September 28, 2006
Permit me to open my presentation with a statement of gratitude for the generous invitation to address this hallowed chamber of Africa's best minds in the enterprise of legislative architecture for Africa's most populous and most influential nation.
As I look across this hall, today, I am reminded, in all humility, of the great opportunities before us as, well as the incredible challenges we face in the difficult task of transformative policy making. Distinguished Senators, thank you for your daily policy engagement for the progress of our nation. I also want to quickly thank you for the visionary step you took three years ago to bring our organization, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), into existence via the EFCC Establishment Act of 2004. In that modest time capsule, we have tried to remain faithful to the mandate you gave us, the summary of which is to help the process of evolving a Nigerian ethos that sheds off the miasma around our image and aspiration as a people and a nation.
Before getting into the details of my presentation, let me also use this rare opportunity to comment on your many impressive contributions to our national policy making process. Without looking too far, one will remember the wonderful collaboration (along with your brothers in the lower house) you have developed with the Presidency and which led to the recent epochal and salutary resolution of our debt burden. Certainly too, it is pertinent to comment on your sterling contributions to the overarching national economic reform and budgeting process which have moved this country far away from the odium of the past in the larger public management practice of this country.
Mr. Senate President, Distinguished Senators, as a nation, today, we stand at the cusp of a great historical divide and the boundary of a momentous decision passage. Whatever direction we turn holds immense implication for the stability of our democracy and the future of our nation. One right turn can lead us to the proper place we belong as true leaders of the region and as the architects of Africa's renewal. However, we can also make a wrong turn as many nations have done in history and smash the package of promises embedded in our collective struggles, triggering it to unravel in the most horrendous pattern of nightmarish heuristic forms.
You know very well what I am alluding to here. With 2007 knocking at the door, the most important service this body can offer Nigerians will be a sense of direction, pointing to the goal toward having God-fearing and levelheaded leaders in government at all tiers. This is a collective challenge for Nigerians but you will need to take the lead by showing example.
For us at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), we never lose the sense of perspective that our mandate derives from this chamber, and that we are agents of the vision you constructed which is to promote a policy platform of accountability and transparency. Today, I stand confidently before you to announce that among our little successes to date, the Commission can boast of the following achievements in the implementation of its preventive and prosecution mandate:
Petitions received - 4,324
Cases under investigation - 2,103
Cases under prosecution - 306
Arrests - More than 2,000
Properties recovered - Several houses, land, luxury cars, airplanes, and oil tankers
Value of assets and cash recovered - $5b US Dollars Number of convictions - 88
We are also concluding plans in partnership with a broad section of the Nigerian civil society to commence a civic and education program that will subject our mandate to greater public ownership and oversight.
Distinguished Senators, at the heart of the Nigerian democratic challenge, today, in our opinion, is the question of governance. Governance matters. It is the framework around which citizens come to acquire a true sense of the dividends of democracy. It is governance that helps to bridge the gulf between the abstract promises of democratic theory and the practical reality of daily public management.
If you would therefore reduce the huge catalogue of public management failures in Nigeria to one simple concept, it would be that corruption stands at the midriff of our obstacle to attain the best we hope to be as a people and a nation.
I am confident as I am concerned that without dealing decisively and strongly with this problem, we would make no headway as a nation. Yet as we muster all the resources at our disposal to confront this challenge, we face a powerful force of elite conspiracy and the willful obfuscation of reality by its well-oiled propaganda systems. To be sure, the elites are not the only corrupt social group in this country but we would labour in vain to ignore the fact that as the most organised, most influential, and most powerful group in society today, they represent an incredible obstacle to many social reforms, for which the poorest of us and the most vulnerable of the society are consigned to be the victims.
There is no denying the fact that a tangible anti-corruption work is like a blood sport - it is, without doubt the most dangerous job to do in this land today. Should we pack our bags, our hands in the sky, and give up in submission? Our position at the EFCC is that this is not a choice, and that we shall not, and indeed cannot, afford that cold, conspiratorial comfort which forecloses the future of our children and the true destiny of our nation.
We have therefore accepted the dark, thankless path of elite pillory the heroic contributions of our operational and prosecution team as either a witch hunt exercise or acts in selective justice. In truth, these claims fly in the face of hard evidence and the facts unassailable. The EFCC's anti-corruption struggle merely targets the enemies of this country and not the law abiding, patriotic, citizens who are going about their business dutifully.
The main import of my briefing today is to share some results from our ongoing investigations of money laundering and abuse of office across the country at the State and Local council levels. However, let me end this preliminary comments by assuring you, Distinguished Senators, that sometimes in that dark, cold, and treacherous night, when I call up and trigger the great men and women who do this dangerous job, sometimes with just a few minutes window for them to say goodbye to their beloved spouses and children, and ask that they proceed and get the gang of bad people wrecking the image of this country; they never complain, they never waver, they always look in the direction of this great chamber in the assurance that you are behind us and will always be there. Please, do not falter in this support.
My presence here therefore is both in acknowledgement of your invitation but also to bring you their gratitude. They are unsung heroes of this struggle, not people like me who manage to capture the banner headlines (for good or ill!).
These men and women demand nothing from the nation and its leaders but support, and thanks to their efforts this country has changed for the better in the past three years. I urge that you redouble your support in encouragement of their services to our country.
I thank you for your time and look forward to further collaboration with you in the journey ahead.
Let me now share the results of our on going State and Local Government Council investigations with you.