By Farouk Lawal
Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is fighting tooth and nail to retain his job as head of the anti-graft agency, following the change in the central administration, which swept away his boss, President Goodluck Jonathan.
With the Jonathan administration coming to a swift end in a matter of days, it is fast dawning on Lamorde, the bulky cop from Adamawa State, that his days with the Commission may be numbered, as the in-coming Muhammadu Buhari administration, may have no use for a leadership of a Commission that has not only been sleeping, more like a deep slumber, but lacks the depth and verve to carry out its duties. A leadership reeking in alleged monumental scandals of corruption and settlement behind- the- scene.
So, to keep his job, Lamorde hit on a plan: He asked his media team to call a press conference, declaring that the anti-graft agency was closing in on 10 former governors, with cases of corruption against them, with a view to bringing them to justice. It named the governors: Lucky Igbinedion, Chimaroke Nnamani, Orji Uzor Kalu, Saminu Turaki and Joshua Dariye. Others include Abubakar Audu, Danjuma Goje, Akwe Doma and Jolly Nyame. The ex-governors have been facing trial since 2007, and the cases are at various stages of trial.
Ordinarily, what Lamorde caused to be put in the public domain would have been greeted with applause, especially for a nation at the threshold of change, and seeking a rebirth. But, no one is fooled by Lamorde's press outing. Many Nigerians see it for what it is: Cheap propaganda and playing to the gallery. A clever but fraudulent way to give the impression to the in-coming Buhari government that he is efficient at his job. Nothing can be farther from that. Little wonder, Vanguard newspaper, in its opening paragraph, stated: "Apparently responding to criticism that it is not doing enough to tackle corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has closed in on ten former governors who are standing trial..."
What this entails is that, the Commission is merely grandstanding and playing to the gallery, in response to public criticism on its inefficiency and lack-lustre leadership under Lamorde.
What is becoming apparent by the day is that Lamorde cannot effectively pilot the affairs of the agency because he seems to be on a vendetta mission and carrying on the persecution of individuals who once held sway in their states. For eight years the case has been on, with no headway and Lamorde just woke up to the realisation that he needs ' to close in on them', at the eve of a new administration? Something is definitely fishy somewhere.
The questions many asking are: Are we back to the dark days of trial in the media? Are cases no longer determined by weight of evidence in the law courts? What point did Lamorde seek to make, in announcing to the world, that he was planning to resume the trial of some ex-governors? So that he would be seen as working? So that Buhari can retain him?
There are other posers for the lazy anti-graft boss: How come he has not preferred any charges against governors who are about rounding off their tenures? Does it then mean that all public officials, after the 2007 set have been saints? How come the cases he has been struggling with have been only the ones commenced under Ribadu, his former boss?
The reason, it would seem, Lamorde and the EFCC appear stuck in the cases against the former governors is that some, if not most of the cases, are politically motivated, rather than criminal. There are no substantial evidences to nail them, hence the beating about the bush.
Take the case of Dr Orji Uzor Kalu for example. This is someone who was already a billionaire with interests in several businesses before becoming governor in 1999. However, because of his anti-third term stance against former President Obasanjo, his businesses were strangulated, while phantom charges were preferred against him. They are accusing him of spending his security votes, not that he dipped his fingers into the state's treasury! When did EFCC begin to probe how governors spend their security votes?
The truth must be told: The EFCC has no substantial case against a man like Kalu, but he is being lumped alongside others and painted as a looter of his state's treasury. That can't be a just reward for a man who employs over ten thousand Nigerians, whose business addresses are well known, whose source of wealth are easily verifiable. If what Lamorde is doing is efficiency, then we need to redefine what that word means!
But the consolation is that Nigerians are not fooled. The in-coming President Buhari is also not a man that can be hoodwinked. He knows when a man is diligently doing his job, and when he is playing to impress or retain his job. Lamorde may have played a wrong card.
(Lawal wrote from Kebbi State)