THE other day, the Federal Government announced the appointment of Mrs. Farida Waziri as acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in succession to Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who was sent on a controversial one-year course of study at the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, in Plateau State. The appointment took effect from Thursday, May 15, 2008. Subject to her confirmation by the Senate, Mrs. Waziri will take over from Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, who took over from Malam Nuhu Ribadu as acting chairman.
Mrs. Waziri comes with seemingly impressive credentials. She is a retired police officer and a lawyer, with LLB and LLM degrees from the University of Lagos, a BL from the Nigerian Law School and a M.Sc degree in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan. She is, for good measure, a graduate of the Nigeria War College, Abuja. Mrs. Waziri also attended various professional and administrative courses at home and abroad. She is also the author of a book on Advance Fee Fraud, the subject of her dissertation at the War College, Abuja.
Born on July 7, 1946, Mrs. Waziri had worked in the defunct highly dreaded National Security Organisation (NSO), now re-christened State Security Service (SSS). In the course of her career, she also served in the Force CID Unit and in the "E" Department, which is in charge of police training and police colleges nationwide. From the point of view of her qualifications and cognate experience, including, in the main, the statutory provisions for the appointment of chairman for the EFCC, Mrs. Waziri appears to be a qualified candidate for the daunting job of chairman of the anti-graft commission. The EFCC Act, 2004 requires that the appointment by the President of chairman and member of the EFCC be confirmed by the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the Senate, which is now unhappy with the fact that the Presidency has presented before it for confirmation, not a chairman, but an acting chairman, a title that is unknown to the EFCC Act 2004. Additionally, the Senate is reportedly miffed by the fact that Mrs. Waziri may have assumed office before her confirmation, a situation the lawmakers regard as a breach of due process. The lawmakers are in order to insist on due process. If Mrs. Waziri is found acceptable by the National Assembly, she will be saddled with an onerous responsibility, namely, stemming the lethal tide of corruption in the Nigerian nation-state.
The first time Nigerians witnessed some seriousness in the war against corruption was when Malam Nuhu Ribadu became chairman of the EFCC. Malam Ribadu was easily the most daring knight in the war against corruption, which he waged with relentless single-mindedness. If confirmed as chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Waziri would be required not only to tread in the footsteps of Malam Ribadu but improve on his performance. She would be required to sustain the spirit of fearlessness with which Ribadu is associated. Mrs. Waziri should understand that the nation has lofty expectations of the anti-corruption institutions, particularly of the EFCC, which the public now has cause to believe is either moribund or, at least, has seen better days.
Today, Nigeria continues to occupy a top stratum in the corruption scale of Transparency International as economic and financial filthiness and other forms of under-the-counter dealings and perfidious manoeuvres have become chronic cankerworms in the body politic. It is public knowledge that the greatest obstacle to socio-economic development and progress in Nigeria today is rancid corruption among our civil and public servants, both elected and selected alike.
Accordingly, Nigerians do not expect Ribadu's successor to fall below the high standard set by him. Indeed, it is expected that Ribadu's successor should steer clear of the foibles and shortcomings, such as selective justice and disrespect for the rule of law and due process of which the EFCC had been accused. If her appointment is confirmed by the Senate, Mrs. Waziri must not distinguish between edible and sacred cows. All corrupt people, patricians and plebeians alike, should be treated on a plateau of mutual equality. She should avoid doing the right thing in the wrong way. The EFCC could obey the rule of law and due process and still be effective. She should ensure thorough investigations and effective and fearless prosecutions, which could lead to discharge and acquittal or to condign penalties, to serve as a deterrent to other unethical manipulators in the land.
In this regard, all cases already investigated or being investigated by the EFCC must be pursued with vigour. Prosecution of all former public officers facing trial for corruption, including ex-governors must continue faithfully.
If and when she resumes as EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Waziri must fight the temptation to carry out wholesale reorganisation of the commission. That must not be her priority. If anything the experience acquired by operatives of the EFCC within its short life span, must be harnessed and channelled towards a more vigorous anti-corruption effort. This is why it would appear to be precipitate for the police authorities to transfer the former Acting Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Lamorde, to Ningi as Police Area Commander when his services are most needed to strengthen the new chairman.
Mrs. Waziri should shun politics and being led by the nose by any political party or group of politicians. Her previous association with any of them must not impair her duties to the nation. Mrs. Waziri should now show Nigerians how truly disciplined and averse to fraud and malfeasance she is. She must prove early to Nigerians that she is the mistress of her own ship.