The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL has called on the Federal Government to refrain from supporting the humiliation of Heads of anti-graft agencies and panels.
This came on the heels of a directive from the Federal Government through its Ministry of Justice asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to investigate the allegation that its chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, diverted about N1trn proceeds of corruption recovered by the anti-graft agency and new directive by the House members to its Committee on Financial Crimes to take over the investigation from the EFCC for a thorough and proper investigation since it would be impossible to separate the EFCC from Lamorde in the instance.
According to the House, the EFCC could not be a judge in its own case by investigating the circumstances surrounding the non-remittance of the funds generated from the proceeds of corruption.
The Executive Chairman of CACOL, Comrade Debo Adeniran while reacting to the new development has asked the authorities to refrain from humiliating the heads of anti-graft agencies and panels noting that such practices is fast becoming a regular practice especially when highly placed public exposed person is under investigation or prosecution. The House, is not an investigative institution; they should continue with their oversight functions and not take this up especially when the wife of the senate president has a case to answer with the EFCC.
We should recall that both Nuhu Ribadu and Mrs Farida Waziri were humiliated out of office in similar circumstances while investigation and prosecution of some highly placed government officials both at the national and state levels were going on. The same pattern plays out in the National Assembly where heads of committees that tried to probe corruption allegations have been humiliated one way or the other. While we are not holding brief for these heads of agencies and panels, we believe that the substance of their findings, that is, cases they are pursuing before their own issues came up should be prosecuted first before the hunter is hunted.
“If in the course of doing their statutory duties, they are accused of wrong doings, they should be made to complete the assignments they are handling, get to a logical conclusion before they are prosecuted or made to quit the office because quitting the office abruptly will be more of advantage to the accused persons than to the cause of justice. And getting the heads of these agencies and panels out of the way might be the only reason why the complainant could have accused the heads of agencies investigating or prosecuting them so that the process of getting the criminals diligently investigated and prosecuted may be truncated”. Adeniran stressed
Speaking further the anti-corruption crusader sited a handful of experiences; he noted that apart from Nuhu Ribadu and Madam Farida Waziri, when Hon. Ndudi Elumelu headed a similar probe into the power sector NIPP, he was alleged in a N5.2 billion contract scam in the Rural Electrification Project of the Federal Government.
Another is the case of Herman Hembe, the Chairman of House of Representatives Capital Market Committee probing the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the tenure of Arunma Oteh, and Faruk Lawal who probed the issue of Petroleum subsidy where Femi Otedola was involved and recently is that of the Chairman of Code of Conduct Bureau, Sam Saba, while a case of false assets declaration was going on at the Code of Conduct Tribunal against the Senate President. While those that were been investigated never faced the law, it is those who headed the body that investigated them that were harassed and maybe humiliated into submission. If such a practice continues, people of good conscience would not want to serve in such agencies and panels as nobody would want to commit his life and career to projects that is most likely to ruin such life and career. These heads of agencies and panels could have been given the benefit of the doubt; if they had earlier been found wanting they would not have been appointed to head such sensitive bodies where high level of integrity is required. The confidence of integrity that was reposed in them should be allowed to hold sway until the contrary is proven.
It is to our knowledge that Ibrahim Larmode has always been with EFCC from the beginning. He was the Head of Operations during Nuhu Ribadu regime, and acting Chairman during the transition between Ribadu and Madam Farida Waziris’ and now the full blown Chairman of the EFCC. From our own little investigation, we discovered that nobody has traced the destination of the 1trillion naira that he is been accused of cornering for himself. And by our own understanding, it is not likely somebody will all alone steal as much as 1trillion naira and keep it to himself. We believe that some financial institutions and controlling authorities could have been involved and definitely some other staffers of his commission would also be in the know of such transaction.
Emphasizing that his Coalition is not holding brief for Larmode, Adeniran said that his Coalition believes that Larmode couldn’t have been the only one who would steal as much as N1trn without accomplices or collaborators. If there are collaborators like financial institutions, why is it that the accuser didn’t trace the roles played by these other collaborators before they come up with the allegation? There should also have been a preliminary investigation by the authorities to corroborate the allegations of the petitioners before they made the accusations public.
Adeniran, while expressing his opinion said, “We are not saying that Ibrahim Larmode should not be probed, as nobody should be treated as being above the law but we believe that the communication between the Ministry of Justice and the EFCC is more of a query than a mandate for investigation and possible prosecution.” He then urged the authorities, members of the public and Larmode’s accusers to allow the EFCC to state his own part as a response to such a query before asking him to resign.
As far as we are concerned, Larmode is not infallible and we don’t see him as being different from any other Chairman of any anti-graft agencies to us but we should allow the rule of natural justice to work. We should not ask him to lose his job just because somebody probably due to selfish reasons wanted it that way. If he has to resign, the reason must be presented to the whole of Nigerians by the controlling ministry, which is the Ministry of Justice, and it has to be issues that come in contrary to the rules and regulations that guide his appointments and operations. The alternative is for the regime to hold it peace till his term expires in a few weeks’ time.
Adeniran also backed the call that the petition ought to have been sent to other anti-graft and regulatory agencies. He however said asking Lamorde to step aside could derail the EFCC from performing its duties.
He said, “What they should have done is to allow other agencies, such as the police or the ICPC. The question of probing people is a kind of confusionist approach to the war against corruption. When people are asked to resign on the account of allegations it will sound as if enemies of anti-graft war want to remove the head of the agency that will derail diligent investigation and prosecution of corruption cases by the agency.
A petition by a wounded person does not make Lamorde guilty until it is proven. The so called petition could also be a move by those who want him out because they are afraid he cannot be compromised. He should remain in place until proven guilty. If the authorities believe that enough evidence has been gathered against him, we believe that it is the duty of ICPC to prosecute public corrupt officials.
Adeniran concluded by recommending that the bill on the Proceeds of Corruption Act (POCA), should be given expedient hearing and passage in the National Assembly to take care of cases like this where it would be easy to monitor and keep accurate records of recovered funds.