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Why we are in support of Mrs. Farida Waziri’s removal as EFCC Chair

March 16, 2010

The BAYELSA STATE TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE (BSTI) and the Bayelsa Progressive Front (BPF) are strongly in support of the removal of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mrs. Farida Waziri. When she took over as Chairman of the EFCC, our hopes were high because we believed that given her pedigree as a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police and a tested crime detective,

The BAYELSA STATE TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE (BSTI) and the Bayelsa Progressive Front (BPF) are strongly in support of the removal of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mrs. Farida Waziri. When she took over as Chairman of the EFCC, our hopes were high because we believed that given her pedigree as a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police and a tested crime detective,
would equip her adequately to deal with the monster of corruption in Nigeria. The report by Transparency International in 2009 showed that Nigeria’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has worsened is an indication that EFCC is gradually losing the battle against high level corruption. Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it's set a rolling it must increase.

It is also gratifying to know that other notable Nigerians like Professor Wole Soyinka, Barr. Femi Falana among others have identified the challenges facing the Agency and have started to call for the removal of EFCC boss. As reported in the Daily Sun of Monday, March 15 p. 8, the group suggested that Farida Waziri be replaced with Colonel Abubakar Umar (rtd), accusing the EFCC of inefficiency, unnecessary bureaucracy and selected trial of corrupt public office holders. The suggestion by these reputable men has won the hearts of many Nigerians across the political and civil society spectrum.

The Commission was established by the Federal Government through the Act of the National Assembly passed the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC Act of 2004, statutorily empowered to cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed any offence related to economic and financial crimes. In addition, the Commission is conferred with powers to cause investigations into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s life style and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income

We are particularly sad because the EFCC under the leadership of Mrs. Farida Waziri does not seem to be interested in prosecuting or rather investigating certain matters brought before it. We have written several petitions against certain highly placed government functionaries, but none of them has been attended to. For a nation crippled by corruption, the actions of the anti-graft agency to treat such a matter with levity amounts to defeating the mandate of the Commission. It could also serve as an encouragement of other public officers to loot and squander the resources of their States. Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

On January 28, 2010, a petition titled: WHY THE DEPUTY GOVERNOR OF BAYELSA STATE HON. PEREMOBOWEI EBEBI SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED, signed by Dr. Theophilus Ebikibena and Barrister Eghosa Osaro. The Farida Waziri led EFCC. The allegations made in that petition are weighty ranging from corrupt enrichment, false declaration of assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau, diversion of Local Government Council Funds, over-inflation of contract values and extra-budgetary expenses.  In our view these allegations, some of which were specific, should have been investigated by the Commission. To our utter dismay and frustration, the Commission under Farida Waziri paid deaf ears to these monumental complaints affecting the development of a State of the Federation.

Prior to this petition,  The NIGER DELTA COALITION IN THE DIASPORA, in a petition published on January 18, 2010 titled: TERRORISM BY NDDC AGAINST THE NIGER DELTA PEOPLE, petitioned to the EFCC on the need to investigate Mr. Timi Alaibe, Atei Beredugo, Etim Nyong, Uzo Nduka, Emmanuel Aguariavwodo and some Companies used as fronts to dupe the Commission. In this petition, specific names of companies, amounts of money, contract values and other hard facts were mentioned.  A copy of the  petition sent to EFCC by UPS, while some were published in local papers others were published in, an online media. These are projects that touch the lives of the Niger Delta Region-a Region that is where marginalization has caused youth militancy. Specific attention was drawn to the expenditure about N45 billion on the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan- a document of 258 pages. Again, the EFCC has not taken any action, as though the agency deliberately condones corruption. We had expected the EFCC to handle the matter even though this was done with levity. This petition has been left unattended to. By this singular act, public confidence in the Commission has been eroded.

One Barrister Ayebaemi Douglas wrote an article titled “ WHO IS THE RICHEST POLITICIAN IN BAYELSA STATE” published in The Reformer, WeeklySTAR and Pointblanknews, alleging that Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi diverted State funds acquire massive properties such as 50 houses, filing Stations, massive hotels, exotic cars and other choice property. The article claims  that Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi is the richest politician in Bayelsa State, having being at the corridors of political powers for about ten years now.  The writer also alleged that the Deputy Governor collected huge estacode in order to travel for medical checkup abroad. This was done several times as is deserving of a public officer of that high standing. However, at each turn, Ebebi collected the money without embarking on the said trips. He is widely believed to have raped the Local Government Councils during the Goodluck administration.  He never travelled after collecting huge sums of money. The writer also alleged that as Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, most members of the House accused him of high handedness - as he adopted a policy of divide and rule, sidelined a section of the House and awarded sundry contracts to himself without Due Process. The writer prayed the  EFCC to investigate the allegations against Peremobowei  Ebebi to prove to Nigerians that there are no sacred cows in the crusade against corruption. We know that the Deputy Governor enjoys immunity but the EFCC should have deployed its intelligence infrastructure to investigate and ascertain the veracity or otherwise of these allegations. The EFCC is gradually towing the slippery slope of failure.

The NIGER DELTA INTEGRITY GROUP even threatened legal action against the EFCC if it fails to investigate any reported cases of financial malfeasance. We have severally observed with dismay that  the Deputy Governor, who is a Lawyer knows nothing about transparency, fiscal discipline and accountability. We reckon that corruption is a scourge that has its own motivations, and one has to thoroughly study that phenomenon and eliminate the foundations that allow corruption to exist.
Further, on  the 25th of February 2010, a petition was written to the EFCC by the NIGER DELTA COALITION FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE, demanding for the probe and possible prosecution of four Commissioners. These Commissioners are believed to have embezzled, and diverted monies earmarked for the execution of development projects. This petition was signed by Peter Krigbodo Izonfadei, a member of the Coalition. Among other things the Coalition submitted that  the four Commissioners resigned their appointment promptly so as to be  arrested and prosecuted so they can pay back what they have embezzled and misappropriated. The people in question are :
    •    Chief Ayakeme Whiskey -   Commissioner of Housing and Urban Dev.
    •    Dr. Godbless Azibapu Eruani – Commissioner of Health
    •    Mrs. Josephine I zonbodor     - Commissioner of Education
    •    Chief Asara A. Asara      - Commissioner of Information
    •    Von Dimeari Kemedi   - Director General, Due Process Bureau
The Group also threatened that if  Governor Timipre Sylva failed to act and the EFCC reneges on her responsibilities, the Coalition may be compelled to prefer charges against them in a court of competent jurisdiction. Governor Sylva has sacked one of the Commissioners, while another one promptly resigned. While we pray the Governor to sack the other two Commissioner and dissolve the fraudulent Due Process Bureau, it is pertinent to state unequivocally that the EFCC has not said anything on the petition, as if the Commission has been bribed not to act.

In our genuine conviction to rid Bayelsa State of corruption, we had thought that the Commission would make good its promise of crushing toes of corrupt Nigerians. We pray EFCC to investigate the allegations against Ebebi to prove to Nigerians that there are no sacred cows in the crusade against corruption. Specifically, EFCC should investigate the payments made to the companies in connection with the Master Plan and the Road projects in Bayelsa State. May we state categorically that if EFCC’s victory against corruption must be total and if EFCC must win the confidence of the people, We of BAYELSA STATE TRANSPARENCY  INITIATIVE are whistle blowers, and we had the firm belief in the EFCC and the leadership of Mrs. Farida Waziri to investigate Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi, and scrutinize his source of wealth before Bayelsa State is thrown into bankruptcy. This the actions of the Commission have proved otherwise.

As Marcus Cicero put it so pungently, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is like a plague” Corruption is worst than a traitor and an enemy within.

With the lukewarm attitude of EFCC pertaining to the investigation of corrupt public officers, especially in Bayelsa State, With the attitude of the EFCC, the nation seems to have surrendered their Liberties, or are subdued by the debauchery of the few marauders. We interpret this to mean nonchalance, conspiracy and debauchery. It is on the strength of the foregoing and EFCC’s inability to investigate these numerous cases of corruption that we the Bayelsa Transparency Initiative strongly support other civil society organizations pushing for the removal of the EFCC Chairman  Mrs. Farida Waziri. If the removal of the EFCC Chairman will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Commission, so be it and let it be done.

Dr. Ebikebina Theophilus  and  Barr. Eghosa Osaro  are members of the Niger Delta Coalition of Good Governance


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