”, and the yardstick for measuring this. In an attempt to convince us, Bode drew an analogy with an aircraft, knowing full well that most Nigerians have developed phobias for air traveling. According to him, it would be too risky to put an aircraft on auto-pilot when it had not reached cruising level. For Bode, the time to change the pilot, if need be, is when the aircraft is at the cruising level, and not during a stormy takeoff.
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