Last week, President Bola Tinubu approved the appointment of Mr. Ola Olukoyede to serve as the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The appointment is for a renewable term of four years in the first instance, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Olukoyede’s assumption as the new EFCC boss comes nearly four months after Tinubu suspended the erstwhile anti-graft agency chief, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa.
“Mr Olukayode’s appointment follows the resignation of the suspended Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa,” part of the statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, read.
Leading the country’s anti-corruption agency has often been considered risky. DAILY POST reports that throughout the history of this office, no EFCC chairperson has had an easy term.
This is in addition to the fact the office has been alleged to have been used as a weapon by sitting presidents to target political opponents.
Olukoyede faces the daunting task of rebranding the agency, especially the recent practices by the commission involving late-night raids on people’s homes and media trials, which were widely seen as primitive and outdated.
DAILY POST recalls that the commission has been criticised for not extending its raids to prominent individuals or politicians’ homes in the early morning hours.
Some Nigerians have also suggested that the EFCC needed to transition to a more technology-driven approach. This they said would see more high-profile individuals, particularly those with political influence, held accountable for their role in looting the nation’s resources.
The President of the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Olu Omotayo, told DAILY POST in an interview that Nigerians were hopeful the new EFCC boss will restore sanity and the confidence of the masses in the agency.
Omotayo, who is also a legal expert, lamented that the EFCC had started to operate in a manner similar to other security agencies.
He frowned against the agency asking people money for mobilisation before it could go for an investigation, insisting EFCC could not fight corruption with such a strategy.
The legal expert further urged Olukoyede and the EFCC to be more focused and regain the lost glory, where the people could repose confidence in them.
According to him, the poor should be able to walk up to the EFCC, make a complaint and it would be investigated.
He said, “Well, we expect him to take EFCC back, whether it can regain the lost glory. When you look back when the EFCC first started, when you make a complaint, it is something that I have experienced, they go on investigation. Nobody asks you to bring this to mobilise us. Based on that complaint, they now go on investigation.
“But now EFCC is operating like other security agencies. They don’t go on investigation. I have seen instances where they ask people for mobilisation- an agency established to fight corruption. There’s no way you can fight corruption with that type of strategy, with that mode of operation.
“When Nuhu Ribadu was there, whether you have money or you don’t have money, you go there and make a complaint and they act on it; nobody asked you to bring Kobo.
“But now, there was a matter that I even petitioned the EFCC. The matter was in their legal section and my client even believed they had been compromised.
“The matter after investigation was held up in the legal session for more than eight months before I started writing to the Chairman, ‘the matter that was investigated, why were they holding on to it’? I even addressed a press conference before EFCC allowed the matter to be charged to the court.
“So we need them to be more focused and regain the lost glory, where the people can have confidence in them, that even a poor person can walk up to the EFCC, make a complaint and it will be investigated.
“I hope this man (Olukoyede) will restore sanity and the confidence of the masses in the EFCC as it was in those days.
“What I think is that, in the next few months, we will know where the man is heading to. The political interference depends on the person heading the agency.
“If the person is determined to fight corruption, he is determined to be upright and do what’s just, this thing will not happen. Because when people working under him see that if they compromise on their investigation or duty, they will be fired.
“The EFCC chairman can reorient the people under him because you can’t be doing the same thing and be expecting different results. He should come out and build a name for himself and try to do as when Ribadu first started, they were proactive in their investigation irrespective of the party you belonged to.
“So, we expect him to do that, and in the next few months, we will be able to say ‘he has done well or not’.
“He should know that for the fact he is in that post, he’s also being monitored. If he’s corrupt, you can’t keep someone who is corrupt there because someone has a fixed tenure.
“All of us believed that Bawa being a young man would do better but at the end of the day, he messed up the whole thing, having different accounts and taking his whole family to different vacations in Saudi Arabia as a civil servant, when everyone knows your income.
“I think the Nigeria populace is getting to be aware about their right to accountability from government agencies. We will continue watching him and everybody’s eye will focus on the agency to know whether the man will perform or not.”
Also speaking to DAILY POST, the president of the civil right group, Triple Seal Global Initiative for Peace, Comrade Joseph Chinedu urged Olukoyede to deploy his experience and skills to track looted funds and engender strategies to nip looting of the public treasury in the bud.
Chinedu tasked the new EFCC boss with attracting foreign direct investment by clamping down on internet fraud and all forms of corruption.
This is even as he also warned against the attempt to politicise the appointment of Olukoyede as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, cautioning that the fight against corruption must be free of partisan politics.
“A man who has had an extensive career as a certified fraud examiner, leading and managing the investment, which includes civil litigation of fraud and financial crimes for international development projects, cannot be faulted that he is not qualified to lead the EFCC.
“Nigeria has gone beyond playing politics with every appointment.
“The country is in dire need of good leadership and management of the shrinking resources. The government needs support to steer it on the part of progress.
“The new EFCC chairman should be supported instead of dissipating energy on his qualification, which is rather borne out of inadequate knowledge and sheer politics,” he said.
On his part, the spokesperson for the Forum of State Chairmen of the NNPP, Dada Olayinka Olabode advised the new EFCC Chairman to avoid politicising his office by detaching himself from politicians.
Olabode spoke on Tuesday in a telephone interview.
He harped on the need for the staff of the commission to be trained and retrained in the act of taming corruption before it is perpetrated.
According to him, the Chairman of the Commission should ensure that corrupt officials and citizens who engage in sharp practices were prosecuted in record time.
He said, “The new EFCC Chairman must avoid politicising his office by detaching himself from politicians.
“Unlike his predecessors who became active only when politics was around the corner thereby turning the agency to a political witch-hunting agency, professionalism must be the core value he places above other interests.
“Staff of the commission must be trained and retrained in the act of taming corruption before it is perpetrated.
“Corrupt officials and citizens must be prosecuted in record time to avoid escaping justice due to political affinities and patronage of the new government whom they may have realigned with to avoid prosecution.
“The commission under his leadership should ensure that anti-corruption courts are set up for speedy trial of corrupt individuals.
“Inter-agency collaboration on intelligence sharing, apprehension of culprits, confiscation of properties acquired with ill-gotten proceeds and repatriation of stolen funds should be enhanced in dealing with corrupt cases within and outside Nigeria.”
In the interim, the appointment of Olukoyede as the EFCC boss has also stirred controversy over his qualifications for the job.
Some believed Olukoyede, a lawyer, was not qualified to be EFCC chairman under the law establishing the anti-corruption agency.
One of them, a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, Daniel Bwala, had, while reacting to the appointment, described it as “unlawful and illegal”, adding that “It runs foul of the provisions of Section 2 of the EFCC Act”.
According to Bwala, the Act provides that the person to be appointed as EFCC Chairman must, amongst other things, have been “a serving or retired member of any security or law enforcement agency, have 15 years cognate experience of law enforcement, and must not be below the rank of assistant commissioner of police”.
Bwala noted that “Olukayode is a private legal practitioner and has never worked or belonged to any security or law enforcement agency as a member.”
But a legal expert and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has dismissed the negative claims being held about Olukoyede’s qualifications.
Falana explained that there was no issue with the appointment, noting that Olukoyede was eminently qualified to head the EFCC.
According to the legal expert, his only worry was on whether the appointment followed the nation’s law on the principle of federal character.
Falana spoke over the week while featuring on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.
He said, “No, there’s no issue there. The only issue that has been raised, which, for me, has to be considered by the government, is that we have in this country the federal character commission act. And also, by virtue of section 14 of the constitution, appointments must reflect federal character.
“So, if you are going to have the EFCC and ICPC, the heads can not come from the same zone. If there are two positions in this country in public service, one must go to the North, and one must come to the South.
“If there are four, two must go to the North and two to the South. If there are six, one must go to each geopolitical zone in the country. That’s the law in Nigeria today.
“I’m not comfortable with the fact that, as of today, the heads of the EFCC and ICPC are from the same zone. Apart from that, Mr Olukoyede is eminently qualified to head the EFCC.
“My colleagues who have criticised the appointment have not looked at the relevant law provisions of the EFCC, which is section two, which provides that the Chairman must be at least an Assistant Commissioner of Police or its equivalent in the security service or the law enforcement agency.
“In the case of Mr Olukoyede, he has been the Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the EFCC. He has also been the Secretary of that body and, of course, a board member by virtue of his position as a Secretary of the Commission.
“Now, people are saying that he hasn’t acquired the cognate experience. The law does not say the cognate experience must be in that agency.”
For now, the argument will shift to the Senate which has the constitutional power to either confirm or reject Olukoyede’s appointment.