A report from the United States of America has accused Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) of not making any meaningful progress in bringing high profile corrupt individuals to book.
Titled, ‘2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria,’ the report said the two agencies only target low and middle-level officials suspected of corruption.
“The bulk of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s anticorruption efforts remained focused on low- and mid-level government officials, although both organisations brought indictments against various active and former high-level government officials,” the U.S. report said.
According to the report, many of the corruption cases, particularly the high-profile ones, remained pending before the courts due to administrative or procedural delays.
The report also identified alleged massive, widespread and pervasive corruption at all levels of government. It attributed this to lack of consistent implementation of the relevant laws against corrupt practices among government employees.
“Although the law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, the government did not consistently implement the law, and government employees, including elected officials, frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
“Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government, including the judiciary and security services.
“The constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office. There were numerous allegations of government corruption during the year.”
The EFCC and ICPC have come under scrutiny for making the pursuit of cybercrime suspects also known as Yahoo Yahoo boys its major preoccupation, while it falters in its handling of high-profile cases.
In 2017, a top-ranking presidential aide, Okoi Obono-Obla, alleged that ICPC and EFCC defied the directives of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), leading to the loss of high-profile corruption cases.
Mr Obono-Obla, who cited how fraud cases against governors were delayed for years, noted, “Although the Attorney General of the Federation has the power under both the constitution and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to make a request of any case file that is pending either with the police, the ICPC, the EFCC or any of the prosecuting agencies, we met a brick wall when we requested the files of the high-profile cases of former governors from the EFCC and the ICPC.
“They don’t cooperate with us. We cannot use a whip to start beating them. But I expect that the rules of public service require that if letters are written by the office of the AGF, those letters should be honoured. They don’t want to work with the office of the AGF.”
A 2013 National Crime Victimisation and Safety survey conducted by the CLEEN Foundation in collaboration with the Macarthur Foundation also described Nigeria’s judicial system as weak and corrupt.
The survey described the weak judiciary as a constraint to the fight against corruption while pointing out that the rate of ICPC and EFCC officers’ propensity to collect bribes are 25 and 23 per cent, respectively.
CLEEN said the survey aimed at tracking the crime pattern in the country was conducted with 11,518 respondents.
Nigeria is the second most corrupt country in West Africa based on the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI-TI). The index ranked Nigeria 154 out of 180 countries surveyed. Nigeria fell five places from the rank of 149 in 2020.