President Muhammadu Buhari’s well-known no-nonsense stance on corruption and the appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Mustafa Magu as the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has signaled the start of the much-expected change in the Commission as well as a new beginning in the war against corruption in Nigeria.
Some observers are of the view that Mr. Magu is very lucky, because President Buhari will always be there for him, but for Magu to truly portray the EFCC in a new light; he must do some ‘big thinking’.
The ‘new’ EFCC should explore the multilateral technical co-operation on corruption to develop mechanism that will help Nigeria have a system that discourages outright stealing of public fund, and develop an anti-corruption war that relies on forensic evidence, well-trained personnel and free of unnecessary controversies. The EFCC should effectively utilize the provisions in the National Assembly Act 2004, establishing the EFCC. For instance, Part III, section 12, subsection 1(c) and subsection (2), which provides for establishment of Research Unit; and any committee to assist the commission, are good avenues for the commission to explore in order to bring the commission at par with Nigerians’ expectations and global best practices.
Mr. Magu should take the EFCC to a new level- EFCC as an institution responsible for fighting the war against corruption should remodel its strategies for prosecuting accused persons. Situations such as slamming 120 count charges on a person accused of being corrupt while in public office, without being able to establish any of these, should be replaced with a fact-based process of prosecution, where the Commission gets its solid facts before charging accused to court.
The Commission should be driven by a new approach that is multifaceted, multidisciplinary and knowledge-driven; an approach that would assist all institutions of government in re-establishing norms and standards of governance, assist the public, NGOs and even the legislature in monitoring of compliance with the standards. The core of the ‘new’ EFCC should be centered on restoring social order especially to governance; and promoting advocacy and capacity building among genuine whistleblowers.
In short, Nigeria’s anti-corruption war should not only be limited to celebrated arrests, arraignment of the accused in courts of law. The EFCC should serve as the change agent in establishing systematic and systemic approaches that will educate the public on the ills of corruption and beauty of doing thing as they ought to be done.
Mr. Magu should also know that public trust is the key in his new job. Anti-corruption czars rarely talk in public, but when they do, they carefully choose their words. Anti-corruption czars do not wine and dine with corrupt politicians, attend their lavish wedding ceremonies, be present at their extravagant traditional title investiture or personal project fund raising ceremony, then expect complete public trust. When one accepts to be the head of an institution like the EFCC, he or she has chosen to be a ‘saint’, and must labour to appear as one, though, as human, we have our weaknesses, but the point is, anti-corruption czars can’t preach fasting in the morning and practice gluttony in the night.
Corruption is one of the most widespread social evils in Nigeria; it is seen as a main threat in the public and private sphere. Corruption undermines fragile democratic systems by fuelling popular disillusionment with politics and politicians; it also undermines trust and confidence, which are necessary for upholding and development of sustainable economic and social order. Corruption is not only peculiar to Nigeria, it is a global phenomenon. However, anti-corruption war in Nigeria is like a gun-war being fought with bows and arrows, it is a war that can turn its fighters into victims and those being fought into heroes, it is a war that both sides manipulate to gain personal and political points, it is a ‘world’ of controversies, politics, extensive debates and high public expectations. Nigerians have no second thought on President Muhammadu Buhari’s ability to fight corruption; this is the best stimulant Mr. Ibrahim Magu needs.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State