Wednesday, May 21, 2008
IYABO OBANSANJO VS EFCC
The public perception of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is that it is an outfit that does its job, sometimes ruthlessly, without minding whose ox is gored. Having arrested the famed high and mighty in the society including former governors, ministers and even Inspector General of Police, the anti-graft agency can hardly be described as one which shies away from its challenges.But the recent circus-run between the commission and Senator Dr Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo casts some flakes of doubt on the sincerity and commitment of the EFCC. This has to do with the alleged attempt by the commission to arrest the senator and bring her to book over her alleged misdeeds.The senator had been named in a N300 million scam in the Health ministry, in which she was said to have received the sum of N10 million, allegedly on behalf of the senate committee on Health over which she is the chairman.The said sum, the unspent fund of the ministry ought to have been returned to the national treasury as directed by Mr President. It is both in the failure to do so, as well as sharing the “loot” that the Minister of Health. Professor Adenike Grange and her deputy, Mr Aduku were not only forced to resign from the cabinet, but have also been arrested and charged to court for alleged stealing of public funds.The breakdown of the recipients of the ‘cornered’funds had shown all those who partook in the sharing—including Mrs Obasanjo-Bello. All those who were found to have been indicted in the preliminary findings by the EFCC have been arraigned before an Abuja High court. Only Iyabo-Obasanjo was arraigned in absentia. The EFCC had claimed that she was “at large”, while some media reports announced that she had fled to Cuba. Few days after, Iyabo spoke up and accused the EFCC of lying, stating firmly, that she was not only available, she was indeed at the senate chambers on the very day the commission was alleging that she was at large in the courts, stressing that nobody had come to arrest her. She however sent her counsels to represent her at the arraignment.Despite her declaration of being around, it took the EFCC about three days before warming up to arrest her, at a time Professor Grange et al had been detained in EFCC custody. Even when the EFCC finally summoned courage to go for Iyabo, it was an operation that ended up being bungled in needless drama and hollow theatrics.First, we are not sure the EFCC had followed the basic procedures for the arrest of a suspect in this case. Pray, was she ever invited by the EFCC and she failed to show up , after the first round of obtaining her statement? The public is blank on this.If indeed, the EFCC is serious about arresting Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, would it really be this difficult? How could a suspect the EFCC operatives is tailing from the National assembly drive so leisurely to her residence in Jabi district where another set of EFCC operatives are supposed to be laying siege in waiting, escape all the vigilance of these men, get into her apartment and eventually escape by scaling a high fence? The plot of the EFCC reports beggars belief.It is either the EFCC is playing on the intelligence of the public on this matter, or the commission has become terribly deficient in its duties. Either way, the image of the commission suffers bloody nose.We are not convinced that the EFCC has shown sufficient commitment to the arrest and proper prosecution of the senator. In any case, what stopped the EFCC from leaving a message or warrant in her office or residence to report and see whether she will do so or not instead of the endless theatrics the public has been treated to.We also believe that the distinguished senator must make herself available to answer for her role in the saga. The so-called clearance she got from her fellow senators is immaterial in the eyes of the law, because the senate is not the court of law. All said, we expect the EFCC to do its duties courageously and do less of needless dramatization, no matter who is involved.