Lamorde and Amaechi’s probe – could this mean the battle against corruption is real?

Following a petition by the Port Harcourt based Integrity Group on July 29th 2015, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has commenced a detailed investigation on former Governor of Rivers States, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi.

The former Governor is accused of diverting a sum of N60 billion naira initially allotted for a power project and paid the proceeds into three different companies in Port Harcourt. The EFCC also accused Amaechi of appointing a tax consulting firm, whose fee was 12 percent of taxes collected on the monthly rate of N2.5 billion naira, as well as stealing the N4.63 billion assigned for the failed Karibi Whyte Specialist Hospital building project. According to the group, the fee paid to the tax consulting firm is against the law, which states that only five percent of the monthly rate should be charged as administrative costs.

However, the EFCC is in some trouble as well. Based on the accusations of Mr. George Uboh, the Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security system, the Senate is also set to probe the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde. Lamorde is accused of diverting funds of over one trillion naira for his personal use.

In 1999, the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo announced a war against corruption claiming that there will be no ‘sacred cows’. To this effect, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offence Commission (ICPC), was set up in 2000, to receive and investigate reports of corruption, and punish offenders. But, due to the prevalence of financial crimes such as money laundering and advanced fee fraud popularly known as ‘419’ in Nigeria, it became necessary for the government to set up a body to prevent, investigate, prosecute and ultimately discipline those guilty of these financial crimes. This led to the birth of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in 2003.

The EFCC, under the leadership of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the pioneer chairman, actively probed corrupt public servants and other Nigerian citizens who were were suspected of misappropriating public funds. A number of high profile corrupt officials like Diepreye Alamieyeisegha (the former governor of Bayelsa state), Erastus Akingbola (the MD/CEO of the defunct Intercontinental bank), James Ibori (former governor of Delta state), Tafa Balogun (former Inspector General of Police) were convicted.

Also, within this period, due to the EFCC’s zealousness in battling corruption, international ratings for the country increased. Nigeria received a better rating on the International Corruption Index. However, in subsequent years, particularly after the dismissal of Farida Waziri, the former chairman of the EFCC in 2011, it seemed the crime fighting commission lost its steam and the corruption that the EFCC was gaining grounds on, sprung up again.

Now, it appears that under President Buhari’s regime, the EFCC is ‘resurrected’, especially in their inquiry to one of the most viable politicians in the President’s very own political party, All Peoples Congress (APC) – Chibuike Amaechi.

During April’s presidential election, Amaechi served as the Director General of Buhari’s campaign organization and was instrumental to Buhari’s success. However, the simultaneous probe of Amaechi and Lamardi comes with mixed feelings.

In defense of its boss, EFCC has issued a press release on its website to disprove the one trillion naira allegation.

“…The EFCC under Lamorde did not need the prompting of anyone, when it commissioned a reputable international audit firm, KPMG to carry out comprehensive audit of exhibits and forfeited assets of the Commission from 2003 to date. The report of the audit will be made public once it is ready.”

If the EFCC Chairman and Amaechi are successfully probed, this could mean that Buhari’s promise to fight corruption is well on its way.

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