Comrade Auwal Musa Rafsanjani is the Head, Transparency Nigeria. In this interview with AYO FADIMU, he speaks on the need for reform in the Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Rafsanjani, WHO IS ALSO The Executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) also called for proper management of assets recovered by agencies of the government.
The suspended Chairman of EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu was alleged to have failed to account for 332 recovered properties worth billions of Naira. As Transparency International, have you been monitoring the activities of Mr. Magu before this probe?
Before all this things came out, we as an organisation and NGO can’t actually go into the work of government but rather rely on information the information provided because we’re not a government and they are certain limitations that we encounter to get credible information and data, therefore, the basis of some of the information that you have from some of these agencies and even from the government that you can be able to interrogate certain things. However, from the information we get, we can be able to cross check and confirm independently, the authenticity of the information.
Are you surprised with all the allegations leveled against Mr. Magu?
I’m not surprised because government created enabling environment for anybody to abuse power. We have an EFCC boss who was supposed to be confirmed within 6 month and that did not happen and government did not welcome a new replacement for him, they kept him there for four years.
Secondly, they also created another means for anybody to abuse the power by giving too much excessive power to somebody. Power to arrest, to seize and recover assets. This is not possible for anybody not to abuse, even an angle. Thirdly, EFCC should have a Board which government did not constitute, they left Magu alone and those are reasons I’m not surprised because as a human being, certain mistakes will happen whether consciously or unconscious. There should have been a supervisory board for EFCC and that has not happened because of the quarrel they are having. The National Assembly is supposed to be oversighting the activities of EFCC but that has not been happening because of some reasons known to the Senate. The President is supposed to be given a report of EFCC through the Minister of Justice and that also has not been happening because of the unhealthy relationship between the acting EFCC Chair and the Minister of Justice. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the government of Buhari that created this competition for problem to happen. When you give someone so much power without oversight definitely you’re likely going to have challenges like this and I believe nobody should be surprised that things like this happen.
We have been advocating for proper legal framework on how to manage the recovery of assets in Nigeria and nobody has been listening, but now, the problem has become palpable. EFCC is recovering assets, ICPC is recovering assets, Customs is recovering assets, NDLEA is recovering assets, and so many agencies recovering assets with no cooperation and synergy, with this, how would someone be surprised that people will do something to manipulate this process in their favour when the government has refused to put in system that can checkmate abuse of recovering asset. There was no mechanism to checkmate the abuse of EFCC or even in the customs, police among others when these agencies are recovering houses, gold, car, jewelries, money and so many things with no data and information of its recovery. Also, when this agencies go on burgling houses they don’t go with journalists for the general public to see what they have recovered. It is just themselves, I will be surprised to see otherwise because they are not different from an average Nigerian and moreover, when you don’t take care of the personnel of these organizations, when they see opportunity to enrich themselves, they will do so. For example, when they go on these operations, there are instances where they would experience violent resistance which may cause loss of lives and these people have no life insurance and also within the commission, there are also complaints of lack of proper remuneration. and now you’re asking them to go and recover billions of dollars, pounds and naira and we think without looking at what they are doing, they won’t be tempted to misuse their power. I think government created this condition and the current government has to take the anti-corruption war beyond just an individual, if you think this fight against corruption will have to be fought by Buhari or Osinbajo or Magu then we’re missing it because this must be a collective responsibility for all Nigerians. We all have to play our parts, that is why we have the National Strategy Against Corruption, which however has not been operationalised, but if it comes to play, this will make a lot of Nigerians to participate in the fight against corruption and for them to know the grave impact it has on the economy. Corruption is responsible for lack of water, lack of electricity, lack of good roads, lack of quality health care, lack of quality education.
What is the way forward?
The way forward is that the government should take advantage of the situation to carve out certain legal forms, and the need to reform the EFCC to make it more transparent and more accountable. Also, we need to be sure that the personnel working at the EFCC are well-tested and trusted individuals. We need to make sure the board of EFCC is inclusive of both state and non-state actors and the begin to reduce the excessive power. There is also the need to pass a bill on recovery of assets where we have to involve the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). When these agencies did recovery, they kept it to themselves: ICPC, Police, EFCC, NDLEA, Customs all recovered assets. All these assets must be accounted for, there is need for the operation to be controlled through a working system.
cuts in… Have you sent any bill in that regard to the National Assembly?
There’s a bill, and right now that bill is at the National Assembly since President Buhari assumed office and this situation serves as an opportunity to correct many wrong things through a workable legal frame work and clearly revise role and responsibility of each agenciy, because it shouldn’t possible for agencies to be recovering assets and simply keep them. It is very wrong. When these agencies recover assets, they are to hand it over to a particular agency whose responsibility is to manage that asset on behalf of the country.