Just recently, the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to submit to it within one week, current details of monies it had recovered from looters of public funds. The order was given to the anti-graft agency when its Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu, and some officials of the commission, appeared before the Senator Chukwuka Utazi-led Committee on Anti-Corruption, to defend its 2017 budget. Beyond insisting on being furnished with records of all the looted funds the commission had recovered so far, the Senate expressed deep consternation over the unparalleled looting and pilfering of public funds by both serving and past officials of government at all levels. It is gratifying to note that the lawmakers have raised the issue of accountability concerning the monies so far recovered by the agency from the looters of public treasury. It is also heart-warming, and indeed encouraging to note that the lawmakers are as worried as the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration over the alarming rate at which monies kept in the custody of public officials are mindlessly stolen by these same officials.
For instance, a special operation conducted in Kaduna, by operatives of the EFCC on February 3, 2017, on a building belonging to the erstwhile Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Andrew Yakubu, led to the recovery of a whooping sum of $9,772,800 (Nine Million, Seven Hundred and Seven Two Thousand, Eight Hundred United States Dollars) and another sum of £74,000 (Seventy Four Thousand Pound Sterling) cash. The huge cash was said to be hidden in a fire proof safe. Interestingly, when a team of participants at the National Management Course of the Pakistani National School of Policy, recently visited him in Abuja, the EFCC boss, boasted that “what it achieved within…11 months in terms of looted asset recovery surpassed its first 12-year record.” Mr. Magu was appointed acting chairman of the EFCC on November 9, 2015.
The above statement shows that at the head of the anti-graft war is a man committed to the current effort by the Buhari administration to rid the country of corruption. But if Magu and his men have achieved so much in the area of fighting corruption, and by extension, recovery of looted funds, the right of the people to know under a democratic dispensation, makes it imperative for EFCC to submit as demanded by the senate, details of the monies so far recovered from treasury looters. We are not unaware that on June 4, 2016, the Federal Government released a list of recovered stolen funds broken down as N78 billion, $185 million dollars, 3.5 million pounds and 11.250 Euros. However, this in our view falls short of the expectations of the greater number of Nigerians. For instance, the list did not indicate the names of the treasury looters, and where the monies recovered are domiciled. It is against this background that The AUTHORITY aligns itself with the order handed down by the Senate to the EFCC to submit details of the funds so far recovered from treasury looters. In this respect, Magu should not limit himself to funds recovered since his tenure started, but should go the whole hog to give the Senate details of monies as well as properties recovered by the anti-graft agency since its inception 12 years ago. This is not all. The EFCC, also has a duty to inform the duly elected representatives of the people where such monies are domiciled.
We believe that a situation where the anti-graft agency keeps mute about the inventory of recovered funds gives room for some Nigerians to insinuate that some EFCC officials steal part of the money recovered from the principal looters. The anti-graft agency must as a matter of deliberate policy, publish details of monies and properties recovered from looters in some national newspapers, just as the federal ministry of finance periodically publishes statutory allocations to the three tiers of government. The essence is to present before the public, an anti-graft agency that is transparent and reliable. Even then, such transparent disposition would be enhanced if the account of the anti-graft agency is audited from time to time by the relevant government agency. If that has not happened, we strongly recommend for the auditing of the EFCC account to enable Nigerians know how budgetary allocations to the anti-graft agency over the years, were disbursed. The would-be auditors should be authorized by the Federal Government to also look into monies recovered by the agency to determine whether what was declared by the EFCC tally with the actual sum of money recovered from looters of public funds.
It is our submission that if there is transparency in the course of handling monies recovered from those who looted public funds, this administration would not contemplate borrowing a staggering sum of N2.32 trillion to partly fund the 2017 budget deficit estimated at N2.36 trillion which is about 2.18 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There is a groundswell of opinion that the monumental stealing of government monies by public officials has been partly responsible for the current recession bedeviling the country. If those at the EFCC share this view, they should not only comply with the demand of the Senate, but should also go a step further to honestly husband funds recovered from those who had stolen public funds with a view to re-injecting same to the sagging economy as doing so would fast-track the country’s economic recovery process. Those who go to equity must do so with clean hands.