The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has reacted to a ‘misleading report’ of the United States Department of Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour over Nigeria’s anti-graft war, published in ThisDay Newspaper of March 17, 2019 entitled: “Nigeria: Massive, Pervasive Corruption At All Levels of Govt – US Report”.
The report, among other things, said that “there is a climate of impunity in the President Muhammadu Buhari government that allows officials to engage in corrupt practices with a sense of exemption from punishment”. The Bureau, in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018, said Nigeria had made little progress in efforts to limit corruption in its public service. This report is not only outdated and false but misleading.
EFCC in its response said, ‘the report is unfounded on the grounds of Nigeria’s remarkable achievements in the last four years as the war against corruption is on course’.
The EFCC’s commitment to the fight against corruption in the last four years is not in doubt to any discerning and genuinely concerned observer. This commitment is benchmarked by the unprecedented record of convictions, non-conviction based forfeiture and stolen assets recovery.
We are surprised that the US report could ignore or downplay our convictions in such a brazen manner when it claimed that the EFCC secured only 13 convictions in 2016. That is false and far from the truth.
For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC has secured 943 convictions since 2015 till date. The agency recorded 103 convictions in 2015, secured 195 convictions in 2016, got 189 convictions in 2017. It is important to state that the EFCC secured 314 convictions in 2018 including two former state governors who were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment without option of fine. It is instructive to note that the two former governors serving their jail terms in prison are members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). The Commission has so far recorded 142 convictions as at March 19 this year. These are verifiable facts.
We wish to state unequivocally that these convictions being celebrated included high profile persons among who were top ranking military personnel and other politically exposed persons.
It is instructive to state that no other agency in Africa has this record of convictions and recovery of stolen assets which were achieved in spite of great encumbrances faced by the Commission in the discharge of its assignment as it has come to be known that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back.
Assets Recovery and Forfeitures
As a quick reminder, the Supreme Court of Nigeria had on Friday, March 8, 2019 in a unanimous judgement, dismissed the appeal of a former First Lady and wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, against the interim forfeiture order of a Federal High Court, Lagos, for $8, 400, 000 (Eight Million Four Hundred Dollars) traced to her by the EFCC and believed to be proceeds of illegal activities.
Subsequently, on March 14, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed another application by Mrs. Jonathan, seeking to upturn the interim forfeiture order by a Federal High Court, Lagos placed on the sum of N2.4 billion linked to her.
Also of interest is the fact that the former Chief of Defence Staff, the late Alex Badeh forfeited six choice properties and $1, 000,000 (One Million Dollars) to the Federal Government, few days ago on the order of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
It could also be recalled that the EFCC on Friday, March 1, 2019, secured the final forfeiture of the sum N732.85 million being proceed of fraud perpetuated by 17 individuals in the Presidential Amnesty Programme Office. These are no rhetoric, but hard facts!
We further wish to state that in the area of convictions, Air Vice Marshall Tony Omenyi (retd), was jailed by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, February 28, 2019. He was found guilty of the amended three-count charge brought against him by the EFCC and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment without an option of fine.
Justice Dimgba, also ordered Huzee Nigeria Limited, a concern owned by Omenyi being a corporate entity to forfeit N60, 000, 000 (Sixty Million Naira) to the Federal Government.
Indeed, the EFCC has revolutionized the process of assets tracing and recovery. From the available records, the Commission recovered assets worth several billions of naira and different foreign currencies between 2015 and 2017.
Breakdown of the recoveries for the three year period (2015- 2017) show that N676, 522, 889, 647.05 (Six Hundred and Seventy Six Billion, Five Hundred and Twenty Two Million, Eight Hundred and Eighty Nine Thousand, Six Hundred and Forty Seven Naira and Five Kobo); $254, 563, 877.27 (Two Hundred and Fifty Four Million Five Hundred and Sixty Three Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy Seven Dollars, twenty Six Cents); 486, 736.82 Pound (Four Hundred and Eighty Six Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Six Pounds Eighty Two Pennies); Euro 8, 136, 071.13 (Eight Million, One Hundred and Thirty Six Thousand and Seventy One Euro and Thirteen Cents); 80, 931, 500 CFA; 3, 729.50 RMB/YUAN; 452, 175 DIRHAM; 90, 956SR; 117, 004 CAD$ (ONE Hundred and Seventeen Thousand and Four Canadian Dollar); 120, 141.50 YEN; 5, 000Francs and 2, 000 Ruppies.
In 2018 alone, various sums amounting to billions in Naira and other foreign currencies were also forfeited to the Federal Government through the unrelenting efforts of the EFCC. The sums are: N171, 131, 700, 541.17 (One Hundred and Seventy One Billion, One Hundred and Thirty One Million, Seven Hundred Thousand Five Hundred and Forty One Naira and Seventeen Kobo); $14, 490, 174.49 (Fourteen Million, Four Hundred and Ninety Thousand One Hundred and Seventy Four Dollars Forty Nine Cent); 873, 278. 09 Pounds (Eight Hundred and Seventy Three Thousand Two hundred and Seventy Eight Pounds and Nine Pennies); 298, 055 (Two Hundred and Ninety eight Thousand, and Fifty Five Euros); 391, 838 (Three hundred and Ninety One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Eight Riyals) and 10, 135 Dirham (Ten Thousand One Hundred and Thirty Five Dirham). These recoveries are unprecedented as no other agency can boast of such record.
Judging by the dexterity with which the Commission has prosecuted its cases from the High Court to Court of Appeal up to the Supreme Court, the Commission is by far the major contributor to case law and jurisprudence in Nigeria. The major Law Reports are replete with successfully concluded cases by the Commission. Again, these facts are verifiable!
Burden of Proof Now Resides With Defendant
Until recently, the practice has been that the burden of proof in criminal prosecution resides with the prosecution. But that was overturned in FRN v. YAHAYA which was decided on January 25, 2019. SC.645/2014.
This was a case in which the Supreme Court upheld the argument of the EFCC that the burden of proof had now been shifted from the prosecution to the defendant in terms of ill gotten wealth.
The apex court further held that the defendant would have to show that his income was in tandem with what he acquired otherwise such ill-gotten wealth and properties would be forfeited to the Federal Government.
This is a landmark decision with potential to improve the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It is regrettable that this feat failed to impress the United States Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.
Worrisome Report with Inaccuracies
Indeed, the US report’s portrayal of the work of the EFCC which is replete with inaccurate information is worrisome considering the close relationship between the Commission and some US entities.
Agencies of the US Government, especially the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Securities and Exchange Commission, Post and Telecommunications Department and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) have very strong collaboration with the EFCC in the delicate task of tracing and seizing assets stolen but stashed abroad by rogue Nigerian officials. We also have FBI agent domiciled in the EFCC.
Even as many of those assets are still stashed in US financial and property markets, these US agencies are familiar with the determination and passion with which the Commission is going about the fight against corruption.
10 Different Countries Seek Mutual Legal Assistance from EFCC
Unfortunately, the US Report does not reflect this deep knowledge of the EFCC and its work, which is enough reason to be suspicious about the motives behind the publication.
To underscore the important role which EFCC is playing in the fight against economic and financial crimes, no fewer than 10 countries on Monday, March 18, 2019, requested for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) with the Commission. This is unprecedented in the history of any agency in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
The prowess of the EFCC’s investigative power is worthy of note in the celebrated Malabu’s case. The historic trial of prominent major oil companies- Shell and ENI in Milan, Italy by the public prosecutor was made possible by the political will of President Muhammadu Buhari and dexterity of the EFCC.
The comprehensive investigation of the commission and evidence generated in prosecuting the corrupt deal formed part of documents used in prosecuting the criminal aspects of the notorious deal by the Milan prosecutor.
The EFCC recorded another first in Africa with its prosecutor appearing in the Milan trial as a witness, the first of such to happen in Italian prosecution.
Some individuals including an Italian, Gianlura Di Nardo and a Nigerian, Emeka Obi, were last year convicted in the matter while the Dutch prosecutor just recently notified Shell of his readiness to prosecute the oil giant over the controversial deal.
US Report, a Disservice to EFCC
From the foregoing, it is clear that the report authored by the American agency has done a great disservice to the work of the EFCC in particular and the fight against corruption under the leadership of President Buhari, an administration that is globally acknowledged for the enormous political will it has brought to the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
We are conscious of our past with previous government officials’ involvement in corrupt practices with impunity but that history is being re-written by this government and the commission.
The rest of Africa appreciate the administration’s work in terms of fighting corruption in Nigeria which was the impetus behind the designation of President Buhari as the Anti- Corruption Champion early last year by the African Union (AU). In that capacity, President Buhari is saddled with the responsibility of leading the rest of Africa out of the corruption quagmire.
At the level of the EFCC, the Acting Chairman of the commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, attained the leadership of the Heads of Anti- Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa (HACACA) in May 2018. This was based on his antecedents and acknowledged track records in the fight against corruption.
There can be no greater validation of the revolutionary impact of the fight against corruption in Nigeria in the last four years than these milestones achievements. But for those who cannot see any good in what Nigeria is doing, it is better to leave the country alone than distract it with bogus reports.