OPEN LETTER TO MR. PRESIDENT ON THE IMPLICATION OF THE RECENT FUND RECOVERY BY THE EFCC
Dear Mr. President,
Permit me sir, to use this medium to congratulate you on your commitment and fidelity to the development of the country by curbing corruption through your anti-graft agenda – which in all intents and purposes, has continued to progress to the greater good of our nation. Let me commend the Federal Government for its commitment to win the anti-corruption war and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for their dedication to duty and investigative prowess that has led to recoveries of laundered money, while individuals suspected to have benefited from corruption proceeds are today facing trial in various courts.
By this I mean the recent discoveries of humongous amounts of raw cash from unusual locations by operatives of the EFCC. However, while many Nigerians have applauded the progress recorded in the anti-corruption war, and highly commend the EFCC for the great job they are doing, they expect them to move a step further by disclosing those who truly own the recovered funds.
How do I mean? Officially, our country’s economy is said to be in a recession. The Naira has taken a negative nose dive. Prices of commodities have gone through the roofs. These combined, have made life difficult, if not unbearable, for the masses of this country. However, we seem to be living in a wonderland by the way and manner huge amounts of money are being recovered from unlikely places.
For instance, the Federal Government in February this year said it had recovered $151 million and N8 billion looted funds from three sources through whistleblowers. On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, operatives of the EFCC, said it intercepted a sum of N49 million at the Kaduna International Airport following a tip off. Also on Friday, April 7, 2017, the agency said it uncovered another sum of N449million suspected to be laundered money in a shop at LEGICO Shopping Plaza, Victoria Island, Lagos. On Monday April 10, 2017, the EFCC said it intercepted the sum of N250million at the popular Balogun market in Lagos.
Moreover, on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the EFCC again announced it had uncovered wads of foreign currencies and Naira notes totalling about $43.4 million, £27,800 and N23.2 million respectively. Needless to say that this latest seizure has continued to be enmeshed in controversy as to the true owner of the cash and the apartment in question. While some fingered a former top official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) who has since denied knowledge of the money, others were quick to accuse a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) boss of both ownership of the house and money. The ex-PDP top official in question has since denied any complicity. There have also been unconfirmed stories that the money belongs to a powerful official of government. Curiously, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is said to have laid claims to the money. Notwithstanding, the belief by Nigerians that the NIA’s claim is a mere smokescreen has not abated. Added to the controversy is a South-South Governor who claimed that the money belongs to the State with a demand that it should be returned to the state coffers.
Mr. President, while your sincerity, zeal and single-mindedness to vanquish corruption in this country is clear to all, the EFCC has equally acted in tandem with their mandate to track, investigate, recover and prosecute suspected corrupt persons. This they have done and continue to do. Presently however, Nigerians expect them to move a step further by disclosing owners of the monies being recovered – beginning from the Kaduna Airport. Majority of Nigerians believe that there should be no secrecy in the fight against corruption because they want to know both the small and the big thieves if any. They want to know those who through nefarious activities have foisted the present economic hardship on them – be they big or small.
Moreover as a result of the many pertinent questions on the minds of Nigerians in view of the controversy that has trailed the Ikoyi discovery and as a party man that is close to ‘ordinary Nigerians’, I feel inclined to ask the following questions:
1. Is it true that the latest cash haul from an apartment in Ikoyi, belongs to the NIA that had reportedly laid claim to the money? The EFCC needs to clarify this.
2. If the money recovered from the Ikoyi apartment was approved and released by the last administration for “covert operations” as claimed, why was the money not kept in the bank or stored in a safe in any of its officially recognized offices nationwide?
3. Is the said Ikoyi apartment more secured than the well protected and guarded Offices of the agency across the country? Is the apartment the property of the NIA? If not, who leased it to them?
4. Is the apartment a bank? Is it correct to say that the money belongs to a high profile Nigerian in or outside government now allegedly being shielded?
5. How could the agency have stashed such humongous amount in a building being shared by non-security personnel or neigbours without the presence of its operatives, if only to keep an eye on the money?
6. If the agency was unable to carry out its intended ‘covert’ operation almost two years after the money was released to it, why didn’t they return it into government coffers, rather than sequester the cash in an unguarded location?
7. Again, since the NIA allegedly claimed that the money belongs to it, why has the EFCC not confirmed or deny the claim? Until the EFCC makes public the real owner of the money, it will be difficult to convince Nigerians that the money belongs to the NIA.
In the light of the grave concerns being expressed and far-reaching implications presented to the country in view of the recent cash discoveries, permit me to urge the EFCC to be more open as to the true owners of monies being recovered. Mr. President, I want to also say that it is time you fulfill this administration’s promise to disclose to Nigerians how much has been recovered so far and from whom they were recovered.
This has become imperative in line with the principle of transparency and accountability of your administration. The fact that such illicit funds have been hauled in by the EFCC and publicly displayed is commendable. However, I call on Mr. President to step in through another competent security agency like the Department of State Services (DSS) to independently investigate and unravel the true owner of the fund in order to put the present controversy to rest. Else, a day will come when a government agency will be caught with money in strange places and the case in issue will be used as a precedent.
I believe that this action, if taken urgently, would help steady the anti-corruption efforts of the present administration, prevent misconceptions and promote efforts of the present administration aimed at reviving the economy.
I believe that such timely intervention will not only restore order to the present chaos but will also go a long way to strengthen the anti-graft war of the present administration without jeopardizing the economic interests of the country and its citizens. Besides, this step need to be taken to prevent our country from being ridiculed by no less embarrassed members of the international community. I believe that the government should do the needful to keep the trust it has garnered since assumption of Office almost two years ago through forthrightness, sincerity, accountability and transparency.
Comrade Timi Frank