Daily Champion (Lagos)

1 October 2010

Nigeria at 50 - Corruption Very High - EFCC

Abuja — Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday said though there is reason to celebrate Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary, Nigerians must come to terms with the reality that corruption is endemic in the country.

Chairman of the commission, Mrs. Farida Waziri who said this while speaking to newsmen in Abuja revealed that the 2011 general election will be a no go area for corrupt persons and that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been requested to forward the list of all political parties to the anti-graft agency.

Farida, who insisted that the commission will screen candidates of all genuinely registered political parties for next year's election, said no amount of threats will dissuade the agency from carrying out its legal responsibilities.

She said: "We have requested for a list of all registered political parties, not portfolio parties, from INEC and we will assist them to identify those that are corrupt as that is part of my job to help prevent economic and financial crimes which is clearly stated in section 6 of the EFCC Act.

"We will not compile any list as I do not have authority to do that. All we can do is to give the parties advice on the candidates they are fielding and work within the ambit of the Constitution; but they need not fear if they do not have skeletons in their pockets."

She justified the EFCC's bid to stop those being tried for any act of corruption from seeking elective positions in the 2011, stressing that the commission is empowered to take preventive measures.

Quoting section 6(f) of the EFCC Act dealing with "adoption of measures which include co-ordinating, preventive and regulatory actions; introductions and maintenance of investigated and control techniques on the prevention of economic and financial related crimes" and Section 6 (j) dealing with "collaborating with government bodies both within and outside Nigeria carrying on functions wholly or in part analogous with those of the commission", Waziri stressed that the EFCC was not breaking any law in this respect.

She said in keeping to the legality of ensuring that only credible people are allowed to contest election in 2011, she would not be deterred or scared by any threats.

"I'm not scared. We will do our job and ensure that we operate within the ambit of the law. Whatever anyone says or threatens to do does not matter at all. I can't be scared", she said.

She urged Nigerians to be steadfast and resolute in the fight against corrupt practices, stating that Nigeria's attainment of 50 years as an independent nation was a significant and epochal achievement.

Calling on Nigerians to enlist in the anti-graft war to place the nation in the comity of developed nations of the world, she said: "We have every reason to celebrate. I agree that at 50, the level of corruption is very high, it is endemic. Everybody has accepted that this country would have been greater, as great as the United States of America (USA), Great Britain or China but for corruption. This therefore poses a challenge to every Nigerian to join in the anti-corruption war to make Nigeria the nation of our dreams,"

Waziri admonished corrupt persons in Nigeria to have a re-think and embrace a new life of accountability, transparency and integrity, saying that corruption has drawn the nation back too tragically.

"Corruption has affected us too negatively. It is very destructive. Those who are corrupt should have a new focus. It is wrong to amass wealth at the expense of the people", she stressed.

On former governor of Ekiti state Ayodele Fayose's sealed properties, the anti-graft boss said: "We complied with the court order to the letter but I was alarmed when I discovered that the ex-governor was still using same properties. Our Lagos office was consulted and we had to act though the attorney-general had written but that was after consulting with Lagos.

"As at the time he declared his assets one of the lands was a virgin land which he completed through one of the contractors he used and he should know that I am not scared of being unseated as many people had sacked me more than a thousand times; some said I will not last three months but I have survived two years.

"By now people should know that there is an Almighty God somewhere despite all the cooked stories before authority God has been my amour and I will walk out taller."

On the Siemens scam, Waziri said: "All the major witnesses were sacked and we are trying our best to locate them but if we cannot we will declare them wanted."

On the Halliburton scam she said the "investigation is on-going and we are in constant consultation with the office of the attorney -general and the lawyers handling the case".

Waziri reiterated her call for the creation of special courts to try corruption cases, stressing that such courts would assist in clearing the backlog of cases awaiting resolution in courts across the country.

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