Banks and their officials who help in concealing stolen funds will soon have their day in court, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu said yesterday.
He said it was unfortunate that some banks encourage looting by creating an “enabling environment” for it.
“The banking sector is creating a fertile ground for corruption,” the EFCC chairman said.
Magu spoke in Lagos during an interactive session with the commission’s external lawyers and civil society organisations.
According to him, it was as if the banks were telling looters: “Go and steal and I’ll hide it for you”, a development he said must stop.
“We’ll zoom in on the banks. We need to stop them from creating an enabling environment for corruption to thrive,” he said.
On whether the commission would invite former First Lady Patience Jonathan for questioning over the $15,591,700 she claims belongs to her, Magu said investigation was ongoing.
“We are on it. You see, we work for the long-term. We must complete our preliminary investigations before we come out,” he said.
Magu told the forum that EFCC sometimes spends up to nine months investigating a case before inviting suspects for questioning, adding that no one who has stolen public funds would be spared.
“We’ll not spare anybody. We can’t protect anyone from answering to the people. Determination is key. I believe we’ll go a long way and that our tomorrow will be better than our today,” he said.
The EFCC chair said the commission did not characterise all lawyers as “rogues”, saying the statement was misinterpreted.
According to him, “just as there are bad eggs within the EFCC, there are also corrupt lawyers. We can’t just come out and condemn people,” he said.
Magu said the EFCC has begun an in-house cleansing to weed out corrupt employees.
“You need to be here to know that corruption is fighting back. Corrupt people have people on their payroll. They have easy money. We’re very serious, so, we want to cleanse the inside,” he said.
Executive Director, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) Debo Adeniran, urged the commission to invite Mrs Jonathan for questioning.
According to him, the law empowers the commission to question anyone who lives above his/her means.
Lagos lawyer Wahab Shittu, who also serves as EFCC’s external counsel, said the war against corruption cannot be fought by the commission alone. He urged Nigerians to support the agency.
“EFCC is our collective enterprise. If it fails, all of us have failed. Corruption hurts us all. So, fighting it should be a collective responsibility,” he said.
National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Malachy Ugwummadu said there was a growing concern about EFCC’s respect for the rule of law. He urged the commission to look into it.
Activist-lawyer Jiti Ogunye urged the commission to be careful about issuing sensitive statements, such as the one issued ahead of the rescheduled Edo State governorship election, saying that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, was still under investigation.
He said such statements create the impression that EFCC works primarily in the interest of the party in power.