A Haunted House

By Chris Adetayo July 9, 2020

A Haunted House

There is an increasingly good case to be made for the abolition of special purpose commissions in this country. Over the past few decades, we have found solace in setting up new federal agencies to handle challenges (such as corruption), rather than to strengthen existing institutions tackling such issues in the first place, and to devolve some to the States. The results do not support our choice.

Take the EFCC. In its 17 years of existence, it has had 4 heads. 3 of them have been unceremoniously removed. All have had clouds of corruption, political bias and several other sordid allegations hang over them. In a way, this reinforces the challenge of corruption that we face. So deeply entrenched is it that even the agency purposely set up to curb the menace has become part of the problem. More importantly, if the agency sadddled with fighting economic crimes cannot be trusted to do a good job but instead is constantly enmeshed in politics and political considerations, what is the purpose of having it around?

The idea behind the EFCC was well intentioned. But perhaps we would have been better off strengthening the Nigerian Police Force, and especially its Special Frauds Unit (SFU) that originally handled what the EFCC now focuses on. Infact, all that has happened is some sort of division of labour between them. As I found out to my surprise, if you have a matter where the financial figures are below a certain threshold, the EFCC  will direct you to the SFU. Why not harmonise all of these under the same Police umbrella?

Whatever happens to Ibrahim Magu, it is time to have a review of the EFCC and it’s enabling laws. What is in the laws that make it more visible than the ICPC? How do we insulate it from the messy politics of Nigeria? What sort of leadership is ideal for it? Is it ok to have a relatively junior police officer as head of the nation’s financial crimes fighting body? The NASS ought to be ruminating on these and many questions at the moment.

For now, anyone stepping into Magu’s office needs not be told that they are walking into a haunted house. It’s already well advertised!