Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, yesterday said that the commission arrested about 500 suspected internet fraudsters within six months.
The EFCC Chairman also revealed that 314 convictions were recorded in 2018, while over 1,281 convictions were secured by EFCC between January 1 and December 31, 2019.
Magu disclosed this during the Passing Out Parade for the EFCC Detective Inspectors Course 5 at the Nigerian Defence Academy Parade Ground, Afaka, Kaduna.
In his address at the occasion attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, the EFCC boss said that the commission's mandate was to kill corruption.
According to him, "As it is often said, in our country, tackling corruption is a clarion call, given that corruption is a huge burden to the nation.
"It has spread its cancerous effects to all facets of our lives. Insecurity, poverty, unemployment, falling standards of education, weak access to affordable health care, failing infrastructure, questioned the integrity of the electoral process, poor business environment and lower GDP growth to mention a few, are all linked to corruption.
"Your Excellency, corruption is worse than cancer, Ebola-virus, Coronavirus and all other deadly diseases put together. Fighting corruption is thus a crusade against the evils of our society that are deeply-rooted and threatening to consume us.
" We are aware that the task is not easy and the path can be very thorny and lonely, but with determination and a high sense of mission, we are making progress towards rooting out this evil from our society."
Magu said that the fight against corruption must be won to secure a better future for the generation and the generation yet unborn.
He said," The mission to eliminate corruption in Nigeria assumed a more systematic posture from 2016 with the development of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and National Anti-Corruption Action Plan which were launched in 2017."
He said the five pillars or core strategies are: Prevention; Public Engagement; Ethical Reorientation; Institutional Strengthening of Anti Corruption Agencies; Enforcement, Recovery and Management of the Proceeds of Corruption.
" These strategic pillars have been reflected in the Federal Government's Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017 - 2020). The plan seeks to improve governance by entrenching transparency and fighting corruption; reinforcing security; reforming the public service, and strengthening coordination with sub-national governments," he said.
The EFCC Chairman further stated that the government has been diligently pursuing the core objectives without relenting and with much impact on governance.
"The EFCC on its part is currently developing its 'Statement of Strategy for 2020 to 2025 in line with the 5 pillars of National Anti Corruption Strategy. This was preceded by an earlier strategic plan which was successfully implemented.
"Based on your commitment to the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, you approved the recruitment of additional workforce for the Commission to strengthen its capacity in the fight against corruption. Your Excellency, we thank you immensely for this great support.
"Additionally, as part of the vigorous pursuit of the enforcement mandate through institutional strengthening, the Commission has created the following new specialized Directorates and Sections, taking into cognisance the changing face of criminality. These include:
"Assets Forfeiture and Recovery Management Directorate, Forensic and Science Laboratory Directorate, Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Section, Foreign Exchange Malpractice Section Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation Section, Cybercrime Section, Tax Fraud Section, Procurement Fraud Section, AMCON Desk.
"Additionally, the Commission upgraded its Polygraph services by training more professionals and extended its services to sister Law Enforcement Agencies in the country.
"The EFCC, with support of development partners has also built one of the best investigative laboratories in West Africa. They are - Digital Forensic Laboratory, Cybercrime Laboratory and Biochemical Laboratory.
"These facilities have aided our investigators and prosecutors in achieving accuracy and deployment of incontrovertible evidence in courts."
Magu said that it had been realised that the fight against corruption requires effective engagement with the public, adding," For this engagement to be effective, three communication modalities are essential and need to remain open and active.
"The first is public sensitization and education aimed at information dissemination on the prevalence and dangers of corruption in our society, and how to participate in the prevention of corruption.
"The second mode is that of communicating EFCC's achievements and activities to the public.
"The third is the interactive mode where feedback from the public can be received and ideas exchanged. These three communication modes relay many of our programmes and activities."
He announced that the EFCC Radio was on the verge of take-off.
He said: "In line with its Strategic Plan, the EFCC beamed its searchlight on Advance Fee Fraudsters, otherwise called 419ners and Yahoo Yahoo boys.
"The scourge of the activities of the Yahoo Boys and the consequent dent on our national image motivated EFCC to plan and execute the great push against their nefarious activities, with a determination to flush them out and redeem Nigeria's National Pride.
"Your Excellency, I can confidently report to you that as of today, over 500 internet fraudsters have been arrested just within the past 6 months with many having been prosecuted and convicted.
" Their confidence has been eroded and they are either hiding or on the run. The EFCC will continue to hunt them until their activities are eradicated."
Magu said that the EFCC was not satisfied with just prosecuting and jailing the young brilliant Nigerians, rather, the Commission has concluded plans to reform them, in collaboration with relevant agencies, towards making them better citizens.
He said, "One of the greatest feats in the fight against corruption is the increase in the number of successful prosecution of corruption-related cases by the EFCC. In 2015, 103 convictions were secured. By 2016, 195 convictions were recorded.
" Your Excellency, 314 convictions were recorded in 2018, while over 1,281 convictions were secured by EFCC between January 1 and December 31, 2019. I wish to note that the record of convictions in 2018 and 2019 alone is higher than the total convictions secured since the inception of the EFCC in 2003.
"Your Excellency, you initiated the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, you have implemented a series of institutional and financial management reforms, thus creating an enabling environment for the fight against corruption.
" You have remained consistent and tenacious to your principle of non-interference in our work, and you have supported us through measures that strengthened the EFCC. This is one of the secrets of our successes."
He enthused that what worked for the commission was the increased level of efficiency and accuracy in an investigation, and increased appreciation by the Judiciary of the dire need to fight corruption.
" Also important is the determined efforts of our operatives, who are further motivated by greater public support. EFCC's performance will only continue to grow and I am more determined than ever before, given your unflinching support to rid Nigeria of corruption.
"We have demonstrated that there are no sacred cows any more. We have successfully prosecuted several high profile cases and many more will come.
Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I make bold to say that EFCC has indeed come of age.
" The Commission has expanded its influence in the African Region. The EFCC in collaboration with the anti-corruption agencies of the Republic of Niger, Mali, Chad, Benin Republic, and the Headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized a two-day regional workshop in Abuja on the theme: "Supporting Good Practices in The Promotion of Legal Migration And The Fight Against Corruption At The Border" in October 2019.
"The programme was part of an initiative embarked upon in early February 2019 by the EFCC in curbing the movement of illicit funds and other trans-border crimes amongst the Member States. The process culminated in an operational collaboration and MoU between the EFCC with some West Africa Member States.
"The Commission has hosted several African countries on study tour and training missions within the past few years. The most recent is the 2 weeks training of officers of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission at the EFCC Academy in September 2019."
He said that the EFCC was planning to host an additional three African countries on a training mission.