An overview of the Powers of the EFCC Vis-à-vis the Constitutional Rights of Nigerians and Matters Arising.  

Abstract

After the numerous years of military dictatorship in Nigeria characterized by scrupulous looting of national treasury, and the unfortunate fallout of political racketeering which reigned supreme for a long span of time in our collective history as a people, it became necessary if not compulsory for the establishment of an institution which is readily structured and eminently positioned to quell the menace of financial crime that ravaged the Nigerian economy both in the private and public sector.

The incidences of official corruption, mismanagement of public funds, manipulation of procurement procedure, profiteering unjustly from white elephant projects and short-changing of legal rules and regulations all in the bid to maneuver due diligence in handling government projects.These developments led to the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR).

Over the years, the Commission has tried in numerous ways to address the Issue of corruption in Nigeria and to prosecute offenders who are expected to return to the national treasury looted funds or proceeds of their crime by way of plea bargain.

This Presentation is an attempt to review the powers granted to the EFCC by the EFCC Act 2004 and other ancillary powers that it has and to which it derives validity from in the discharge of its duties and responsibilities. We shall consider viz:

  • The Historical Evolution of EFCC
  • Powers and duties of the Commission
  • An overview of powers of the commission to enforce Ancillary statutes
  • Forms of financial Crimes in Nigeria
  • Constitutional safeguards to the exercise of powers
  • Matters arising and the Nigerian situation
  • Impediments to the fight against corruption
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion

1.0 The Historical Evolution of EFCC

Perhaps, the gory stories and factual evidence of how the then General Sani Abacha looted Nigeria’s treasury when he was in power, during the oil boom of the 1970s, and the fact that after his eventual demise, Nigeria could not place hands on the funds if not for foreign interventions and geopolitical arrangements that saw to the repatriation and recovery of some loot, must have contributed to the dire need for an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seized with the responsibility of Identifying, preventing, investigating, arresting, and prosecuting suspects of financial crimes.

President Olusegun Obasanjo declared:

“Corruption, the greatest single bane of our society today, will be tackled head on at all levels. Corruption is incipient in human societies and in most human activities. But it must not be condoned. No society can achieve anything near the full-blown cancer it has become in Nigeria; the rampant corruption in the public service and the cynical contempt for integrity that pervades every level of bureaucracy will be stamped out.”

True to the above, the issue of corruption has pervaded every sector of the Economy and while Obasanjo’s statement remains valid after leaving power over a decade, the creation of the Commission was an attempt to redirect Nigeria’s trajectory and avoid the situation we have in Nigeria presently.

According to Wikipedia,[1] The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is a Nigerian law enforcement agency that investigates financial crimes such as advance fee fraud (419 fraud) and money laundering.

The EFCC was established in 2003,[2] partially in response to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF),[3] which named Nigeria as one of 23 countries non-cooperative in the international community’s efforts to fight money laundering. The agency has its head office in Abuja, Nigeria.

The agency was also established due to the plan of the Nigerian Federal Government to eliminate fraudulent activities of Nigerians and in extension, foreigners. These fraudulent activities include mismanagement of public funds, lack of accountability and transparency by public officials.

The EFCC Establishment Act was first enacted in 2002[4] and amended in 2004. The Establishment Act commissioned the EFCC to combat financial and economic crimes. Thereby, the Commission is enabled to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize economic and financial crimes.

The agency is also charged with the responsibility of executing the provisions of other laws and regulations that are related to economic and financial crimes so as to sanitize the system.

The Commission has been headed variously by Nuhu Ribadu -2004, Mrs. Farida Mazamber Waziri- 2008, Ibrahim Lamorde -2011, Ibrahim Magu- 2015, Abdulrasheed Bawa-2021 respectively.[5]

Within the first two years of creating the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria, they proved effective and were able to “recovered more than $1.5bn (N203.5bn) of looted funds and arrested more than 200 people” and out of the 200, 50 people were convicted and recovered $37.1M (N5bn) from import malpractices.

A six-year review of the Commission’s conviction data shows that it secured its highest conviction last year. This is an increase of 127.46% from 2020 and 73.44% over its 2019 record which was its highest prior to 2021.

The agency stated that it won 2,220 cases in the year ended 2021 and lost 34 cases.[6] Obviously, there is indeed a light of progress at the commission and the delivery of its Constitutional duty is a commendable feat that must be commended.

 

2.0 Powers and Functions of the EFCC

The Supreme Court in Dr Joseph Nwobike SAN v The Federal Republic of Nigeria FRN [7] held that “having regard to the provisions of Sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the EFCC Establishment Act, particularly in Sections 6(b), 7(1) (a), 2(f), 13(2), the EFCC has powers to investigate, enforce and prosecute offenders for any offence, whether under the Act or any statute in so far as the offence relates to the commission of economic and financial crimes”.

Section 6 of the Act[8] provides thus: The Commission shall be responsible for –

(a) the enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of this Act;

(b) the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc.;

(c) the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority;

(d) the adoption of measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crimes related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds;

(e) the adoption of measures to eradicate the commission of economic and financial crimes;

(f) the adoption of measures which includes coordinated preventive and regulatory actions, introduction and maintenance of investigative and control techniques on the prevention of economic and financial related crimes;

(g) the facilitation of rapid exchange of scientific and technical information and the conduct of joint operations geared towards the eradication of economic and financial crimes;

(h) the examination and investigation of all reported cases of economic and financial crimes with a view to identifying individuals, corporate bodies or groups involved;

(i) the determination of the extent of financial loss and such other losses by government, private individuals or organizations;

(j) collaborating with government bodies both within and outside Nigeria carrying on functions wholly or in part analogous with those of the Commission concerning –

(i) the identification, determination, of the whereabouts and activities of persons suspected of being involved in economic and financial crimes,

(ii) the movement of proceeds or properties derived from the commission of economic and financial and other related crimes;

(iii) the exchange of personnel or other experts,

(iv) the establishment and maintenance of a system for monitoring international economic and financial crimes in order to identify suspicious transactions and persons involved,

(v) maintaining data, statistics, records and reports on person, organizations, proceeds, properties, documents or other items or assets involved in economic and financial crimes;

(vi) undertaking research and similar works with a view to determining the manifestation, extent, magnitude, and effects of economic and financial crimes and advising government on appropriate intervention measures for combating same Functions of the Commission

(k) dealing with matters connected with the extradition, deportation and mutual legal or other assistance between Nigeria and any other country involving Economic and Financial Crimes;

(l) The collection of all reports relating suspicious financial transactions, analyze and disseminate to all relevant Government agencies;

(m) taking charge of, supervising, controlling, coordinating all the responsibilities, functions and activities relating to the current investigation and prosecution of all offenses connected with or relating to economic and financial crimes;

(n) the coordination of all existing economic and financial crimes, investigating units in Nigeria;

(o) maintaining a liaison with office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Immigration and Prison Service Board, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, all government security and law enforcement agencies and such other financial supervisory institutions in the eradication of economic and financial crimes;

(p) carrying out and sustaining rigorous public and enlightenment campaign against economic and financial crimes within and outside Nigeria and;

(q) carrying out such other activities as are necessary or expedient for the full discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on it under this Act.

The roles as outlined above are indeed enormous. It goes to show the relevance of the commission in the grand scheme of sanitizing the Nigerian economy for business to thrive, to boost the confidence of investors and attract foreign investments into Nigeria whilst minimizing the incidences of theft, fraudulent acts which serve as disincentive to businesses.

3.0 An Overview of Powers of the Commission to Enforce Ancillary Statutes

According to Section 7(2) of the Act;[9] the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is charged with the responsibility of enforcing provisions of the law relating to economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Thus:

(a) The Money Laundering Act 2003; 2003 No.7 1995 N0. 13

(b) The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 1995;

(c) The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994, as amended;

(d) The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991, as amended; and

(e) Miscellaneous Offences Act

(f) Any other law or regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, including the Criminal code or Penal code

Thus, in the discharge of its role as an agency of government with the mandate to fight against financial crimes, the commission is mandated by the law establishing it, to implement the provisions of other laws that are related or have some correlation with the duties of the EFCC with respect to investigation, arrest and prosecution of persons accused of financial impropriety, economic mismanagement, misappropriation and other forms of financial crimes.

3.1 Definition of Financial Crimes

Financial crimes are conducts or willful acts done with the sole purpose of attaining, through illegal means or deceit; some financial gains or benefits from an individual, corporate body or members of the public.

Financial crime ranges from basic theft or fraud committed by ill-intentioned individuals to large-scale operations masterminded by organized criminals with a foot on every continent.

These are serious criminal activities whose importance should not be minimized as, over and beyond their social and economic impact, they are often closely linked to violent crime and even terrorism.

Wikipedia puts it thus–Financial crime is a crime committed against property, involving the unlawful conversion of the ownership of property (belonging to one person) to one’s own personal use and benefit.

Financial crimes may involve fraud (check fraud, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, medical fraud, corporate fraud, securities fraud (including insider trading), bank fraud, insurance fraud, market manipulation, payment (point of sale) fraud, healthcare fraud); theft; scams or confidence tricks; tax evasion, bribery sedition, embezzlement; identity theft; money laundering; and forgery and counterfeiting, including the production of counterfeit money and consumer goods.

Financial crimes may involve additional criminal acts, such as computer crime and elder abuse and even violent crimes such as robbery, armed robbery or murder.

Financial crimes may be carried out by individuals, corporations, or by organized crime groups. Victims may include individuals, corporations, governments, and economies.[10]

According to Section 46 of the Act[11] which defines economic and financial crimes, it defines economic and financial crimes as:

“…the non-violent criminal and illegal activity committed with the objectives of earning wealth illegally or in a group or organized manner thereby violating existing legislation governing the economic activities of government and its administration and includes any form of fraud, narcotic drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement, bribery, looting and any form of corrupt malpractices, illegal arms dealing, smuggling, human trafficking and child labor, illegal oil bunkering and illegal mining, tax evasion, foreign exchange malpractice including counterfeiting of currency, theft of intellectual property and piracy, open market abuse, dumping of toxic waste and prohibited goods, etc.”

4.0 Forms of Financial Crimes in Nigeria

Financial crimes can take different forms. It can be perpetrated through different means, physically, electronically by the use of technology and social media platforms to hoodwink unsuspecting victims who oftentimes genuinely believe that the transactions are valid.

Financial crime ranges from basic theft or fraud committed by ill-intentioned individuals to large-scale operations masterminded by organized criminals with a foot on every continent.

These are serious criminal activities whose importance should not be minimized as, over and beyond their social and economic impact, they are often closely linked to violent crime and even terrorism[12]

Financial Crimes constitute one of the major challenges of the 21st century governments from across the globe, money laundering, internet scams constitute threat to economic development of any Country and threatens their ability to thrive on the path to economic growth and stability:

Financial crime is commonly considered as covering the following offences:[13]

  • fraud
  • cyber crime
  • money laundering
  • terrorist financing
  • bribery and corruption
  • market abuse and insider dealing

Having identified these, it’s important to state here that the Commission has been vested with the power to enforce the provisions of The “Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015. The Act seeks amongst other things to regulate, control and prevent the following:

  • Hacking computer systems and data alteration
  • Unauthorized access of protected systems
  • Illegal registration of cybercafé or usage of unregistered cybercafé
  • System interference
  • Interception of electronic messages, email, electronic money transfers
  • Tampering with critical infrastructure
  • Willful misdirection of electronic messages
  • Unlawful interceptions
  • Computer related forgery
  • Computer related fraud
  • Theft of electronic devices
  • Unauthorized modification of computer systems, network data and system interference
  • Publishing false digital signature and certificates
  • Cyber terrorism
  • Exceptions to financial institutions posting and authorized options
  • Fraudulent issuance of e­-instructions
  • Tampering with computer source documents
  • Identity theft and impersonation
  • Child pornography and related offences
  • Cyberstalking
  • Cybersquatting
  • Racist and xenophobic offences
  • Attempt, conspiracy, aiding and abetting
  • Importation and fabrication of e-­tools
  • Breach of Confidentiality and Privacy
  • Manipulation of ATM/POS terminals
  • Phishing, spamming, spreading of computer virus
  • Electronic cards related fraud
  • Use of fraudulent device or attached e­-mails and websites

The Act recognizes the role of financial institutions as stakeholders in the cyber security framework and the term ‘financial institution’ is defined in section 58 of the Act[14] as including:

“any individual, body, association or group of persons, whether corporate or unincorporated which carries on the business of investment and securities, a discount house, finance company and money brokerage…, insurance institutions, debt factorization and conversion firms, dealer, clearing and settlement companies, legal practitioners, hotels, casinos, bureau de change, supermarkets and such other businesses as the Central Bank or appropriate regulatory authorities may, from time to time, designate”.[15]

From the foregoing, it must be noted that there is no scarcity of legislation in Nigeria on the concept of financial crimes.

The intention of these legislations is to provide an economic climate where Nigerians will invest confidently in the system without fear that their hard-earned fortune will be stolen by culprits who are out to paint the country in bad light both locally and globally. The more reason the EFCC has been empowered and strategically positioned to arrest the incidence of corruption.

Furthermore, it’s important to put some financial crimes in proper context and define them from the Nigerian perspective and why it’s very imperative to exert concerted efforts at curbing the menace.

4.1 Yahoo Yahoo (Cyber crime)

Cybercrime, internet fraud popularly known as Yahoo Yahoo spiked over the last years and the growing number of young people who engage in the crime is at an alarming stage and the situation should be declared a national pandemic.

The EFCC has in recent times arrested many and have prosecuted a lot more. No doubt, the rising economic woes of Nigeria, lack of hope and trust in government, widespread unemployment and social pressure are largely to be blamed. While there is no justification for crime, the government must step up to its responsibility to give the Nigerian Youths a sense of belonging and reorganize the economy to meet their collective aspirations towards a better life.

More often, youths involved in the illicit business have various ways of duping their victims—mostly foreigners. These range from romance scam, email phishing, business email compromise fraud, identity theft, impersonation, to generating bogus business transactions that look too good to be true and shady business deals running into millions of Naira, usually in hard currencies.[16]

Over the years, the act has portrayed Nigeria in bad light globally, the more reason perpetrators of these dastardly act are to desist from such acts and get involved in honorable ventures, to better their lives and grow the Nigerian economy.

4.2 Money-laundering

The phrase money-laundering was not in the Nigerian dictionary, until in the 1980s when it was recognized and efforts were made to deal with the problem by the government.

Therefore, there were decrees set by the government of Generals Muhammad Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha as Heads of State and military president respectively, prohibiting activities related to money-laundering Exchange Control (Anti Sabotage) Decree No 7 of 1984, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Decree No 48 of 1989, now Caps No 29 Laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The government of former president Obasanjo, was able to start the fight against corruption and money laundering, by presenting the bill Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004, before the national assembly, and which was accented to by the government and put into use immediately in order to fight the menace in the country.

Section 2(1) of the Act,[17] states that: A transfer to or from a foreign country funds or security exceeding the sum of $10,000 (Ten Thousand Dollars) or its equivalent shall be reported to the central bank of Nigeria.

And it further provides that a report should be made pursuant to the above provision to indicate the nature and amount of transfer, the names and addresses of the sender and receiver of the funds or securities

4.3 Bribery and corruption

Unfortunately, the greatest challenge to Nigeria’s giant strides towards economic growth is a result of the ongoing carnage, incompetence. Gross mismanagement of the national finances, misappropriation of funds and massive embezzlement of our collective patrimony. The unrestrained reward for incompetence over meritocracy fueled by nepotism and ethnicity is the many reasons we are where we are today.

Corruption is the dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery. It is the illegitimate use of power to benefit a private interest. Corruption is the offering of a bribe to an official so that the truth will be hidden. It involves the embezzlement of public funds for personal use, and any act that is considered to be criminal in nature according to the law of a particular society[18]

The breach of protocols, jumping the guns, cutting corners is all products of failed system. Once people know they can buy their way out of a process, they will intensify the approach to break or bend the rules to favour.

4.4 Obtaining property by false pretense.

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other enactment or law, any person who by any false pretense, and with intent to defraud-

(a)        obtains from any other person, in Nigeria or in any other country, for himself or any other person; or

(b)        induces any other person, in Nigeria or in any other country, to deliver to any person, any property, whether or not the property is obtained or its delivery is induced through the medium of a contract induced by the false pretense, commits an offence under this Act.

(2) A person who by false pretense, and with the intent to defraud, induces any other person, in Nigeria or in any other country, to confer a benefit on him or on any other person by doing or permitting a thing to be done on the understanding that the benefit has been or will be paid for commits an offence under this Act.

(3) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2) of this section is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not more than 20 years and not less than 7 years without the option of a fine.

5.0 Constitutional Safeguards to the Exercise of Powers

According to Wikipedia,  a constitutional right can be a prerogative or a duty, a power or a restraint of power, recognized and established by a sovereign state or union of states.

Constitutional rights may be expressly stipulated in a national constitution, or they may be inferred from the language of a national constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, meaning that laws that contradict it are considered unconstitutional and invalid.[19]

Constitutional rights are rights enshrined in the laws of a state with the sole intention to ensure that they are not violated by any person, agency of government or institution, no matter how highly placed.

There is indeed no doubt that the establishment of the EFCC is a bold step in the right direction. However, It must be stated that a lot of Infractions have resulted in recent times, human rights abuse and infractions have been reported in some quarters. Nigerians cannot condone, at this critical point of nationhood, the breach of laws by law enforcement agencies.

The provisions of Chapter 4 of The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are sacrosanct and no matter how highly placed, everyone is amenable and subject to the law.

Its applicability is binding on all Nigerians including law enforcement agencies who are precluded to, in the guise of performing their constitutional duty, to breach this constitutional bar set up by legislation in order to preclude draconian acts of recklessness, lawlessness, breach of Law and Order, the desecration of the society and the sanctity of human life.

  1. (1) Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
  2. (1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –

(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;

(b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and

(c) no person shall be required to perform forced of compulsory labor.

35. (1) Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law -.

(2) Any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right to remain silent or avoid answering any question until after consultation with a legal practitioner or any other person of his own choice.

(3) Any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed in writing within twenty-four hours (and in a language that he understands) of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention.

(1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.

  1. (1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
  1. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
  1. (1) No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law.

The provisions of the above sections must be religiously followed by the commission. Reports have it that in certain instances, some officials of the commission treat suspects in dehumanizing manner, some of them are denied fair hearing, speedy trial and oftentimes, illegally detained.

Furthermore, in the exercise of their powers, the EFCC have been accused of unjustly punishing innocent persons, freezing their bank accounts, sealing their houses and places of business, when hired to do hatchet jobs for some elements with intention to humiliate their perceived opponents, competitors or rival.

It must be stated clearly that, the Law does not preclude the EFCC from inviting suspects for questioning and investigation, and it will not amount to a violation of their right to liberty. This was the decision of the court in Ken Nwafor v. Economic and Financial Crimes Commission[20] that:

“The Appellant has no immunity in law from being investigated for allegation of committing any criminal offence. His right to personal liberty was therefore, as found by the Court below not breached or threatened or likely to be breached merely by reason of his invitation, arrest and investigation for the criminal offences alleged against him by his business associates. Indeed, the Respondent has the undoubted powers to intervene and carry out its investigation as it did and therefore, it committed no wrong by so doing in the circumstances of this case”.

The Supreme Court in the above referenced suit[21]observed “thus, constitutionally, the EFCC has the power to arrest a person upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed a criminal offence or to prevent him from committing one or where an officer of the law enforcement agency reasonably believes that such a person has committed a criminal offence.

In all such cases, however, the test of reasonable suspicion is objective and not subjective. See COP V. Obolo (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt. 120)130; Jackson V. Omonikuna (1981) NLR 283”.

However, it must be pointed out at once that the discretionary powers of the EFCC to arrest and detain a citizen is neither left at large nor a carte blank check for indiscriminate and unwarranted arrest and detention of the citizen without any reasonable grounds for suspecting that the citizen had or was about to commit an offence known to law and thus these powers are clearly circumscribed by the provisions of Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

Also, and all such other laws providing for the protection of the rights of the citizens to their personal liberty and dignity of the human person amongst other fundamental rights of the citizen.The exercise of their constitutional power and duty must be in a manner which is within the letters of the law and ambits of civility.

6.0 Matters Arising and the Nigerian Situation

Unfortunately, perpetrators of cybercrime top the pool of arrests made by the commission recently. This clearly shows that the Nigerian youths are disenchanted and pulled into crime in droves.

The Nigerian economy favours the ruling class and political structures, and that is why the status needs to change. Efforts should be made and intensified to combat official corruption going on in Nigeria.

Nigerians want to see more prosecution of the high-profile individuals, whose nefarious activities are in public knowledge.

The EFCC should not be a barking dog without teeth to bite, it must go after the high and the mighty in a bit to sanitize the nation and our economy.

Nigeria’s collective patrimony that have been stacked away by scrupulous elements inspired by personal greed, and selfish desires to the detriment of the greater percentage of the population should be recovered.

Recently, the World Bank Report on the poverty indices in Nigeria identified that 4 in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line, and it is projected that above 95.1 million in Nigeria will be below the poverty line in 2022. This is about half the population of the country and is indeed a cause for worry. The above enumerated statistics is why we have been described as the “Poverty Capital” of the world.[22]

There is no better time than now for the EFCC to start arresting and prosecuting corrupt politicians, public office holders, fraudsters from every region of the country, without enjoying the protection of state power or connection.

Recently, the media went frenzy during the drama leading to the arrest and questioning of Senator Rochas Okorocha who was alleged to have embezzled 26 million Naira of public funds.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos recently convicted and sentenced Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, senator representing Delta North senatorial district at the National Assembly, to seven years imprisonment and ordered that his two companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd, be wound up in line with the provisions of Section 22 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2021.[23]

While the above instances point to a work in progress, there is a lot more to be done. The EFCC have decried the waning interest of Nigerians in the whistleblowing responsibility. The fight against financial crimes cannot be fought alone by the commission.

The collaborative efforts of well-meaning Nigerians should be readily available to boost information gathering, intelligence and detection measures in order to reduce the incidences of error, and optimize the possibilities of precision in the overall task of arresting this menace.

7.0 Impediments to the Fight Against Corruption

The role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria has not been fully effective due to overwhelming problems such as:[24]

  1. Delays occasioned by inefficient judicial system

In Nigeria, the general experience with the handling of litigation in our courts has followed the same pattern for many decades. It is no surprise to hear of cases that have remained pending before the court for more than a decade, and the matter is worst still at the preliminary stage.

The unnecessary delays occasioned by numerous adjournments in the usual Courts, the technical and procedural complexities makes the call for a special Court designated to hear matters relating to financial crimes very desirable.

This will guarantee speedy trial of corruption and financial crimes cases, and uphold the cause of justice without delay which in many cases have denied the state access to proceeds of crimes.

Oftentimes, in the long period of trial and avoidable delays, these assets lose value or have their forms altered so much so that little or nothing of value will be left at the end of it all. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) was a legislative intervention aimed at curing the teething problems of delayed criminal justice administration in Nigeria.

One of such provisions in the law is the day-to-day hearing of criminal cases. But corruption cases involving Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) have lingered for several years despite this provision.[25] The more reason a lot more have to be done in order to change the tide in the judicial process in Nigeria because, a lot is at stake.

  1. Inadequate financial and technical Support

It must be noted that corruption fights back at every instance when an attempt is made at curbing or fighting it. The obvious need to fund the commission in order to deliver on its mandate and constitutional responsibilities cannot be overemphasized.

More so, the financial independence of the commission should be prioritized and not be left to the whims and caprices of politicians, who will be more disposed to starving the commission of the required funding to carry out its tasks.

With a very elaborate structure, numerous departments, member of staff in different states of the federation, any attempt to deprive the commission of financial independence will spell doom to the fight against corruption.

The inability to fund operational activities has been a challenge to members of the armed forces, who most times allege diversion of funds by persons vested with the leadership to manage the affairs of that institution of government.[26]

  1. Lack of well-trained personnel and understaffing

Training staff of the commission who will investigate and prosecute the anti-corruption fight should be prioritized by government. The nature of crime in the 21st century has gone nuclear.

The use of sophisticated technology, the penetration of internet-based platforms that make detecting of crime a little more difficult require that adequate training must be put in place to properly equip members of the staff with the requisite skills necessary for curbing the raging issue of financial crimes.

Added to the above, the commission should employ more hands to the workforce to enable them to reach their true potentials and deliver optimally in their role to fight financial crimes in Nigeria.

  1. Administrative embargo and lack of international collaboration

It is public knowledge that most of the looted funds in Nigeria find their way into foreign banks in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East. The illegal purchase of properties in Dubai and other places with looted funds account for most of the incidences of corruption in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, the governments of these countries have been complicit in the entire activity and if they will establish strict measures aimed at verifying the source of funds used to invest in their country, it will go a long to discourage the illegality.

The former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, in highlighting the difficulties being experienced in the repatriation of stolen assets traced to foreign countries, observed that:

“The process of repatriating monies stashed abroad has been very frustrating and disappointing, yet we have done everything possible, gone out of our way to encourage our sister agencies, but cooperation is almost nil.”[27]

This is a clear representation of the state of affairs and revealed how uncooperative most foreign countries are in assisting Nigeria to recover looted funds. It must also be pointed out that the overlap of numerous agencies without clear-cut responsibilities impedes the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

There should rather be a synergy and collaborative efforts from the agencies including ICPC, NPF, EFCC, NDLEA and the rest to deliver results in the imminent measures required to salvage the Nigerian economy from the claws of financial recklessness.

8.0 Recommendations

The fight against corruption is a herculean task, from the oil and gas sector to education, health, aviation, transport sector and indeed every sector of our national economy. The unfortunate reality is that the institutional framework vested with the responsibility of fighting corruption has not lived up to the expectation.

Moreover, the incidences of human rights violation resulting from their operations have also become an issue of concern and should be redressed.

The process of recruiting members of staff and leadership of the commission should be transparent and based solely on merit, competence and professionalism.

The judiciary should ensure that independent bodies of judges who are not susceptible to intervention of the Executive, are vested with the responsibility of hearing matters bothering on financial crimes. A special court should be established for speedy trial and determination of financial crimes cases.

Improving collaboration between state and non-state actors in fighting corruption; there should be an improved sensitization for citizens to understand the implication of corruption, including its causes, costs and consequences; and the reason why they need to act against corruption.

State and non-state actors should share information, coordinate efforts, and develop efficient and effective anti-corruption responses.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), whistle-blowers and investigative journalists, men and women of the press should do their civic duty of unveiling and revealing all that needs revealing all in the fight against corruption.

The use of technology and social media to mobilize citizens to participate in topical anti-corruption issues should be encouraged, since the conduct of crime has gone digital. Improving access to technology, social media, print and digital media at the grassroots level is important to drive home the anti-corruption message.

9.0 Conclusion

The salient views of Prof.  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in her book “Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous[28]whilst working to root out corruption as Nigeria’s finance minister reveals the dangerous venture it can be, to go headlong against the high and mighty or attempt to disrupt vested interests.

Drawing on her experience and that of her team, she described the dangers, pitfalls, and successes recorded in fighting corruption.

Okonjo-Iweala detailed the numerous ways in which corruption can divert resources away from development, rewarding the unscrupulous and depriving poor people of services.[29]

In a Nigeria where corruption is at the centre stage of governance, anti-corruption advocates need to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge of how to combat the situation without fear or favour and of course within the ambits of the law. .

The World Bank Group considers corruption a major challenge to its twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent of people in developing countries.

Corruption has a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice.[30] This is the more reason why developing nations like Nigeria must do all that it can to stamp out the menace.

The commission must ensure that its officials do not act in an overzealous manner and that they respect the sanctity of human dignity, which the constitution seeks to uphold.

Trainings, orientation sessions aimed at teaching them the basic constitutional rights of citizens which they should not violate should be top priority in the wake of the increasing incidences of human rights violation.

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

Online sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_and_Financial_Crimes_Commission (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  2. https://www.efcc.gov.ng/about-efcc-3 (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  3. https://nigerianfinder.com/history-of-efcc-economic-and-financial-crimes-commission/  (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  4. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/486011-just-in-buhari-appoints-new-efcc-board.html (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  5. https://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/security/efcc-records-98-49-success-rate-in-its-2021-prosecution/ (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crime (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  7. https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Financial-crime (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  8. https://www.int-comp.org/careers/your-career-in-financial-crime-prevention/what-is-financial-crime/ (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  9. https://www.financierworldwide.com/the-nigerian-cybercrime-act-2015-and-its-implications-for-financial-institutions-and-service-providers#.Yr7j8lzMLcs (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  10. Yahoo-Yahoo Thrives In Nigeria, Despite Government Clampdown – Crime – Nigeria (nairaland.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  11. definition of corruption – Search (bing.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_right (accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  13. Number of poor people in Nigeria to reach 95 million in 2022 – World Bank – Premium Times Nigeria (premiumtimesng.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  14. Appeal Court jails Senator Nwaoboshi 7 years for money laundering – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  15. The Role of EFCC in Fighting Corruption in Nigeria (infoguidenigeria.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  16. Why judiciary is to blame for delays in high-profile cases – Malami – Premium Times Nigeria (premiumtimesng.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  17. How Police funding challenge can be tackled — Lawyers – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  18. https://www.efcc.gov.ng/news/4643-magu-laments-obstacles-in-repatriation-of-stolen-funds(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  19. https://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Corruption-Dangerous-behind-Headlines/dp/0262038013(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)
  20. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/governance/brief/anti-corruption(accessed on the 1st June, 2022)

 

 

Statutes

  1. Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment, Etc.) Act 2002
  2. Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004
  3. The “Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015

 

Textbooks

1. Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (The MIT Press) (2018)Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.

Law reports

  1. (2021) Legalpedia (CA) 31150
  2. (2020) LegalpediaSC/CR/161/2020

 

 

[1] < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_and_Financial_Crimes_Commission > accessed 1st  June, 2022

[2] < https://www.efcc.gov.ng/about-efcc-3 > accessed 1st June, 2022

[3]  < https://nigerianfinder.com/history-of-efcc-economic-and-financial-crimes-commission/ > accessed 1st  June, 2022

[4] Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment, Etc.) Act 2002

[5] < https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/486011-just-in-buhari-appoints-new-efcc-board.html > accessed 1st  June, 2022

[6] < https://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/security/efcc-records-98-49-success-rate-in-its-2021-prosecution/  > accessed 1st  June, 2022

7 SC/CR/161/2020

[8]  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004

[9] Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act 2004

[10] < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crime > accessed 1st  June, 2022)

[11] Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004

[12] < https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Financial-crime > accessed 1st  June, 2022

[13] < https://www.int-comp.org/careers/your-career-in-financial-crime-prevention/what-is-financial-crime/ > accessed 1st June, 2022

[14]The “Cybercrimes (Prohibition and Prevention) Act, 2015

[15] < https://www.financierworldwide.com/the-nigerian-cybercrime-act-2015-and-its-implications-for-financial-institutions-and-service-providers#.Yr7j8lzMLcs > accessed 1st June, 2022

[16]  Yahoo-Yahoo Thrives In Nigeria, Despite Government Clampdown – Crime – Nigeria (nairaland.com) > accessed 1st  June, 2022

[17] Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004

[18]definition of corruption – Search (bing.com)> accessed 1st t June, 2022

 

[19] < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_right > accessed 1st June, 2022

[20](2021) Legalpedia (CA) 31150

[21]Ibid

[22]Number of poor people in Nigeria to reach 95 million in 2022 – World Bank – Premium Times Nigeria (premiumtimesng.com)> accessed 1st June, 2022

[23]Appeal Court jails Senator Nwaoboshi 7 years for money laundering – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com) > accessed 1st June, 2022)

[24]The Role of EFCC in Fighting Corruption in Nigeria (infoguidenigeria.com)> accessed 1st June, 2022

[25]Why judiciary is to blame for delays in high-profile cases – Malami – Premium Times Nigeria (premiumtimesng.com)> accessed 1st  June, 2022

[26]How Police funding challenge can be tackled — Lawyers – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com)> accessed 1st  June, 2022

[27] < https://www.efcc.gov.ng/news/4643-magu-laments-obstacles-in-repatriation-of-stolen-funds >accessed on the 1st June, 2022.

[28] Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (The MIT Press) (2018)Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.

[29] < https://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Corruption-Dangerous-behind-Headlines/dp/0262038013 >accessed 1 June, 2022

[30] < https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/governance/brief/anti-corruption> accessed 1st  June, 2022

 

About the Author:

David Chibueze Njoku is a legal Practitioner and president of the Legal Ideas Forum Int’l.

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