When Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede was confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Senate on Wednesday, October 18, he made all the politically correct noise expected of him and promised to fight corruption to a standstill.
Like his predecessors before him, he vowed to take the anti-graft fight to every book and cranny of the establishment not minding whose Ox is gored.
He even promised to take begin the fight from the National Assembly which many Nigerians see as the cesspool of corruption in the country.
“Let the fight against corruption begin from this hallowed chamber. If you are fighting corruption, you become the enemy of everybody,” he had declared.
He added that it was time all anti-corruption agencies in the country focus on prevention of crime rather than enforcement of the law.
But what the new EFCC boss did not take into consideration was the fact that past Chairmen of the agency had made the same strongly-worded statements at their various confirmations but all ended up being booted out due to the power play that often permeate the system and threw whatever good efforts and intentions they had under the bus.
He must have not been conscious of the fact that the tenures of all past five heads of the Commission had ended in disgrace and ignominy.
Since its establishment of the anti-corruption body by former President Olusegun Obasanjo
in 2003 with the aim of checkmating corruption and graft in Nigeria, every person who has headed the anti-corruption agency left the establishment with their heads bowed in shame.
Obasanjo, in his good judgement, had established the agency to rid Nigeria of economic and financial crimes, as well as coordinate the country’s domestic efforts in the global fight against money laundering and terrorism financing which had found its way into the nation’s system.
But the ignominious and shameful trend that ended the tenures of all past bosses of the EFCC began in 2007, with the unceremonious exit of its first Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu who incidentally, is the current National Security Adviser to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
And since his exit, no Chairman of the Commission has ended his or her tenure on a good footing as they are either embroiled with one graft allegation or the other which always end up in with an unceremonious dismissal.
They are often saddled with of severa corruption allegations, the same graft they were appointed to fight against in the first place.
Curiously, the agency has recorded a lot of success in its 20 years of existence and has helped Nigeria to recover trillions of stolen funds from politicians (often those out of office or had fallen out of favour with the sitting government), fraudsters, and money launderers.
It has also helped in check mating a lot of fraudulent practices in Nigeria but whenever the fight is taken to the doorsteps of powerful and sitting politicians as well as people with the right connections, the dance of shame often switches gear and the person at the helm of affair at the Commission is often swept away by a deluge of allegations of corrupt practices.
The last Chairman of the agency, Abdulrasheed Bawa’s unceremonious exit which began with a suspension and detention, followed the same treatment meted out to his predecessor, Ibrahim Magu, and almost all past heads of the agency, which leads one to ask why EFCC bosses usually exit in such shameful and acrimonious circumstances?
For those who believe in superstitions, the office of the Chairman of the EFCC is a poisoned chalice and a curse to whoever occupies the position.
Those who believe the office comes with a curse may not be far from the truth going by the way all the bosses end up in disgrace.
The vicious circle of embarrassing ends and dance of shame for EFCC bosses started in 2007 with Ribadu.
Ribadu was the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC when he was appointed by Obasanjo in 2003.
At the time of his appointment, Ribadu was the poster boy in Nigeria’s attempt to fight the corruption pandemic and redeem its image in the eye of the international community which had seen the country as a cesspool of corruption and graft.
Ribadu, a career law enforcement officer with a penchant for solving knotty graft cases, set about his task with such gusto that Nigerians felt that it would be a matter of time before corruption was weeded out of the country.
He went after prominent politicians, governors, senators, top bankers, and serial fraudsters who had given the country a bad name in the international community. He even went after his erstwhile boss, former Inspector-General of Force, Tafa Balogun, whom he prosecuted, convicted, jailed and made to return £150 million under a plea bargain.
Ribadu’s performance so impressed Obasanjo that he promoted him to the position of Assistant Inspector General of Police in April 2007, few months later, Ridadu’s albatross came calling with a plethora of allegations which led to his removal during the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
Many believed that Ribadu’s downfall was his refusal to terminate the corruption trial of former Delta State governor, James Ibori, and his staunch decision to pursue and prosecute top politicians who were in the good books of the government of the day.
He was even demoted by the police and retired while attending a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Plateau State.
The next Chairman of the EFCC was Farida Waziri who was appointed to succeed Ribadu and continue in the fight against the cancerous corruption that had attempted to take over the very fabric of the nation.
Under her leadership, the agency went after several ex-governors who had served out their tenures and could no longer be regarded as powerful forces in the politics of the day.
She ran the rule over former governors Peter Odili of Rivers, Bola Tinubu of Lagos, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, Joshua Dariye of Plateau, Saminu Turaki of Jigawa, Jolly Nyame of Taraba and Michael Botmang of Plateau, but was unable to secure their convictions, which many saw as one of the blights of her tenure.
During her tenure, the EFCC was however, able to arrest and convict Chief Bode George, a top Lagos politician and chieftain of the PDP in Lagos. The former Ondo State military administrator was arraigned on a 163 count-charge, found guilty and sentenced to jail for 30 months.
But in November 2011, Waziri went the way of Ribadu when
President Goodluck Jonathan unceremoniously terminated her appointment and replaced her with Ibrahim Lamorde following allegations that the EFCC had been selective in its investigations.
President Jonathan appointed Lamorde on November 23, 2011, as acting chairperson of the EFCC while his appointment was confirmed in February 2012.
Lamorde was seen by many as a quiet worker who went after top political figures but he certainly stepped on powerful toes which led to an allegation by the Senate in 2015 that a whopping sum of $5bn (£3.2bn) was missing at the EFCC under his watch.
He was also alleged to have diverted N1 trillion of assets recovered by the agency during his time as the Director of Operations of the Commission, which culminated to his dismissal by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015, and replaced with Ibrahim Magu.
The Senate also ordered his arrest for repeatedly refusing to appear before its probe panels, but despite the weighty allegations against him, he was not arrested.
With the mantra of the President Buhari’s government which was higned on fighting corruption to a standstill, Nigerians expected the EFCC boss appointed by the then President to take on the fight like a bull in a China shop.
Many Nigerians wanted to see high profile arrests and convictions of corrupt politicians whom Buhari had vowed to go after.
Even when the National Assembly refused on two occasions to confirm the appointment of Magu, Buhari exercised his constitutional rights by keeping him as acting Chairman of the anti-corruption agency, which was a sign of the trust he had in Magu and a determination of his government’s agenda to fight and defeat corruption by all means.
Like a drunken sailor on a revenge mission, Magu went after opposition politicians, particularly those who were in the PDP government, hounded, arrested and detained many of them in what was a clear fight against those who were not in the APC.
Loads of money was recovered from politicians, judges and top military officers including retired service chiefs who were prosecuted for corrupt enrichment.
Many PDP politicians defected to the APC and once they did, most of the cases were dropped, which led to the infamous slogan by then Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole, that once an indicted politician moves to the party, his sins are automatically wiped out.
But the dance ended for Magu in July 2020, and it was his turn to be disgraced out of office and made to dance to the shameful music his predecessors had all danced to.
On July 6, 2020, Magu was arrested in a Gestapo-style by security operatives at the entrance of the EFCC office in Abuja and was suspended the following day, dumped into detention with a truckload of corruption allegations levelled against him.
The appointment of Abdulrasheed Bawa, a core EFCC man who was one of the first sets of cadets recruited at the inception of the agency was supposed to be a departure from the past.
At only 40 years old, Bawa was the youngest EFCC boss in the history of the agency and was supposed to bring with him a fresh breath into the running of the Commission.
But like his predecessors before him, Bawa’s shortlived tenure was dogged with allegations of massive corruption including the sale of seized properties and oil vessels when he was an EFCC investigator in Port Harcourt.
In November 2022, a federal high court in Abuja ordered Bawa’s detention for contempt of court over the EFCC’s non-compliance with a court order, which further cemented his perceived status of disregard for court pronouncements which had become legendary.
Like his predecessors, Bawa’s ignominious end as the EFCC Chairman came on June 14, 2023, when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu suspended him indefinitely over alleged abuse of office. He was subsequently arrested and clamped into detention by the Department of States Service (DSS) for investigation, and like others before him, his tenure also ended in disgrace.