7 June 2008

Nigeria: EFCC Chair - Farida Will Do Better

The controversies surrounding the nomination of the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri is one nomination that has generated so much heat in the country, for the simple reason that the Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), could not tighten all the loose ends.

He probably did not remember that the appointment of the EFCC chairman is a constitutional matter which requires the approval of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate.

The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on the process of appointing the EFCC chairman, just like it provides for the appointment of chairmen of all other commissions established by an Act of the National Assembly.

Waziri who became an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), rising through the ranks to that exalted position, was no doubt a fine and thorough police officer who distinguished herself while she was in the service of the Police force.

I was personally impressed with the manner and courage the former AIG went about in search of the killers of former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige. Even as a woman, Farida exhibited exceptional brilliance in handling that very controversial case.

Although her efforts appeared to have been in vain, maybe because, she was not properly encouraged by the government of the immediate-past president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. I was impressed with her courage.

I have no doubt in my mind that the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, would certainly live up to the expectations of the people, particularly in the spirit of the present administration's resolve to abide by the rule of law.

There were grumblings and discordant views among senators over the process through which the new EFCC chairman was appointed, and it was rumoured that she indeed resumed for duties before her name was sent to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

I share in the observations of the senators who faulted the process, just as I totally agree with them that the Attorney General of the Federation's letter to the senate president was not in consonance with the spirit of the present administration.

I took a look at the letter of the SAN to the senate president, and even though I am not a lawyer, I did not need to be one to conclude that the impression he tried to create was that the president had the right to appoint the chairman of the EFCC, ask her to resume and then forward her name to the Senate. This is totally wrong and unconstitutional.

However, it would not be proper to throw out the baby with the bath water, more so that the president of the country, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has apologised on behalf of his cabinet member who should have known better as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

I am quite sure that the nomination of the new EFCC chairman would soon be a thing of the past. The senators, except the chairman of the senate committee on anti-corruption, whose committee is saddled with the responsibility of screening the nominee.

She spoke exceptionally well, touching and commenting on all the issues and questions put to her when she appeared before the committee last Wednesday.

She also debunked information and speculations that the EFCC chairmanship nominee stood as surety for the former Benue State governor, Senator George Akume; this also raised a credibility problem on Chief Gani's letter which alleged that Mrs. Farida actually stood as surety for both Akume and James Ibori.

She also assured the committee that she would beam the commissions' searchlight on federal government ministries, agencies as well as states and local governments to ensure there is sanity, accountability and transparency.

I was particularly impressed when she told the committee that she would continue from where Mallam Nuhu Ribadu stopped as chairman of the EFCC. Stressing that, " Ribadu laid a sound foundation, even though there might be mistakes here and there, we would build on them".

To me, institutions rather than personalities must be encouraged, strengthened and given the necessarily support to build a solid foundation such that anybody coming into such institutions would function.

While I agree with the Senate over the letter of the Attorney General of the Federation and the manner she was appointed, I strongly feel she is a good material that would make the nation proud, judging from her antecedents in the Nigeria Police Force.

However, the attorney general should be conscious of the fact that the era of lawlessness under former president Olusegun Obasanjo is gone and Nigerians are looking up to the promises of the present government to abide by the rules.

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