Citizens look at the role of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in fighting corruption in Nigeria with mixed feelings.
Some say the Commission is fighting the war against corruption in Nigeria properly, while others claim the fight is one-sided and see EFCC as a tool of the government in office for fighting the opposition.
Now, there is a strong effort to fight against corrupt former government officials, and powerful citizens who got wealth through unlawful means.
This write-up will discuss the work EFCC is doing to get rid of corruption in Nigeria. Our focus is on why the government formed EFCC, its role and how far it has performed that role in the fight against corruption in the country. We will take a closer look at the duties and responsibilities of EFCC in Nigeria.
When we close this piece, you will have the facts to judge whether the EFCC has justified its creation.
Let us begin discussion on the topic by defining the term.
What is Corruption?
To understand the role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria, let us start by laying the foundation for what we are going to talk about here, by getting the definition right.
Dictionary defines corruption as dishonest use of power for personal gain, the corrupting of something or somebody, an undesirable change, the state of being rotten, alteration from the original form of something, etc.
The first two definitions show that it is a bad trait found in people’s character. Corruption rears its ugly head where people are in organizations, government, the civil service, and in business transactions between citizens.
Another definition sees corruption as bad behavior by those in high positions of trust in public office. It is the behavior of public officials, seeking for undue personal gain while in office to the disadvantage of the people they are serving.
You define corruption in business, as dishonest business practices by private business men and women to gain unfair advantage.
Now that we have a fair idea of the meaning of Corruption, let us find out why the government formed EFCC.
Why was Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Formed?
Once we know why government formed EFCC, the role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria, will become clearer.
From the late 1980’s and up to the year 2,000, Nigeria was an outcast among nations due to some corrupt Nigerians, who fraudulently obtain money under false pretense from foreigners (i.e. advance fee fraud or 419).
Due to this problem, Nigerians suffered untold hardships wherever they went, consequently fighting economic crime became an important problem that the government had to deal-with.
However, due to the complex nature and technical development of economic crimes, the government had to set up a special commission to handle investigation and prosecution of economic crimes instead of using the regular law enforcement agents.
By the year 2002, the Financial Action Task Force put Nigeria in the list of non co-operative countries. The requirement for taking Nigeria off this list was the setting up of a Financial Intelligence Unit.
To fulfill request from this foreign organization, in year 2002, government passed a law which set up the Financial Intelligence Unit as part of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
How to Join EFCC: Visit the EFCC recruitment portal.
History and Functions of EFCC
However, EFCC started work in 2003, and in 2004, there was a re-enactment of the EFCC act to tackle limitations in the 2002 Law.
The role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria is clear from this quotation – “To provide financial security and provide a level playing field in the economy for all stake holders” … Source EFCC.
Here are the primary functions of the commission as specified in EFCC Act 2004. This was the earlier anticipated objectives of EFCC during it’s formation in 2002.
1. Investigate and prosecute financial Crimes as set out in section 47 of the enabling act to deal with crimes such as bank frauds, tax evasion, capital market fraud, futures market fraud, etc.
2. EFCC is the national coordinator for anti money laundering.
3. EFCC is the selected Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
4. EFCC is to carry out provisions of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, Failed Banks Decree, Money Laundering Act, and Banks and other Financial Institutions Decree.
5. From these roles, it is clear that EFCC gives financial security to the Nigerian economy by dealing with the dangers of official corruption, tax evasion, bank fraud, advance fee fraud, illegal bunkering and several other types of economic crimes that stop growth in the economy.
6. To sum up these points; EFCC tries to give equal opportunity to everyone operating in the Nigerian economy.
What are the Achievements of EFCC So Far?
While carrying out the role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria, the commission has achieved some successes.
The statistics of Record of Investigations and Convictions from 2003 to 2011 confirm this. See breakdown.
1. Politically exposed persons: 36 convictions, 75 under trial, and 105 under investigations.
2. High profile cases and advance fee fraud: 428 convictions, 789 under trial, and 445 under investigations.
3. Fraud and money laundering: 15 convictions, 163 under trial, and 26 under investigations.
5. Cyber crime/ Internet fraud: 137 convictions, 476 under trial, and 186 under investigations.
Strategies of EFCC currently in use in the Nigerian economy are part of their achievements. See list.
1. Its Anti Corruption Revolution War has succeeded in involving Nigerians to actively take part in fighting corruption by whistle blowing.
2. Reducing Advanced Fee Fraud and Cyber crime by opening Transaction Clearance Platform in EFCC website, for foreigners to verify status of Nigerian companies, before engaging in any business transactions with them.
3. Investigation and persecution of Tax evasion by companies and high net worth people. This effort has yielded recovery of billions of naira for Government.
4. Alerting banks of the grave repercussion of aiding money laundering.
5. Started the Legislative intervention to support anti corruption war.
Criticisms of EFCC’s Fight against Corruption
As I pointed out earlier, not everyone believes in EFCC’s fight against corruption in Nigeria.
General criticisms in the role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria include:
- accusation and criticism for operating beyond its powers and violating citizens fundamental human rights
- that it was a tool by any sitting President for dealing with political opponents
- that it was not serious in the trial of many high-profile cases without clear results till date
The EFCC in response to these criticisms, have denied these accusations as baseless and claim it has never been used to witch-hunt political opponents of any sitting government, but had been fair in the use of its powers.
It also claimed that after detailed investigations, the anti corruption fight started from people who had committed some wrongs against the State, and called on critics to prove that citizens being prosecuted were innocent.
Problems of EFCC – Challenges Facing EFCC’s Effectiveness
The role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria has not been fully effective due to overwhelming problems such as:
1. Lack of a Special Court
The reason we are asking for a special Court to try EFCC cases, is because of unnecessary delays and adjournments in the usual Courts. A special Court, will give speedy trial of corruption and financial crimes cases and give justice faster.
2. Enacting Assets Forfeiture Law
The Legislature should quickly pass Assets Forfeiture Law. This will allow EFCC to seize assets of suspects of corruption and financial crimes, before they convict them to make them unable to influence results of law suits in court.
3. Inadequate Financial Support
Government should increase EFCC budget. You need a lot of money to fight corruption and financial crimes.
4. Training Employees of the Commission
Training staff of the commission who will investigate and prosecute the anti corruption fight, ought to be first priority of government if they want good staff that can outwit those who commit modern economic crimes.
5. Outdated Laws
The colonial masters wrote the Evidence Act in use in Nigeria in 1945, while the Penal and Criminal Codes are over 50 years old. The Legislature should amend these obsolete laws in line with modern realities.
6. Uncooperative Foreign Countries
The recovery of laundered money by EFCC from foreign countries is difficult. Government should sign repatriation treaties with these foreign countries for quick return of money stolen by public officials.
7. Media Trial
Undue publicity of high-profile cases by the media should stop to allow the EFCC to prosecute accused persons in our courts without needless distractions.
8. Careful Investigations
EFCC should conduct thorough investigations and get exhibits to support its cases in court, to prevent the Defendants’ Lawyers winning cases on technical grounds and their clients getting away with the loot.
In our laws, the burden of proof lies with the Prosecutor, so EFCC should lead evidence with exhibits that help the courts to convict accused persons.
The role of EFCC in fighting corruption in Nigeria can not be overemphasized; citizens should help the commission to rid the public service and business environment of corrupt people, to stop senseless stealing of our economic resources by people we have entrusted to manage them.
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