The thieves are coming from different directions, holding our nation and people to ransom. But it appears no one is bold enough to raise a finger against the marauders with a view to restraining them even temporarily from carting away our commonwealth with impunity.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission appear to have gone to sleep once their heads were announced by the government.
They neither bark nor bite and have largely remained as toothless bulldogs over the years, giving room to top government functionaries to loot the nation’s treasury dry.
The sheer number of graft cases and the quantum of money stolen by a few well-placed Nigerians suggest that we are under searing siege by conmen, who have been unleashed by the gods of robbery and blessed with the art of pillaging to bring down the country.
Unfortunately for the nation, it is as if the masterminds of these heinous crimes against the society are being celebrated as heroes rather than villains, which they are.
The way we are dining and winning with criminals who have stolen directly from the government coffers over the years with the law enforcement agents and the judiciary not being able to punish them, is an indication that we are on our way to financial doom.
If many countries in Europe and America with brighter economic outlook than Nigeria are facing recession, what gives Nigeria with its precarious economic and financial system epitomized by weak and dubious banks the hope that it can survive unchecked corruption unleashed on the system from several fronts?
Events of the last few months have clearly demonstrated that Nigeria has lost the fight against corruption and there seems to be no way out. The engine room of financial crimes fight itself has since been crushed by corruption while the supposed radar or compass of monitoring graft has also crashed like a toy gun.
This much has been confirmed by Ibrahim Lamorde, the Chairman of the EFCC, while speaking at a two-day Public-Private Sector Workshop on Corruption, organised by the United Nations Global Compact, UNGC, and the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, in Abuja on Thursday.
The EFCC boss admitted, “The patriotism and even idealism of 2003 (when the EFCC was established) had succumbed to the unrelenting onslaught of corruption; an undue dose of atavistic acquisitiveness and other personal interests had been injected into the war that it was inevitable for the anti-corruption effort to flounder so noticeably.
“By the time I returned to the EFCC at the instance of the President, I was profoundly shocked to find that many of those I was supposed to send out to carry out the Commission’s mandate on certain individuals were themselves enmeshed in corruption.
We needed to tell ourselves the bitter truth, which is that the corruption we had been set up to fight, amongst other economic and financial crimes, had permeated the very fabric of the EFCC!
“I was roundly shocked to discover that the EFCC of today was not the one we worked so hard to build nine years ago. I had on my hands, a totally strange organisation, one whose operatives responded to a stimulus other than that of patriotic call to service,” Lamorde confessed.
Beyond mere confession of the infection of the commission by graft, Lamorde needs to come out of his hiding and wield the big stick against the barons of corruption in the top government offices, starting from the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC, whose DG, Arunma Oteh, wants to prove to the world that she is very smart but indeed, is only clever by half, going by the documents that are coming out of her office since she confronted Herman Hembe openly in the House of Representatives.
Lamorde also needs to go to his godfather, President Goodluck Jonathan, and beg him and other kingmakers in the presidency to allow him to bring to book all those who have subjected pensioners to avoidable hardship by mindlessly and shamelessly stealing their retirement benefits in the Head of the Service Pension Office and the Police Pensions Office, PPO, running into billions of Naira. Lamorde should go home or return to the police force, if the forces that be, are not ready to give him a free hand to do the job.
As if that was not enough, many of the few surviving banks in the country gleely aided and abetted the rouges in laundering the funds to the extent that one of them, which started banking before Lord Lugard came to invent Nigeria, kept more than N28 billion of the toxic funds and made business with him without looking back.
The sad thing is that despite the public furore over the scam, the nation and its handlers still behave as if nothing has happened. If we were in London or Washington, all these criminals would have been cooling their feet in Scotland Yard or with the FBI.
Those who masterminded the SEC bribes and those who also received them, would have been making the ‘confessions’ they are now making with frenzy from the jail. But not here! The doctrine of ‘family affair’ is often invoked by the leadership to save the day for its cronies no matter the gravity of the graft.
The Siemens and Halliburton scams, for which the expatriates who were involved had already been jailed in their respective countries, are a case in point. In Nigeria, those named as the key beneficiaries are among those struggling to emerge as chieftains of the ‘biggest party in Africa’ using the looted resources to saunter about as if they are gods.
If we were in a sane clime, Oteh should have been made to explain to Nigerians why she caused the sum of N30 million to be approved for the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market only to turn round and cry foul when the committee lambasted her for wasteful spending.
How can she spend N30 million of public funds on hotel for eight months and N825, 000 a day on feeding when most Nigerians still feed from the dustbins? Is Oteh a special breed from another planet that should be allowed to milk this country as she likes? Her stories, as far as I am concerned, do not add up and can only worsen her case already before the court of public opinion.
The best option is for her to quit the controversial job and refund the wasted public funds. It is clear that neither her first class degree nor her beauty has added any value to the market in the last two years of her outing as the SEC boss.
The man called Herman Hembe should hide his face in shame, if indeed the stories that are emanating from the SEC are credible. He cannot eat his cake and have it.
It is a sad commentary on Nigeria’s image that despite the exposure of the characters who stole more than N200 billion in the HOS Pension Office and the Police Pension Office, the EFCC has done nothing more than inviting them to its office and hurriedly releasing them to go back to their office to perfect methods of fighting back.
The Permanent Secretary and the seven directors, who have already confessed to the crime and offered to refund part of the stolen funds, are surprisingly still being kept on the payroll of this administration. What more does this government need to be able to see that these men and women should be sent to jail and made to refund the stolen wealth to the treasury?
That is why other countries which treat graft as a serious economic crime often pooh-pooh Nigeria when it claims to be fighting corruption. And that aptly explains why in spite of the presence of numerous groups all claiming to be fighting graft, little or nothing has changed in our corruption index. In fact, if anything, corruption in the public and private sectors of the nation has risen rapidly as a seed sprouting on a fertile soil.
When Lamode was appointed as the new head of the EFCC, Nigerians rose in celebration, thinking that he would be allowed a free hand to take on the gods of prowling but nearly six months after, we have not heard of any conviction or arrest. He should step aside and save his name before another era of Farida Waziri in the EFCC sets in.
If, as he has claimed, that his men have become enmeshed in the web of corruption and unfit to lead the graft fight, he should not hesitate to throw in the towel before the parasites in the system turns the heat on him. He may become a helpless man once he loses the empathy, support and the goodwill of Nigerians, who still believe that he has what it takes to flush out the predators from the land.