ALMOST 10 months in the saddle as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa-led anti-graft agency has not arraigned any politically exposed persons and other Very Important Persons for money laundering and embezzlement of public funds.
While the commission has been going after suspected cyber scammers and other petty criminals, it has yet to take those facing allegations of stealing billions of naira of public funds to court.
Bawa was appointed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in February after his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, was removed for alleged corruption.
The appointment of the 40-year-old from Kebbi State was believed to have been influenced by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who also hailed from the state.
Investigations by our correspondent indicate that since assuring office, the EFCC under Bawa has been fixated with cyber scammers popularly known as Yahoo boys, with operatives storming hotels at odd hours on raids.
For instance, in July, the commission arrested 30 suspects during a raid on a hotel in the Lekki area of Lagos State.
The operatives were alleged to have gained entry into the occupants’ rooms by seizing the master cards from the hotel management at gunpoint.
About 24 occupants were said to have been arraigned for cyber scam after the raid.
In the early hours of September 14, the commission also raided three hotels in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and arrested 56 lodgers.
In the last 10 months, over 50 suspects arrested for cyber scam in various cities have been prosecuted or were facing trial.
While this is commendable, checks show that the anti-graft commission has not exerted the same energy in bringing VIPs, who pocketed billions of naira, to justice.
The arraignment of a former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, failed to hold at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on November 22, following a letter from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, calling for the review if the case.
Oduah, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, and eight others, were to be arraigned by the EFCC on alleged N5bn fraud.
The defence counsel, Oguh Onoja, told Justice Inyang Ekwo that there was a letter from the AGF to the EFCC for the review of the matter, but that the anti-graft agency had refused to return the case file as requested by Malami
Also, on October 16, a former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, was interrogated over alleged non-remittance of N10bn pensions fund.
The Peoples Democratic Party chieftain reportedly turned himself in at the EFCC headquarters, after previously snubbing several invitations from the commission.
On October 24, the agency detained for a few days a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, in connection with the allegations against the former aviation minister, Stella Oduah.
On July 28, the EFCC quizzed and detained a former Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Al-Makura and his wife, Mairo, for misappropriation of billions of naira while in office.
Three days later, it questioned a former president of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, over alleged misappropriation of public funds and money laundering.
Similarly, a former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion, was on November 12 invited and quizzed for three days for allegedly diverting N1.6bn public funds.
None of these suspects have been arraigned in court.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa said the EFCC did not have an effective strategy to combat money laundering.
The financial intelligence agency established by the Economic Community of West Africa States in its 2021 Mutual Evaluation Report, stated that the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering, has a presence in only nine out of the 36 states in the country with 60 permanent and 43 ad hoc personnel.
It said, “SCUML is yet to implement a comprehensive risk-based framework for the supervision of all DNFBPs (Designated Non-Financial Business and Professions) currently registered with it.
“The number of entities registered with SCUML (more than 72,000) and the high but unknown number of unregistered DNFBPs impedes its ability to conduct effective monitoring for AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism) purposes. SCUML does not have an effective strategy to deal with this challenge.”
The EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, could not be reached for comment as calls to his phone rang out. He had yet to respond to an SMS seeking his comments on the failure of the commission to arraign prominent Nigerians.
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