Not that many Nigerians had expected anything much from the government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), now headed by Ibrahim Lamorde, not since the heady years when Nuhu Ribadu was in charge. But they had expected it to keep up its pretense of “doing something” about corruption in high places. So what came out of Lamorde’s mouth on February 28 was a bit of a shocker.
That day, while defending the EFCC’s this year’s budget before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Lamorde told the bemused senators that the commission was not going to investigate the S20 billion oil money believed to have gone missing at the state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Central Bank (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, blew the whistle on NNPC late last month. Instead of ordering an investigation, President Goodluck Jonathan chose to suspend Sanusi, thereby effectively slamming the lid on the alleged fraud.
Lamorde gave several reasons why the EFCC would not investigate NNPC. One, the Senate was already doing its own investigation. It would wait for its report before acting. Second, the operations of the NNPC are “too technical” for the commission to understand. “You need a professional firm to handle this. This is not a common investigation. These are very technical things. Let the audit be carried out. Let’s know exactly what we are talking about, understand what the figures are and criminal investigation can follow.”
Thirdly, the EFCC would not be railroaded by the news media to put people on trial. “I think people are in a hurry… Just because there is an issue today, tomorrow you are shouting kill him, stone him…We don’t do investigations by the media. When we are ready to charge an individual to court we will do so. But when the investigation is going on let the investigation be conclusive”, Lamorde said, adding, for effect, that the EFCC does “do a mob kind of thing”.
Haba, Lamorde! Not even a secondary school pupil would ask that you rely on media reports to clamp people into detention. Every sensible person knows that an investigation is, as you pointed out, “a sequence of events that would lead us to taking a decision.” At best, media reports will give an insight into the magnitude of a problem already in the public domain; they shouldn’t and mustn’t replace a proper investigation. This is all Nigerians ask of you. If you can’t do that you have no business hanging onto your job.
Also it’s hogwash your argument that because the Senate was already investigating the matter the EFCC would have to wait and only act when a report is turned. Again, wrong. The senate inquiry does not stop the EFCC from doing its own probe, as implied by Senator Sani Saleh in his reaction to your untenable tale.
Yes, NNPC operations are technical. But the law that gives the EFCC its powers says it can hire the services of experts as consultants. Which is what it has been doing. Why should it be different in the NNPC case? Surely, someone higher up is telling Lamorde to do nothing; we know who that someone is.