26th August, 2011
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that political interference by past and present presidents of Nigeria remains the greatest challenge in the fight against corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
HRW made this revelation in a 64-page report on EFCC titled â€˜Corruption on Trialâ€™. The report analyses the activities of the EFCC since its inception and factors hampering its effectiveness in fighting corruption.
According to the report, despite the EFCCâ€™s remarkable record of arraignments of prominent politicians and former governors in its effort to stamp out corruption, the agency has remained vulnerable to the whims of the Federal Government- a factor that has seriously hampered it effectiveness.
â€˜There were hopes for the EFCC as Nigeriaâ€™s most promising effort to tackle corruption since the end of military rule but its effectiveness has fallen short because of political interference, institutional weakness and inefficiency in the judiciary that cannot be ignored,” the report noted.
The report further noted that executive interference and a political establishment that continues effectively to reward corruption, has undermined EFCC efforts and derailed key prosecution.
“President Jonathan should break from the bad practice of past administrations, publicly signal he will not perpetrate or tolerate interference in corrupt cases and grant the chairperson, security of tenure by amending the legislation that created the commission,”
the report added.
Enumerating other factors that have slowed down the significant progress made by the commission, the report noted “Nigeriaâ€™s weak and overburdened judiciary has also been an obstacle to effective prosecutions. Most of the corrupt cases against high-level figures have been stalled in the courts for years, with their trials not even begun. The new administration should initiate a long term process of repairing the battered federal court system, reforming federal criminal procedure and evidence rules and examine ways to establish special courts or designate specific judges to hear only corrupt cases.”
HRW however praised the reformed Lagos State judicial system which helped the EFCC to gain conviction against former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Bode George over allegations of corruption but frowned at the relegation of the trial judge, Justice Olubunmi Oyewole from the criminal division to a family court.
The report noted that such a judge who has showed commitment, dedication and fearlessness in tackling such political trial should have been retained to handle similar cases as a way of showing the nationâ€™s seriousness in fighting corruption.
In the report, HRW also called on the Federal Government to investigate the allegation of corruption levelled against the current EFCC chairperson, Mrs Farida Waziri as a way of restoring confidence in the commission.
It noted that although the allegations against Mrs Waziri are still mere rumours, her activities need to be investigated to clear her of any complicity or wrong doing.