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Scrapping EFCC, ICPC: Wrong Signal To Anti-Graft Crusade

May 23, 2012

One of the major paradoxes of contemporary Nigeria in the last two decades is that the nation will take one step forward and three steps backward. This assertion is apt when one considers the inconsistency in policy formulation and implementation.

One of the major paradoxes of contemporary Nigeria in the last two decades is that the nation will take one step forward and three steps backward. This assertion is apt when one considers the inconsistency in policy formulation and implementation.

The Federal Government, headed by Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has set up several ad-hoc committees to look into specific areas of our national life that deserve urgent action as part of his transformation agenda. One of such committees, the Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies, headed by one-time Head of Service of the Federation, Mr Stephen Oronsaye, submitted an 800-page report to the President for consideration.

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It recommended the scrapping of 38 agencies and merger of 52. In addition, it recommended that 14 others be reverted to department and a total reduction of the 263 statutory commissions, departments and agencies to 161. Among agencies recommended for scrapping were the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). The presidential committee said that the affected agencies should be scrapped because they perform duplicated and conflicting functions of the Nigeria Police Force. Since this report was submitted to Mr. President on the 16th of April, scores of the populace have condemned the recommendations, especially the section pertaining to the scrapping of the three agencies said to be active.

Firing the first salvo, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Anti-Corruption, Senator Victor Lar, described the recommendation by the Oronsaye-led committee as “an absolute nonsense and retrogression”. He argued that instead of discarding the two anti-graft agencies, more bodies should be created if the country is to win the war against corruption. The Senator went further that the agencies were created by an Act of the National Assembly, adding that it was only the National Assembly that had the power to reduce the number of government agencies. To him, what the presidency had done has no effect except the laws establishing the agencies were amended or repelled.

Others who have faulted Oronsaye’s recommendation included two past Chairmen of the ICPC, Justices Mustapha Akande and Emmanuel Ayoola. Akanbi said that scrapping the anti-graft bodies would weaken the fight against corruption, noting that the ICPC and EFCC would not have been created had the police been effective in tackling corruption cases in the country. He explained that the mirage of security challenges facing the country makes the creation of these agencies imperative. Ayoola, in his own reaction, said that scrapping the agencies was not the right solution. Instead, he called for strengthening of the institutions for better performance, especially in the wake of new incidences of corruption in the country.

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Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, Emeka Ngige, SAN, Yusuf Ali, SAN, Chief Tayo Oyetibo, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin and scores of civil society groups have also condemned the move. Specifically, Chief Ngige said that the recommendation was an indication that the fight against corruption was not being taken serious by the present Federal Government. He concluded that the move if approved by the government, would make corruption the centre piece of the Federal Government’s transformation agenda. The Nigeria Labour Congress, in its own reaction, said that the recommendation would compound the already worse unemployment situation in the country. Beside the opposition from individuals and groups, the recommendation has also attracted editorial comments from most of the national newspapers on the desirability or otherwise of the committee’s suggestions.

An analysis of the reactions showed that facts and statistics needed to persuade the government to jettison the recommendation were hardly advanced by those who voiced their opposition to the move. This write up is meant to fill the gap.  In my previous article on the state of the anti-corruption agencies published by some print and online media last year, I reeled out figures and statistics from other countries to support the need for more anti-graft agencies in Nigeria. It is an irony that democracy which many Nigerians had hoped would bring better life to them has failed to yield any positive dividend  after 13 years of uninterrupted civil rule, owing to high level of corruption and bad leadership – ‘twin-sisters’ threatening the very foundation of our nation.


Alan Doig in his seminal work on corruption tilted: In the State We Trust? Democratisation, Corruption and Development stated emphatically that reforms without strong state institutions and civil society groups would not produce the desired results.

According to him, “the shrinking of state sector, without any complementary strengthening of state institutions and skills, turn a bloated weak state into a small weak state, further reducing its capacity to check corruption”. In the academic paper published in 1999, Doig argued that any country that follows that path will be worse off. His words, “Worse, the combination of a weak civil society and weak state allows small, predatory political machine, the more easily to dominate an unorganized electorate ­– and take control of the institutions of the state”. The committee, it was said, recommended the scrapping and merger of government agencies with a view to reducing the nation over bloated civil service and wastage in public spending. This suggestion is begging the question, or what some people will describe as attacking the symptoms without tackling the root cause of the problem. Scrapping the two anti-graft agencies without strong institutions in place will only increase the scale and magnitude of the menace of corruption in country.

It is my firm belief that at this stage of our national development; what we need is a more grounded approach to address the multi-facetted problems confronting the nation rather looking for short term and liberal approaches that in the long term will add to the problems. Care must be taken to guide against the repeat of 1999 incidents in Red River Delta province of Thai Binh Village in Vietnam, when the wave of rural unrest on public perception of corruption led to razing the houses of a number of local government officials thought to be corrupt. The nation can not afford another carnage now that the menace of Boko Haram is ravaging several parts of the country.

It should be noted that accepting the recommendation will send a wrong signal to the international community that Nigeria is not serious about reducing the level of corruption in the country. The grave implication of this is that our efforts as a nation to attract foreign investors, especially in the power sector will be in jeopardy. The recommendations, if approved and implemented, will further worsen Nigeria’s rating in the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of the Berlin-based global Transparency International (IT). Already, there has been a steady falling in the country’s rating by TI from 2008.

Furthermore, the move may also affect the nation’s relationship with the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) represented by the World Bank and IMF, which portends a grave consequence for our financial rating in the global business environment. Nigeria can not afford another blacklisting by the global financial community owing to policy inconsistencies.

At this critical juncture in our determined efforts to right the wrong of the past, the government should be able to bear the cost of monitoring compliance by funding anti-corruption adequately. Also worthy of note, is that if Nigeria is to succeed as Singapore in terms of reducing system-wide corruption, the rule of law must be internalized to a greater extent in the Nigerian civil service instead of pursuing a rationalisation of government agencies. Attaining these will involve of a lot of financial commitment from the government. Across all spectrums, Nigeria’s fourth democratic rule is regarded as the most expensive in the world, where an average Federal lawmaker is said earn salaries and allowances far in excess of a sitting president of the United States of America.

What is lacking generally in Nigeria is absence of deep thinkers who are capable of navigating the series of challenges facing the nation and provide time-cost solutions, in the mode of first set of Nigerian political leaders that spread across the then three geo-political zones. Our policy makers and legislators must do a critical assessment of our government and work toward blocking all leakages in public funds. The commitment and political will of Nigeria leadership to create strong institutions in the country is very crucial if the objective of the current reforms aimed at reducing wastage is to be realised. As President Obama rightly noted during his state visit to Ghana two years ago, what we need in Nigeria are strong institutions and not strong leaders.

I am of the view that what should be of priority to the government at all tiers is implementing the outcome of last year’s international conference against corruption held in Marakesh, Morocco. Participants at the end of the two-day side-event organised by Roberto Villarreal-led Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), stressed the need for the strengthening of the public sector and involvement of citizens and civil society groups in the war against corruption. On the whole, Nigeria can not achieve much in her efforts at ensuring transparency and accountability in service delivery without implementing these recommendations. Scrapping the two anti-graft agencies will send a wrong signal to the international community about our level of commitment to reduce the incidences of corruption.

Sina Babasola, sent this piece from London.



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