By Joseph Jibueze, Deputy News Editor
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) on Wednesday alleged a “sinister and dangerous attempt” to demolish the anti-corruption infrastructure by scrapping the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
It urged the National Assembly to reject a draft bill, which seeks to replace the commission with an agency under the Federal Ministry of Justice.
PACAC said those behind the move are the representatives of the corrupt establishment that brought the country to its knees and subjected it to humiliation as a result of an extremely negative reputation internationally.
PACAC Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), in a statement issued through the Communication Officer, Aghogho Agbahor, said the development amounted to “the mother of corruption fighting back”.
According to the Committee, the bill was drafted by “enemies of Nigeria who are too ashamed to put their names to the draft Bill being circulated”.
The bill is entitled: “An Act to Repeal the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 (Act No. 1 of 2004) and Enact the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act Which Establishes a More Effective and Efficient Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to Conduct Enquiries and Investigate All Economic and Financial Crimes and Related Offences and for other Related Matters.”
The draft bill proposes a repeal of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the scrapping of the Commission, and its replacement with a department in the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The draft bill also proposes the replacement of the EFCC Executive Chairman with a Director-General to be appointed by the President, based on the recommendation of the AGF and subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Section 8 of the bill reads in part: “There shall be for the commission, a Director-General who shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Attorney General, subject to the confirmation by the Senate.
“Subject to the provisions of Subsection (3) of this section, the Director-General shall be a retired or serving member of any government institution, including any security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of a director or its equivalent or a person from the private sector.
“A person shall not be appointed as a Director-General, unless he is of proven integrity and has 15 years cognate experience in security, forensic or financial crimes investigation; forensic accounting or auditing; or law practice or enforcement relating to economic and financial crimes or anti-corruption.”
The proposed law restates the power of the AGF to discontinue the prosecution of criminal cases as guaranteed in Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution and empowers him to cancel the prosecutorial power of the EFCC when he sees fit.
Section 45 of the new bill states that the AGF may, after notifying the EFCC, intervene in court proceedings, at first instance or on appeal, where, in the opinion of the AGF, public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process so demand.
It further reads: “On receipt of the notice under subsection (2) of this section, the commission shall hand over to the Attorney-General the prosecution file and all documents relating to the prosecution and provide him with such other information as he may require on the matter within the time specified by him.
“The commission shall furnish returns of all cases handled by it annually and in such manner and at such intervals as the Attorney-General shall direct.
“Where the commission fails to comply with the provisions of this section, the Attorney General may, subject to prevailing circumstances, revoke the power to prosecute from the commission.”
The draft bill states that the chairman and members of the management board shall be appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General subject to confirmation by the Senate; and for a period of four years in the first instance, renewable for another period of four years and no more.
The Secretary of the EFCC, which is a creation of Section 8 of the existing EFCC Act, is not mentioned in the new bill, indicating that the position has been scrapped.
This proposal, PACAC said, eliminates EFCC’s autonomy and replaces it with an entity under the complete control of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
Other proposals are the replacement of the EFCC Board with directors to be appointed by the Attorney-General, and the elimination of the position of the Secretary of the EFCC, who PACAC said is a critical officer who serves as the institutional memory and the administrative head of the agency.
According to PACAC, Section 11 of the proposed bill provides that nobody may be appointed or seconded to the new agency unless he is screened and approved by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Under the Bill, the EFCC’s annual report is not to be submitted to the National Assembly until it has been passed through the Attorney-General for onward transmission to the National Assembly; thus making the Attorney-General the reporting officer of the agency rather than the Chairman or the Director-General, as the new Bill is proposing.
PACAC said: “The following facts need to be noted: the EFCC has successfully prosecuted about 3,000 persons, including high profile political office holders, in the last five years whilst the whole of the Ministry of Justice has been underperforming during this period.
“Assets worth about N1trillion have been recovered by the EFCC during this period. The recovery of funds looted and taken abroad to different countries also amounting to about $1billion has been due largely to the EFCC.
“All the evidence used in establishing fraud and corruption against P&ID in the recent London case which led to Nigeria being given the opportunity of challenging the $10billion award made against Nigeria in favour of P&ID was exclusively provided by the EFCC to Nigeria’s London solicitors. This is fulsomely acknowledged by the London Court in its Judgment.
“With all the above established facts, the gravity of the proposed change becomes overwhelming.
“When in addition to all this, we recall the well-known proclivity of the Attorney-General for entering nolle prosequi (discontinuance of a criminal proceeding) in favour of major political and governmental figures, this move to effectively scrap the EFCC becomes more alarming.
“We, therefore, call on the National Assembly and all Nigerians to vigorously reject this attempt to perpetrate fraud on the nation by effectively scuttling the EFCC and shutting down Nigeria’s anti-corruption war.”