With its humongous N152billion and $386million recoveries in 2021, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is raising the bar as one of the boosters of the national economy. For an economy that is rising from the ashes of COVID-19 pandemic and its associated convulsions, an injection of N152billion and $386million into its covers, through recoveries, by the EFCC deserves more than a cursory look. The EFCC, under the able watch of its Executive Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, is living to its billings as one of the most efficient and professional government agencies.
In the report of its operational activities in 2021, the leading anti- graft agency states that it “recovered the aggregate sum of N152, 088,698,751.64, $386,220,202.84 £1, 182,519.75 €156,246.76, 1,723,310.00 Saudi Riyal, 1,900.00 South African Rand, and 1, 400.00 Canadian Dollar between January and December 2021”. These recoveries, coming on the heels of the disconcerting COVID-19 troubles, are quite significant.
Speaking on the uniqueness of the recoveries, Bawa explained that they were both direct and indirect recoveries for the three tiers of government: federal, state and local and corporate organisations, institutions and individuals who were victims of fraudsters.
For all the beneficiaries, the efforts of the EFCC in recovering their money for them are quite commendable. Some high-ranking federal officials who spoke with this writer on condition of anonymity, said the recoveries were “encouraging, credible and supportive of government’s efforts in raising funds from non- oil sources”. Another official also said, “Every recovery counts at this time federal government is relying on all revenue-generating agencies to get funds to execute its projects. The EFCC has shown that it could be relied upon in difficult times”.
Incidentally, reports of the recoveries showed that four commands of the EFCC, Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Ibadan, raked in much of the money.
According to the EFCC: “Headquarters Operation in Abuja dominated the recoveries with N67, 249, 744, 994.89, $375,662,223.59 and £1,151,539.75. It is closely followed by the Lagos command which led the Naira recoveries with N70,315,611,260.52, $9,286,497.83 and £21,500.00. The Kaduna command emerged third in terms of Naira recoveries with N3, 339,405,723.93 while the Ibadan zonal command took the same position in terms of Dollar recoveries to the tune of $387,385.00”.
Several public affairs commentators that spoke on the issue gave EFCC a pat on the back. One of them, Clement Baribove, expressed confidence in the EFCC for “combining its investigation and prosecutorial duties with recoveries and doing them diligently.
“We know the EFCC for its hard-hitting offensives against all manner of fraudsters, especially internet fraudsters in recent times. The feat is heart-warming. It shows that the commission can be a jack of all operations and still make success of them. Its ability to combine investigation and prosecutorial activities with recoveries diligently is commendable”, he added.
But there are those that called out the EFCC over the propriety of where the recoveries are being kept, citing what they called “their uncertain warehousing”. According to one of them, EFCC should tell the public where the recovered funds are being kept, to assure the public of their “safe- keeping.
“We read in the newspapers and online platforms that the recoveries are for governments, institutions and individuals. Is the EFCC releasing the money to them or keeping them in its own account? We want to be sure that the recoveries are safe and kept away from those who may re-loot them”, he said.
But another analyst and a journalist with The Nation newspaper countered the above position, saying, “Nigerians should commend EFCC for its relentless war on fraudsters. We have heard over and over again that recoveries are either released to the owners of the funds or kept in the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government.
“So, why would anyone make issues with the warehousing of the funds? Well, I think EFCC should do more in the area of publicity, advocacy and public awareness of its works. The commission has done well with such recoveries at a time like this”.The preponderance of public opinion appears to favour more support for the Bawa-led administration, beyond what the operatives of the EFCC could offer. The coming months will definitely determine whether this train of thought will move the commission forward or not.
Tony Amokeodo, Abuja.