It may have surprised some but the sacking of the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Farida Waziri, was long overdue. Nigeria's war on corruption has been loudly proclaimed but widely derided. If you measured a corruption crime fighting body by the convictions it achieves, then the EFCC under Waziri had failed and a change of leadership was required.
Waziri ascended to the helm of the EFCC after the controversial sacking of Nuhu Ribadu in 2008. Ribadu who many had seen as a true agent of change and an honest fighter in the battle against corruption had been demoted and sent on a one year training course at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Jos after the elections of Umaru Musa Yar'adua. Stories abound of corrupt andpowerful forces that had managed to wriggle their way into the kitchen cabinet of the late Yar'Adua, and applied pressure on the presidency to remove Ribadu in order to shield themselves from possible prosecution.
Waziri joined the Nigerian Police Force in 1965 at the age of 19 after obtaining a degree in law from the University of Lagos and a masters in Strategic Studies from The University of Ibadan. Waziri's assent through the police ranks saw her in highly sensitive roles such as head of the Special Fraud Unit, focusing on advance fee fraud, otherwise known as 419s, securing the first conviction for this crime. She rose to the position of Assistant Inspector General of Police before landing in the hot seat as Chairlady of the EFCC. During her inauguration speech as head of the anti-corruption body dated June 9 2008 Wazri stated "My coming on board marks the beginning of a new era in the war against economic and financial crimes" and further lamented that "corruption has crippled the countries development and brought about unnecessary wastage of national resources." Yet throughout her tenure, accusations of shielding corrupt individuals were rife and her non-existent conviction rate of high profile individuals were also questioned.
One case that comes to mind is that of former CEO of Oceanic Bank Cecilia Ibru who in October 2010 pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and mismanagement totalling a colossal $1.2bn. The sentence handed out totalled a paltry six months in jail and the forfeiture of the assets in question. Ibru went on to spend only one month of her sentence in a private hospital with the facilities of a 4* hotel and was then promptly released, citing issues surrounding her health. After Ibru's conviction, Waziri's stated that "this is an indication that we are making progress in the war against graft in the country,"
My Second case study on Waziri and her failed quest against corruption is the arrest of former state chief executives Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State and Aliyu Akwe Doma of Nassarawa State in October of this year. The three were apprehended on allegations that they fleeced their respective states of funds totalling $670million. Once again the three ex governors were held in EFCC custody for two to three days, taken to court, and were released on bail. It is likely that their cases will be held up in the court system, allowing them to roam the land for some time to come.
I have no personal reasons to dislike Wazari or to belittle the enormity that comes with her previous job. Yet we must be fully aware that corruption has eaten at the moral fabric of Nigeria and has seeped into our psyche like a virus. An argument to be had is that Nigeria's justice system is painfully slow and ill-equipped to deal with such complex financial cases. Yet at the same time Waziri in her position of influence and clout could have used her office to affect certain forms of change in the system in order to enhance the potency of the commission, in which she chose not to do. And if the EFCC under her watch is simply an organization that arrests an individual in front of the cameras, incarcerates them for two to three days only for the courts to release them on bail, the effectiveness of its chairperson must be questioned, and so it has.