"Goodluck Jonathan-led government frustrates anti-corruption war" - U.S.

A Damning disclosure on how the President Goodluck Jonathan administration allegedly frustrates the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in bringing to book perpetrators of misdeeds has come from the U.S. 2013 Country Report on Nigeria.

The report, in Section 4 of the Report titled - ‘Corruption and lack of Transparency in Government’ among others, stated that “the EFCC faced several frustrating setbacks in 2013.”

The report gave several accounts of how the current administration has allegedly frustrated justice against even convicted persons in corruption cases. “In January, the EFCC won the conviction of John Yakubu Yusuf for embezzling N2 billion ($12.6 million) from the Police Pensions Fund, which carried with it a two-year prison sentence. The judge fined Yusuf N250,000 ($1,570) in lieu of prison time. The day following this judgment, the EFCC re-arrested Yusuf on the charge of failing to declare a N250 million ($1.57 million) bank account on his mandatory Declaration of Assets Form; Yusuf remained in custody pending trial at the end of the year”, the report reads.

The pardon of convicted former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, “who was convicted in 2008 for embezzling more than $10 million in state funds”, was classified as the most offending action of the Nigerian government. While Alamieyeseigha served two years in prison and forfeited the property he held in the country, he was still wanted in the United Kingdom (UK) on money laundering charges, and another foreign government seized his assets. “By granting him a pardon, President Jonathan has paved the way for Alamieyeseigha to run for another elected office or to hold other appointed offices.”

The U.S. State Department also stated that there had been allegations that the EFCC is being used to hunt target persons “who had fallen out of favour with the government, while those who were in favour continued their activities with impunity.”

On the activities of the EFCC, the report states: “In February 2012, the EFCC brought criminal charges against former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, for laundering almost N5 billion ($31.4 million) of funds belonging to Bayelsa State. In October 2012, the EFCC seized 48 property worth approximately N1 billion ($6.3 million) allegedly belonging to Sylva in Abuja”. Sylva was granted bail in January. “The EFCC discovered still more evidence of Sylva’s money laundering activities, and after he refused to co-operate with the investigation, the EFCC arrested him again in May to bring new charges, raising the amount of money he was suspected of laundering to N6.46 billion ($40.6 million).

The court held Sylva in custody for one month before granting him bail of N100 million ($628,000); the court refused his planned trip to London with his wife”, the report added.

The report however, noted that EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, who took over office in 2011, continued previous cases or brought new cases against 12 prominent public officials, while the commission faced several frustrating setbacks during the year.

The Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola saga was also mentioned. The report noted that “the trial of Representative Farouk Lawan for soliciting a bribe from Otedola, president and chief executive officer of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, started on October 23.

The acquittal of former Minister of Works, Hassan Lawal, was also included. On July 4, the Federal High Court in Abuja acquitted Lawal. In May 2011, the EFCC arrested Lawal on 24 counts of fraudulently awarding contracts, money laundering and embezzlement of N75 billion ($471 million). On May 28, the Federal High Court in Abuja started the trial of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, for making fraudulent contracts worth N894 million ($5.6 million).”

Police corruption which remains “rampant”, lack of legislative protection for whistle-blowers, non-disclosure of the President’s assets and lackluster in implementing the “Public Access to Information” by the Federal Government also featured prominently in the report.

“Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces. The constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office.”

“The anti-corruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and EFCC remained largely ineffectual. The ICPC holds broad authorities to prosecute all forms of corruption, whereas the EFCC is tasked with handling only financial crimes. Despite this wider mandate, the ICPC had achieved only 68 convictions since its inauguration in 2000”, the report stated.