With the 2015 general election around the corner, THISDAY investigations revealed weekend that weak systemic checks within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) may escalate the level of corruption in the country.
Being a season when illicit funds tend to exchange hands, the thinking is that the anti-graft agencies would increase their surveillance on the activities of politicians during and after the elections. But a source within the EFCC who confided in THISDAY said the commission is not equipped to embark on such ‘critical and risky’ assignment.
“As it stands,I don’t think EFCC can go after politicians during the 2015 elections, and this is when corruption among politicians will thrive,” the source said.
When THISDAY contacted the commission’s Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, to know the mechanism put in place to combat corruption among politicians, he categorically stated that the EFCC had no such plans.
Uwujaren told THISDAY that “it is the job of INEC to stop corrupt politicians from contesting elections, we don’t wait for elections or event to do our job. Election is an event,” he maintained.
On the contrary, ICPC said plans are underway to place top politicians on their watch-list in order to monitor their activities and financial dealings during the period.
ICPC’s Head of Media and Communications, Folu Olamiti, told THISDAY: “We are doing our own monitoring; we are aware that such practices will increase. So we are very careful not to jump into such matters without proper investigations.”
He explained: “We don’t have to wait for elections or petitions to carry out our functions, what we are doing now is to check abuse of public funds by public office holders and top politicians, we have placed some of their activities on our watch-list as elections draw closer,” he said.
But a financial fraud expert and former EFCC investigator, Mr. George Ekpungu, told THISDAY that the best way to curtail corrupt practices during elections and beyond is by initiating “economic governance crimes network within the EFCC that can pre-empt corruption.”
Ekpungu also harped on the need for the “strengthening of the justice system for speedy prosecution of politicians with criminal and corruption charges before the general election, especially those running for elective positions.”
Speaking to THISDAY on the dilemma of anti graft agencies in fighting corruption in an election year, human rights activist, Femi Falana SAN, said taking cognisance of the forth coming elections, corruption and impunity would reign supreme.
Falana cited the current case of Ekiti State governorship election, where former governor, Ayo Fayose, is believed to be facing trial over a N1.2 billion poultry scam. That notwithstanding, he was screened by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be its flag bearer.
According to Falana, “Fayose is still being prosecuted as I speak, five witnesses were brought to testify, but the Court adjourned the case to July when the elections would have been conducted in order to see whether Fayose will win or not. Nobody has said anything about the judge. What do you expect EFCC to do in such an instance?” he asked.
Falana also accused Fayose of distributing thousands of bags of rice to bribe voters ahead of the governorship elections so as to garner their votes.
He went on to state that “a drug baron wanted in the US is threatening to spend about N2 billion for Oyo and Osun elections. We are operating in an era of impunity,” Falana stressed.
The senior advocate further explained that there was a trend being set by the administration that indirectly condoles the act of corruption, including allowing corrupt politicians to act with impunity.
Falana informed THISDAY that “as candidates of the ruling party, those with corruption charges are above the law; there is nothing you can tell the EFCC and ICPC to do. If corrupt politicians are being encouraged to run elections, the anti graft agencies are being advised to leave them alone.”
“In the past, politicians facing corrupt charges were not filled in elections, but in this dispensation, everything goes,” he submitted.