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THE ENFORCEMENT OF ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES LAWS AND THE REDUCTION OF ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES IN NIGERIA_ A FOCUS ON ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION (EFCC).
- Background of the study
Corruption is one of the major challenges facing the Nigerian society. It has eaten deep into the fabric of the society. According to Adegbie (2012), corruption and other financial and economic crimes are the bane of Nigerian development efforts. Corruption bestrides the lives of the citizens. The judgment of Transparency International is a reflection of what the nation has given to the world-419, money laundering, inflated contracts, scam mails, illegal oil bunkering, disappearance of ships etc .All these crimes harm Nigerian economy in no small measure. Ribadu (2004) stated that all these crimes continued in the system in spite of government’s landscape steps to address them, because many people in power want the old dispensation to continue. He reiterated that there are those whose lives thrive on corruption, while there are those even though they are paid to check the activities of the culprits, yet are willing to share in the proceeds with the event that they themselves become culprits.
The high level of political corruption has become a major problem that confronts the government and citizens of this nation given its wide spread into all spheres of societal life. This ugly phenomenon has grown to a stage whereby a day hardly passes without the issue of political corruption being displayed on the front pages of newspapers and magazines or broadcast in the electronic media or discussed by people. Even scholarly literature on its societal consequences are very much on the increase. Corruption, the foundation of economic and financial crimes has a very remote and chequered history in Nigeria. Before the advent of the British colonial masters, traditional methods of trial by ordinances and banishment were adopted to deal with corrupt and wicked leaders and other individuals in the society. On arrival of the colonial masters, efforts were made to identify and criminalize corruption. While alien administrative officers who engaged in corrupt practices in the colonies were recalled by the home office, indigenous public officers suspected of being involved in corruption were subjected to probe and official investigation. In other words there arose some areas of duplicity in the efforts of the colonial regime in combating financial and economic crimes (Ademoyega, 1987). The history of Nigeria from 1960 has been the accounts of misappropriation of funds, embezzlement or looting of treasury, prebendalism and settlements through grafts and contracts (Awoshakin 2006). One of the reasons why the administration of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was overthrown by the military in 1966 was alleged crass materialism among his ministers “corruption in the high places” (Nzeogwu, 1966). After the civil war in 1970 the three “Rs” (Rehabilitation, Reconciliation and Reconstruction) were massively embarked upon by the Gowon regime with the huge oil revenue that had characterized the war years. The oil fortunes soon became a minus as it prompted the arbitrary and careless Udoji Salary Awards that over- monetized the economy, discouraged rural farming and constructed spatial inflation. The resultant situation was the over prizing of money ahead of social values, which caused infidelity of market forces, embezzlement for increased financial capacity and gratifications(Adele, 1998). Thus, since the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970, corruption and all forms of economic and financial crimes have assumed an intolerable problem very difficult to attack, control and eliminate.
The sudden wealth arising from oil, which dominated Nigeria’s exports, encouraged greed, corruption and berthed the new trend among the political and military class to seek power by all means because of the opulence occurring from it. About #2.8 billion of oil revenue was allegedly declared missing from the state coffers in 1978 as reckless spending characterized an unaccountable governance (Nwankwo, 1999). This prompted the Obasanjo Declaration at Jaji in 1977 sign-posting the commencement of the battle against the creeping culture of corruption, bribery and indiscipline.
Shagari’s Ethical Revolution was to transform the society in which corruption and financial indiscipline had become pandemic. The term “revolution” denoted the gravity of the decadence, which could not be handled by Obasanjo’s Jaji Declaration. The period of Ethical Revolution was marked by state officials amassing Wealth from public parastatals, boards and ministries to stave off as much as possible in an emergent era of” oil doom” (that is, a time fortunes on oil revenue had declined considerably ) with an interface of inflation and deflation. The Shagari’s administration responded by introducing Austerity measures, a policy that caused severe social and economic hardships that encouraged treasury looting, bribery, fraud and social crimes like robbery. It was the era that witnessed the phenomenon of arson-after looting by officials in a bid to offset all records that could trace culprits.
The image crisis encountered were a culmination of the plethora of failed attempts in the past to eradicate or reduce corruption in the polity. From the Jaji Declaration in 1977 by Olusegun Obasonjo the Ethical Revolution of Shagari in 1981-83, War Against indiscipline by Buhari Idiagbon in 1984, National Orientation Movement in 1986 and Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice by Babangida in 1987, to the War Against Indiscipline and Corruption by Abacha in 1996, it has been a litany of woes between military and civilian leaderships in Nigeria to stem corruption. War Against Indiscipline (WAI) was militant and practical as against theoretical approach to corruption and immorality pursued in 1984 by General Buhari and Idiagbon. Setting up military task forces the war ranged from forcing market prices down, raiding illegal and informal black market sales outlet arresting and detaining corrupt politicians, sentencing corrupt offenders to life imprisonment or death; to compulsory environmental sanitation, maintenance of decorum at public places, queuing to board buses, trains, planes, to buy stamps at post offices, in making telephone calls, fetching water from public pipes etc.
The measures were however considered too high handed, stifling social life and used as a weapon to eliminate political and military opposition. The task forces were also accused of excesses, such as raiding, looting markets, assaulting” bloody civilians” and intimidating their petty foes or folk alike (Ake, 1987). This attempt to curb corruption remain the situation till 1985 when Babangida regime over-threw the Buhari administration on charges of high handedness among others. Babangida relaxed the war and rather commenced a social and economic reengineering policy, culminating in Structural Adjustment Programme, (SAP). The programme, badly implemented, gave Nigeria away to foreign profiteers who collaborated with local capital clique to make fortune through deregulation (privatization and commercialization) (Osoba,1993). Indiscipline intensified in the polity: crime rate escalated; short-cut to wealth through drug peddling, money laundering and advance fee fraud 419 became phenomenal in the country. Three of these variant of corruption and indiscipline namely, drug paddling, money laundering and advance fee fraud or 419 were not only issues that made Nigeria lose its goodwill in the global community, but were also the triumvirate that became associated with the country during the Babangida regime of SAP. It was the combination of Babangida and Abacha mismanagement of the regime of corruption in Nigeria that galvanized the international standing of the Nation in 2000 as one of the most corrupt nations. Speculations were made that the two military rulers corruptly enriched themselves and so could not have controlled the malaise because they were beneficiaries of it. The disappearance of the 5 billion dollars Gulf war oil windfall from 1991 to date added some credibility to this speculation; while government has confirmed reports in the case of Abacha that most of his loots have been recovered (Okojie & Momoh, 2005).
In 2002, the Nigerian government created a corruption tsar agency with the mission “to curb the menace of corruption that constitutes the cog in the wheel of progress; protect national and foreign investment in the country, imbue the spirit of hard work in the citizenry and discourage ill gotten wealth, identify illegally acquired wealth and confiscate it; build an upright work force in both public and private sectors of the economy and contribute to the global war against corruption or economic and financial crimes (EFCC, 2007). The creation of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) marked a significant shift from the rhetorical talks about fighting corruption to actually doing something and fighting corruption. Other past efforts by previous governments to provide the legal frameworks to combat corruption included, but was not limited to, the creation of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in 1989, the money laundry act of 1995, the advance fee fraud and related offences act 1995, the Banks and other financial institutions Act 1991, the miscellaneous offences act 1985 and the foreign exchange miscellaneous offences act 1995. Noble and desirable these effort were, either they were strangled due to inadequate enabling law and regulations or neglected for apparent lack of commitment on the part of the stakeholders to fight corruption in high places (Rebadu, 2004)
Furthermore, at the global level, by the late 1990’s there was increased pressure on developing countries by government of industrialized countries and international organizations to combat and reduce corruption, which had become widespread and was a bane to economic development. It was against this backdrop of failed efforts and international pressure that president Olusegun Obasanjo adopted a multi-pronged approach to fight to fight corruption in order to redeem Nigeria’s image by creating the following agencies: The Anti-corruption Commission, the Due Process Office in the presidency, the Corrupt Practices and Related Offences act 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions 2003.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established by the EFCC (establishment) act. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is charged with the responsibility for the enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws, among other things. It is a body corporate with perpetual succession and seal. It may sue or be sued in its corporate name and may, for the purpose of its function acquire, hold or dispose of property. It is the designated financial unit (FIU) in Nigeria which is charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating the various institutions involved in the fight against money laundering and enforcement of all laws dealing with economic and financial crimes. Under section 6(b) of the EFCC act, the commission shall be responsible for the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crime laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority. Thus, the vision of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is to make Nigeria a safe and corrupt free Nation and enhance the positive image of the country.
Adegbie (2012) observed that over 200 convictions for corruption, money laundering, bank fraud, advance fee fraud were recorded by EFCC. He noted further that assets worth over$5 billion was recovered by EFCC in less than five years of its existence. Despite all these efforts to fight crime, there were politicization and blackmail regarding the cases taken to court. Section 308 of the Nigerian constitution grants immunity. There were public apathy and doubtful attitudes towards anti-corruption work. Slow justice system, insufficient commitment by other arms of government, International assets recovery frustration was recorded. Nevertheless the problem has grown geometrically in the economy. Alipius (2009) stated that EFCC efforts to fight crimes and its achievements were proved by the 2008 annual report by the United Nation office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which rated the commission as the most successful anti-corruption agency in Africa and Nigeria. Transparency International ratings had moved from 142 in 2006 to 121 in 2008.Despite all these achievements, Alipius stated further that the commission is faced with a lot of accusations and criticisms from some quarters.
Notwithstanding these achievements, Nigeria is still bedeviled by political, economic and financial crimes as reports of embezzlements, fraud, contract inflation, etc. Against this background; it therefore becomes imperative to examine EFCC enforcement of economic and financial crime laws and reduction in economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
One of the most fundamental problems facing Nigeria today is corruption. Corruption has not only weakened the moral fiber of Nigeria, it has also weakening havoc of nit’s body politics. Corruption has subverted the rule of law, eroded confidence in the judiciary, undermined Nigeria’s ability for self-development; discouraged the habit of industry, discipline, honesty, dedication and hard work and made nonsense of public accountability. It had rendered patriotism nearly impossible in Nigeria.
Considering the pervasive and ubiquitous nature of corruption in both the private and public life of an average Nigerian, the world record has rated Nigeria the second most corrupt country (Thovoethin, 2003).
Corruption has become a cog in the wheel of development in Nigeria, with indication of poor service delivery the public services, misappropriation of public funds, and other forums of frauds both at public and private levels. On this note, Ribadu (2007:212), observed that Nigeria’s previous leaders stole about 63 trillion naira (about $570 billion) from public coffers. Nevertheless, efforts so far made by the government and nongovernmental organization have not been too effective in eliminating or eradicating corrupt practices in Nigeria. Today, there is still in abated activities that involves the perversion of integrity or state affairs through bribery, favour or moral depravity, use of state power to satisfy private interest; heartless manipulation of governmental machineries; direct embezzlement; skewed patronage in favour of collaborators; inflation of contracts; over invoicing and other kinds of illegal activities by a person in position of authority. Often, holders of public office do not hold in trust but use their offices to commit all sorts of financial and other crimes and their indictment sometimes seem difficult following the immunity of their offices. In this wise, it is important to stress that the people that set out the institution for fighting corruption in Nigeria has not been also questioned, as Abdullah (2009:350) and Oladipo (2009:375) argued that those who are to checkmate incidence of corrupt practices have fallow victims of the same crime. In other words, it is important to assess the role of anti-corruption agencies like EFCC in the fight against corruption. It is against this backdrop, this study will examine the following questions:
- Does the immunity of public office holders hinder the effective enforcement of economic and financial crime laws by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria?
- Does the arrest and prosecution of corrupt government officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reduce the incidence of corruption among government officials in Nigeria?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to carry out an appraisal of the performance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in reducing corruption in Nigeria. The specific objectives include:
- To ascertain whether the immunity of public office holders hindered the effective enforcement of economic and financial crime laws by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria.
- To determine whether the arrest and prosecution of corrupt government officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reduced the incidence of corruption among government official in Nigeria.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The contribution of this study will be two fold, theoretically and practically. Theoretically, this study examines the role of the EFCC in combating corruption in Nigeria with specific attention to its role in the reduction of the menace and the effect in immunity of public office holders on the complain this study will be of immense significance in ascertaining the progress so far made by EFCC in combating corruption in Nigeria.
The study will assist in unveiling the challenges or factors militating against effective enforcement of EFCC laws in combating corruption in Nigeria. This study will also contribute to improve the awareness on the activities of EFCC in combating corruption in Nigeria, and measures to strength the operations of EFCC in achieving its goals and objectives. This study will improve our knowledge on how the arrest and prosecution of corrupt government officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) been able to reduce the incidence of corruption among government officials in Nigeria and show how the immunity enjoyed by public office holder hindered the effectiveness of EFCC in combating corruption in Nigeria. In general, this study will be of great benefit to both government and the citizenry because it has the potential of reorienting the perception of Nigerians to public services.
Practically this study attempt to provide vital information for further academic research bordering on the topic and other related issues/topic. Findings of this study will be relevant to policy maker, diplomatic personal engaged in fight against corruption in Nigeria as well as EFCC management office that is saddled with the responsibility of prudently managing Nigerian fight against corruption in order to achieve the national objective as regards to fight against corruption.