THICKENING PLOT TO SCRAP EFCC.

A plan to scrap the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is underway. A draft bill, now in circulation, seeks to replace the commission with an agency under the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It eliminates EFCC’s autonomy and replaces it with an entity to be under the complete control of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) exposed the plot last Wednesday.

According to PACAC Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), the development amounted to “the mother of corruption fighting back”.

The proposed bill

The bill is entitled: “An Act to Repeal the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 (Act No. 1 of 2004) and enact the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act which establishes a more effective and efficient Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to conduct enquiries and investigate all economic and financial crimes and related offences and for other related matters.”

In several sections, the bill seeks to give the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) so much power over the proposed new anti-corruption agency and reduce it to a “mere paper” department under the Federal Ministry of Justice.

For instance, the draft bill proposes a repeal of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the scrapping of the commission, and its replacement with a department in the Federal Ministry of Justice under the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It also proposes the replacement of the EFCC Executive Chairman with a Director-General to be appointed by the President, based on the recommendation of the AGF, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Section 8 of the bill reads in part: “There shall be for the commission, a Director-General who shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Attorney-General, subject to the confirmation by the Senate.

“Subject to the provisions of Subsection (3) of this section, the Director-General shall be a retired or serving member of any government institution, including any security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of a director or its equivalent or a person from the private sector.

“A person shall not be appointed as a Director-General unless he is of proven integrity and has 15 years cognate experience in security, forensic or financial crimes investigation; forensic accounting or auditing; or law practice or enforcement relating to economic and financial crimes or anti-corruption.”

The proposed law restates the power of the AGF to discontinue the prosecution of criminal cases as guaranteed in Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution and empowers him to cancel the prosecutorial power of the EFCC when he sees fit.

Section 45 of the new bill states that the AGF may, after notifying the EFCC, intervene in court proceedings, at first instance or on appeal,  where, in the opinion of the AGF, public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process so demand.

It further reads: “On receipt of the notice under subsection (2) of this section, the commission shall hand over to the Attorney-General the prosecution file and all documents relating to the prosecution and provide him with such other information as he may require on the matter within the time specified by him.

“The commission shall furnish returns of all cases handled by it annually and in such manner and at such intervals as the Attorney-General shall direct.

“Where the commission fails to comply with the provisions of this section, the Attorney General may, subject to prevailing circumstances, revoke the power to prosecute from the commission.”

The draft bill states that the chairman and members of the management board shall be appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General subject to confirmation by the Senate; and for a period of four years in the first instance, renewable for another period of four years and no more.

The Secretary of the EFCC, which is a creation of Section 8 of the existing EFCC Act, is not mentioned in the new bill, indicating that the position has been scrapped.

Other proposals are the replacement of the EFCC Board with directors to be appointed by the Attorney-General, and the elimination of the position of the Secretary of the EFCC, who PACAC said is a critical officer who serves as the institutional memory and the administrative head of the agency.

According to PACAC, Section 11 of the proposed bill provides that nobody may be appointed or seconded to the new agency unless he is screened and approved by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Under the bill, the EFCC’s annual report is not to be submitted to the National Assembly until it has been passed through the Attorney-General for onward transmission to the National Assembly; thus making the Attorney-General the reporting officer of the agency rather than the Chairman of the Director-General, as the new bill is proposing.

Frosty relationship

The EFCC under the watch of its suspended Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had a strained relationship with AGF Abubakar Malami (SAN), who accused Magu of insubordination and re-looting of recovered funds.

It also complained that Magu often failed to forward case files bordering on corruption to the AGF’s office. Rather the EFCC proceeded to court, a situation which Malami felt was, among others, unprocedural.

The power play between both men resulted in Magu’s arrest last July by a combined team of Department of State Services personnel and.

He has since been replaced by EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives. Since Magu’s axing, President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly suspended 10 senior officials of the EFCC.

Magu’s suspension followed an all too familiar trend of top bosses of the anti-graft agency facing the axe in very questionable ways for allegedly questionable behaviour.

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