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Published On: Thu, Apr 12th, 2018

Make no mistake: Corruption exists in Nigeria

But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s attempt to paint all Nigerian politicians, who are not in blind support of President Muhammadu Buhari with a broad brush of malfeasance is misguided, is unfair and ultimately damaging to its own purported cause.

Nigeria

Image/CIA

On the streets and in the courts, representatives of the EFCC are using over- the-top tactics to attack Buhari’s rivals. The law enforcement agency, tasked with policing financial crimes such as fraud and money laundering, trumpets widespread corruption among political and military leaders who dare to speak their mind against government. In some cases, it has attacked officials who simply served under former President Goodluck Jonathan, who peacefully transferred power to Buhari following a 2015 election.

The EFCC also has repeatedly tried to galvanize the public against Buhari’s competitors. The EFCC, led by Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu, recently organized a public rally to herald its work and publicly shame those it targets.

But in reality, the EFCC very often accuses without amassing evidence. It has on many occasions launched false allegations and hurried those it accuses into the courts, embarrassing them and tying them to indefinite legal proceedings that the agency uses to stifle voices of dissent.

One prominent example: A trial involving a colonel in the Nigerian Army, Nicholas Ashinze, and five others accused of nefariously appropriating N3.1 billion tied to a government water project. Ashinze’s military prominence dates to previous administrations. The case against him, which spanned years, has hit multiple snags after judges have determined that the EFCC was acting unethically and illegally.

Most recently, in March, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, excoriated the EFCC after one of its operatives refused to cooperate with the judge to answer questions or allow opposing legal counsel to lay out facts in the case. The operative asserted that he had investigated Ashinze and determined guilt, yet this EFCC official was unprepared to present any facts or evidence.

The judge called it a display of gross misconduct in the prosecution of Ashinze. He admonished the EFCC and, in frustration, withdrew from the case and returned it to the Chief Judge of the Court for re-assignment. Problems in that trial echo troubles that countless political adversaries are encountering in Nigeria, as Buhari and his allies tout so-called anti- corruption efforts that are in fact aimed at swamping political opponents with expensive legal proceedings, negative public relations and the threat of jail.

Another prominent example: A lengthy trial involving the former minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, and former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode – officials who served in the Jonathan 2015 campaign organization.

But, despite years of accusations and court proceedings, no hard evidence has surfaced to prove the trumped-up allegations. The defendants are accuse using monies they reasonably ought to have known was proceeds of corruption to fund the PDP 2015 presidential campaign , but the facts point to simple and legal spending on political pursuits – on disseminating information, rallies and persuading voters to vote for their party.

And yet Usman and Fani-Kayode, like Col. Ashinze, find themselves ensconced in legal proceedings and embroiled in political turmoil that, ultimately, is the making of President Buhari, a former military ruler who views governing with a strong arm as his right.

The end result: a misinformed public and a dangerously empowered president who seeks an ever-increasing concentration of power and a steady decline in the free speech that most Nigerians know it is vital to democracy.

Author: James Daniel

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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