It is another season of politics. With the general elections fast approaching, politicians of all hue are traversing the country in desperate bid to woo the electorates for their votes. Such is the beauty of democracy which is founded on healthy contest with the electorate as the ultimate decider.
Unfortunately, not all the actors in our nation’s political arena understand the rudiments of a free electoral contest. For some category of politicians, elections are nothing short of open warfare where any weapon that can swing the tide in their favour is fair. It does not matter whether such weapons deviate from the acceptable norm.
In recent weeks the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been alarmed by reports in a section of the media, accusing it of failure to act on certain petitions supposedly sent to it through the pages of the newspapers. According to the petitioners, the Commission’s failure to act had reduced their chances of success in the political arena.
While it is puzzling how the Commission’s action or inaction could confer political advantage on any aspirant, it is important to educate petition writers that the EFCC have standard operating procedures, which clearly state the irreducible minimum standards which officers must uphold in evaluating petitions for investigation.
Where petitions fall short of such standards, the EFCC is not obliged to proceed.
The Commission wishes to sound a note of warning to politicians not to attempt to use it as a tool for political warfare, In recent weeks, the EFCC has received many frivolous petitions alleging high crimes against leading political figures. Some of them came from the opponents of such individuals. While it is important for citizens to be whistle blowers, it amounts to self help to attempt to instigate the EFCC against a political opponent. Citizens do not have to wait until election time to report alleged financial malfeasance.
It is equally important that members of the public realize that it is an offence under the EFCC Establishment Act to write false petitions or supply misleading information to the Commission.
Also, the trend where persons engage in acts of criminality and attempt to blackmail the EFCC from going after them by imputing political motives to the Commission’s enforcement activities is most unfortunate. Nobody is above the law. The fact that a politician is the standard bearer of any political party for any political office does not amount to immunity from investigation or prosecution for any acts of criminality.
The core mandate of the EFCC is fighting all forms of economic and financial crimes. Crimes of this nature have no political or religious colorations. It is therefore important that Nigerians, indeed all stakeholders, appreciate that the Commission has a responsibility to take on all perpetrators of economic and financial crimes irrespective of their political, ethnic and religious affiliations.
The point which all stakeholders need to take to heart is that the Commission is a professional organization which will resist any attempts to, overtly or surreptitiously, drag it into the political arena ahead of, during or after the forthcoming general elections.
We appreciate the sentiments which all the political leaders have expressed about strengthening the anti corruption institutions. That is the way to go. If anything, it shows there is a common ground in the understanding that fighting corruption in Nigeria is a national emergency and distracting agencies saddled with such responsibility is hardly an incentive for addressing the emergency.
13th January, 2015