On a visit to The Nation Newspaper headquarters in Lagos yesterday, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Mustafa Magu spoke again on the fight against corruption. He said the Commission will be unsparing with corrupt officials found guilty of looting the country and promised they will go to jail this year.
The EFCC boss acknowledged that every stakeholder seemed to be more serious now about fighting corruption and that the Commission has been trying to rally Nigerians as stakeholders in the fight against corruption by mobilizing support, opinions, ideas and strategies that are necessary to strengthen the war against corruption.
He said the Commission was receiving renewed interest and cooperation from foreign agencies and there will be no safe haven for treasury looters.
Magu also pledged transparency in the anti-corruption process promising to discharge his responsibility “with the fear of God, in the national interest, and strictly observing the rule of law.”
“From all indications, the judges are more serious, everybody is cooperating and this year, we will see more politically-exposed persons convicted. We will flush out corrupt people.”
“We need more support; it is about Nigeria, not an individual, the fight is for everybody, from the media we have to go to the grassroots, we will take it to children in the schools; we have to tell the children that corruption is bad, tell them why there is no chair in the classroom.
“We will sensitise everybody to the evil of corruption. We need to let people know that corruption is bad because some people don’t seem to know.”
He lamented on the shocking liberties with which public servants helped themselves to the commonwealth of Nigerians, stating that corruption is an attack on Nigeria and a “deliberate and calculated wickedness” against the nation’s existence.
The EFCC boss added,
“The impunity is too much. Sometimes I shed tears in the morning before I go to the office. It is just unbelievable; the rot is terrible. What I am saying is that people who know they have stolen our commonwealth should bring it back.”
“People arrogate things to themselves. They have taken our money and are bold enough to say they are not going to return it. The money belongs to the people; they should return the money quietly; let there be voluntary compliance. Let them voluntarily come out to say ‘this is what I have stolen’ and the government will take it. I think that is the best thing to do.”
Commenting on Olisa Metuh’s handcuffs when he appeared in court, he said, there is nothing wrong in handcuffing an accused. “It is not coming from us the EFCC, but there is nothing wrong with that actually. They have a right to use their discretion; you are not there, there must be reason. There are instances when you handcuff a suspect, but let them explain themselves.”
He said the EFCC was building a strong institution with enhanced capacity for the staff but will require more funding.
“The people need their capacity to be enhanced; they need funding. We are still renting offices all over the country. There is one massive building of the EFCC that has not advanced because of funding. If we go into that place, we are going to have security of documents, evidences and witnesses. The staff will be better protected. This is the kind of intervention that we are asking the Nigerian people.”
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The EFCC boss said there will be need for new laws better suited for fighting corruption. “It is important for the lawmakers to be put on the hot seat. If you make one law for the person who steals a goat to go to jail for 11 years and somebody who with pen and paper commits money laundering of over N5 billion for minor years, it is not proper.”
“It is not the job of the EFCC to convict people. The EFCC hands off after taking them to court with evidence and witnesses. But, they know how to drag this thing. After six, seven or 10 years’ witnesses die, you can no longer call for evidence and Nigerians are saying EFCC has not convicted this or that. So, we need to refocus and make new laws that will channel our activities properly.”