In another shake-up in the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Federal Government recently announced the appointment of Mrs. Farida Mzamber Waziri, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, as the new acting Chairman of the Commission. While the government also approved the appointment of Mr. Emmanuel Akomaye, whose original tenure expired last month as acting Member/Secretary of the Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Larmode was finally removed from the anti-graft body and posted to Bauchi State Police Command as Area Commander.
In the shake-up, the ICPC’s Head of Operations, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, has been named the EFCC’s Head of Operations. While Mrs. Farida Waziri effectively assumed duty last Monday, the Police High Command has directed all other affected officers to resume in their new offices latest by next week.
Though the President later sent a letter to the Senate seeking Mrs. Waziri’s confirmation as substantive Chairman of the anti-graft agency, the Presidency is still silent on the fate of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the Commission’s pioneer Chairman.
As soon as Waziri’s appointment was announced, the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption, faulted the President on the grounds that it did not comply with in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2006. The Committee argues that while a person working in the Commission may be asked to act for the Chairman in his absence, there is absolutely no provision or place in the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2006, for the appointment of an acting Chairman. “What the EFCC Act provides for”, the Committee insists, “is the appointment by the President of a chairman which it (the EFCC Act) states shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.”
Clearly, the process leading to Waziri’s appointment was as untidy as the rigmarole that attended Ribadu’s dispatch to a gratuitous course in Kuru last December. As the Senate counselled, Nigerians should be vigilant enough to ensure that they do not relapse into another era of impunity and breach of the rule of law.
Since Larmode was already acting as Chairman, the first step should have been to forward Waziri’s name to the Senate for confirmation in line with the EFCC Act. Why was she asked to assume duty before her nomination was sent to the Senate? Why was the new appointment made when Larmode was on an official duty outside the country?
The claim by the government that Waziri’s appointment is in compliance with the EFCC Act 2006, which stipulates that a substantive successor be appointed within six months after the exit of the previous Chairman, cannot justify the hasty posting of Waziri in an acting capacity. The posting pre-empts Senate’s mandatory approval and assumes that Waziri’s appointment will be confirmed willy-nilly. Suppose she is found unsuitable for the job by the Senate, what will become of Waziri’s activities while serving in an acting capacity? When will this administration restore stability to the management of the agency?
Indeed, the antics in easing Ribadu out of the EFCC without an official letter that clearly states that he has been removed and the inappropriateness of appointing Waziri as acting Chairman before sending her name to the Senate for confirmation are clear indications that the Commission has become highly politicised.
Already, there is a growing suspicion that the President has bowed to some powerful politicians who are bent on rendering the EFCC ineffective. Recent redeployments have also sent the wrong signals that the EFCC, which is an autonomous body, is a mere appendage of the Police. As a man known for his personal integrity, President Yar’Adua should exercise his official powers more firmly and in the best interest of the nation.