Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Okiro and anti-graft agencies

While the Senate was still screening President Umaru Yar’Adua’s nominee for the post of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, had carried out a major re-organisation in the Commission. The IGP, for instance, posted the acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde to Ningi, Bauchi State, as Area Commander. The reshuffle also affected a few key officials of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission while the Chairman of the commission, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola (rtd), was also on his annual leave.

In effecting the changes in the two anti-graft agencies, Okiro had sent Mr. Seritoye Leroy Wakama to the ICPC as Director of Operations to replace the outgoing Head of Investigations, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, who was deployed to the EFCC as Director of Operations. The IGP had also reportedly recalled three other EFCC’s senior officials. But the ICPC took exception to the IGP’s action and complained that the title “Director of Operations” did not exist in the organisation. ICPC declared that “there is no such nomenclature as Director of Operations in ICPC’s structure nor is such a position provided for in the Act establishing the Commission.”

But recently, Mr. Okiro attempted to clear the air on the hasty posting. In a release, the IGP said he had no intention to slight the ICPC, adding that he considered the body independent as established by an Act of the National Assembly and therefore would not like to interfere in its statutory functions. Mr. Okiro further said that the Commission was at liberty to deploy the affected officers as it considered and deemed appropriate.

The IGP said, “The deployment of the officer to the commission was not deemed to undermine the independence of the commission and any embarrassment caused by the deployment of the officer as the director of operation is highly regretted.” Indeed, the IGP’s recent actions as regards the anti-graft bodies have attracted strident public criticisms. It is, for instance, argued that the posting was part of the intrigues to weaken the operations of the EFCC and the ICPC.

It is noteworthy that the IGP has acknowledged the independence of the two anti-graft agencies. The EFCC comprises at least 22 members drawn from various organisations, including the Central Bank and the Nigeria Police Force. There are at least 80 principal officers among about 500 men and women of the agency, most of them drawn from the Police and other paramilitary institutions, such as the Nigeria Immigrations Services and the Nigeria Customs and Excise.

But nothing in the Act setting up the EFCC gives the Police boss or any individual member of the Commission the authority to exercise the powers Mr. Okiro has been exercising lately. Since both the EFCC and the ICPC are not parastatals under the Nigeria Police Force, the IGP has no power to determine who heads what department in the two agencies. Why should the IGP change the police officers on “secondment” to the EFCC when the agency had no substantive chairman? It was the failure of the Police as an organisation that necessitated the creation of the anti-graft agencies, in the first instance. It will be disastrous if the rot in the Police is allowed to spread to these anti-graft agencies.

All appointments made by Okiro in the EFCC and the ICPC should be reversed. So far, the Yar’Adua administration’s major decisions on the EFCC have fallen short of the basic requirements of the rule of law and due process. It has, therefore, become imperative for the administration to make a clear statement on the direction of its anti-graft war.