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Where is the 2009 EFCC report?

On September 28, 2008, I questioned the whereabouts of the annual report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to the National Assembly.


In the words of the EFCC (ESTABLISHMENT) ACT of 2004: “The Commission shall, not later than 30th September in each year, submit to the National Assembly, a report of its activities during the immediately preceding year and shall include in such report the audited accounts of the Commission.”
But by the 30th of September last year, it was clear the EFCC had ignored this critical responsibility.  In subsequent comments, on October 11 and 18, 2008, I called on Mrs. Farida Waziri, the Commission Chairman, to resign, and then to be fired. 

I argued that it made a joke of the claims of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s so-called “rule of law” government for Waziri to continue in office.  [Upon review, I was wrong on that point: it did not really make a joke, it simply clarified that the government does not really believe in it.]

As an institution, the EFCC always gave the impression it respected the law.  With particular reference to the report, the Commission posted on its website (and I noted this last year), the following article of faith: “The Commission is under obligation by law to make a comprehensive report of its activities to the National Assembly, not later than the 30th of September every year. The EFCC Annual Report presented yearly to the National Assembly, is a compendium of all activities of all units of the Commission including Operations, Administration, Legal & Prosecution, Media, Accounts, Training School, etc. The Commission is not under obligation to publish it, but having been presented to the National Assembly, members of the public may be apprised of its contents by their elected representatives or seek to obtain copies by laid down procedures of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Please note that I phrase that in the past tense; sometime in the past year—perhaps in connection with my questions—it was quietly excised.  Following my first two articles, the Commission issued a rebuttal.  Spokesman Femi Babafemi said I had erred in asking for the 2008 report, when it was only the 2007 report that had been due on September 30, 2008.

Of course that was nonsense.  It was clear that what I was demanding, and what had been ignored by the EFCC, was the “comprehensive report of its activities” that was due on September 30, 2008.  That provision was not met in law, let alone in substance. 

But let us move forward by one year. 

Early this month, I set out in chase of the 2009 report, which was due on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.  After a lot of running around, the Office of the Senate President confirmed to reporters of this newspaper, on October 20, 2009, that the EFCC had not—repeat, NOT—submitted the report. 
Last year, as it laboured to discredit my position, the EFCC asked the following questions: Was Olumhense “aware that some of the issues he raised in his first article were those that should have been taken care of in the 2006 report?  Was there any effort to confirm from the Commission or the National Assembly whether the report he erroneously called 2008 report has been submitted before rushing to call for the head of the Chairman of the Commission?”

I said I was not aware of any “2006” issues, and urged the Commission to specify what those issues were, and what it meant by "should have been taken care of." It never did. 

Instead, one year later, the Commission has neglected to submit the annual report.  Instead, its Chairman elected to travel the world.  In fact, on October 20, when we were confirming this fact, Waziri—fresh from attending the World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Turkey—was on her way to the United States on tour.
 
In a meeting in Washington DC with supposedly gullible Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) listeners, she spoke of her faith in the rule of law.  She noted, for good measure, “[President Yar’Adua and] I have zero-tolerance for corruption.”

Nigerians the world over know that to be an insult, but of course she was speaking before her sponsors.  She forgot to tell them she supports the law so much she is quite comfortable ignoring it.  In comparison, her hosts knew that no federal body in the United States charged with submitting an annual report to Congress can ignore it and go bragging before a foreign agency. 

But for the second year in a row, Waziri has accomplished this.  For me, there are three levels of concern here.

The first is that the National Assembly does not seem to care.  It took a lot of effort this month even to make the staff of the National Assembly to understand the report we were looking for.  Even when that happened, the legislators did not seem to think it is strange that the EFCC is habitually failing to meet its legal obligation to file the annual report in order to enable the people of Nigeria obtain a comprehensive picture of what it is doing.
 
The second is the press.  Why is the press not sufficiently interested in whether the EFCC reports or not, even in the face of the news value?
Finally, the Nigerian people.  If Nigerians are truly concerned about the corruption that is ravaging the country, they should show greater interest in the annual report of the EFCC.  It is the only way to monitor what the agency is doing from year to year.  Accountability is the name of the game, and we must make the EFCC and other offices know we demand it.  If we do not hold our officials to account, we will never amount to much.  
 
The EFCC has bits and pieces of information scattered all over its website, but it is neither consistent nor complete.  And it is not the official report demanded by law.  Legally, the report is not a request, but a demand.  It does not depend on the mood or ego of whomever is in office: the EFCC must ensure it is made available as and when due.
 
In my view, the EFCC is avoiding the preparation of this report because of the convoluted and complicated agenda of its leadership.  This legal obligation is not seen as a responsibility to be executed in the interest of the Nigerian people, but as a burden that would hurt the interests of the EFCC leadership.  The EFCC and Nigeria’s political leadership fear that questions will be asked about its completeness and thoroughness, and the fakery of our anti-corruption posture exposed. 

This is a tragedy.  But fighting corruption cannot be done on the ad hoc basis with which it was done by Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC in its finest form, nor in Waziri’s skeleton-and-bones version.

It is this selectivity that is at the heart of the EFCC to report to the nation.  But if we are ever to move this nation forward, it is the patriotic responsibility of all who hold office to account, and of the citizen to ask questions. 

That is why, on October 1, 2010, I invite Nigerians to ask the EFCC—irrespective of whoever heads it—to show us the annual report. 

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Everywhere else in the world where the national leadership values self-respect, Waziri would have since been fired.  If she cannot respect the law that gave her a job, why should she insult anyone else by asking them to obey any law?

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