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Stop using EFCC to witch-hunt political leaders, Opposition tells Buhari

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By Praise Necherem

A coalition of over 25 opposition political Parties in the country have accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) of allegedly politicizing the anti-graft war of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

The Parties, under the aegis of Allied Political Parties for Good Governance and Building Nigeria Legacy also accused the agency of allowing itself to be used by some politicians within and outside the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC to intimidate members of other political Parties.

Reacting to the recent face-off between the Kogi State Government and the EFCC over an alleged N20 billion Kogi State Salary bail-out account at Sterling Bank that was purportedly frozen by the Court, the Parties accused the EFCC of chasing an agenda and being used by some APC henchmen to label some politicians as corrupt through unverified cases.

Speaking on behalf of the parties at a Press Conference in Awka, National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress, Ralph Okey Nwosu canvassed the urgent need for President Buhari to call the leadership of the anti-graft agency to order, stressing that the agency had become a tool of oppression.

Nwosu said, “EFCC and other agencies of government must learn to focus on their jobs and stay away from politicians; extricate themselves from politics and begin to function as preventive organizations. Brinkmanship is destructive of government establishments and institutions. 

“A stitch in time saves nine. Mr. President and the Presidency should be concerned with the history Buhari leaves as he finishes his tenure.”

Nwosu argued that the EFCC had wanted to rubbish Kogi State Government but for the prompt opening and explanation of the State government. While commending the State government on its transparent rebuttal, Nwosu asked the EFCC to desist from tarnishing the image of perceived enemies with “unverified cases.”

He said, “Matters involving a commercial bank and a State government can be effectively investigated if the purpose is noble without such public exacerbation and politicking. If not for their prompt response, and opening its door instantly, the government of Kogi State will have been rubbished which I believe was the intention.”

“Apparently, some people feel very uncomfortable with the World Bank letter released a few weeks ago that was reported in many newspapers commending the Governor of Kogi State for refunding US$4.63million surplus funds under the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP); and his recent report card as the best State in women and youths mainstreaming into government,” the political Parties said.

 Nwosu stressed that he had never met Governor Bello of Kogi State, but noted that he had shown capacity for inclusion.

“The recent world bank reports on his inclusive leadership and the boldness and transparency with which the State has confronted the recent EFCC perfidy should endear him to good men and women in APC,” he noted.

He stated, “Last week, the biggest topic in the news was the face-off between the Government of Kogi State and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The country woke up to the news that the EFCC had frozen a purported Kogi State salary bail-out account domiciled in Sterling Bank “over a N20bn loan meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the State government” but kept in an interest-yielding account with the Bank.

“Counsel to the EFCC, Abass Muhammed, told the court that the order to freeze this so-called account was necessary in order to abate further dissipation of the funds in the said account. The agency went further to state that instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant, Sterling Bank acted on the instruction of the Kogi State Government, transferred the money from the loan account and placed it in a fixed deposit account. The EFCC lawyer said in the report that Sterling Bank had yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility was well secured.

“Devoid of politics, the supposed court order obtained by an agency that is meant to be a foremost law enforcement agency in Nigeria should be taken on the face value as authentic news, which needs no further questioning.

“But facts emanated from well-meaning Nigerians and institutions barely 24 hours after, in almost all newspapers and the electronic media that the EFCC might have acted on absolute falsehood. Sterling Bank for one, said, “The Kogi State Government does not currently operate or maintain a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank. There is no mandate letter from Kogi State Government to open any such untoward account with Sterling Bank.”

“The management of the bank went further to say that they were “equally surprised and dismayed at the media’s narration of the events surrounding the transactions referenced and are disheartened at the characterization implied in these narrations.” 

The ADC National Chairman said these kinds of tactical errors would do the country no good but reduce investors’ confidence in the country.

He added, “This event, which was reported by local and international media and which has generated heated controversy across all divides, and puts EFCC in a bad light. It projects EFCC under the current administration as a tool of oppression and not an agency that was set up to sanitize Nigeria and make it corrupt free.

“With the evidence and piles of documents presented by the State Government and Sterling Bank in this instance, it shows that the EFCC is chasing an agenda. Otherwise, why the media trial if not tarnishing the image of perceived enemies with unverified cases. Politics carried too far can destroy the political system and further bring down the already bad economy.”

“Corruption investigation must be ethical and agencies must never make their work into a media war. Such media frenzy as led by EFCC and daily headlines portraying everyone in the country as corrupt does not leverage the investment climate, the country and our democracy,” the political parties said.

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