Monday, June 24, 2019 9:48 pm
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the leadership of Ibrahim Magu is determined to reduce corruption to the barest minimal level in Nigeria, if it is impossible to completely eradicate it in the society. But this might be a tall dream for the commission considering scarcity of resources in terms of the needed funds, technology and societal supports. The commission requires money for adequate facility that can accommodate arrested corrupt suspects and to hire more hands that will go after scammers, and prosecute them, among others. This is the feeling the magazine got at a press briefing the commission held on Monday June 24, 2019 at its Ibadan Zonal head office, located at Iyaganku Area of Ibadan, Oyo State.
However, against all odds, the commission has recorded tremendous achievements in its Ibadan Zone. “This year, the zone received a total of 481 petitions. We were able to secure 83 convictions out of 107 cases filed at different courts within the zone. That represents 83 percent of the total number of cases filed. From January to June 21, 2019, an aggregate sum of N116, 945,981 was recovered. Others which are in foreign currencies include $39,125, £1,800 and £50. Also recovered are 65 vehicles – 54 registered and 11 unregistered”, Friday Ebelo, Head of the commission, Ibadan Zonal Office said.
He went further, “In line with the commission’s commitment to partnering with relevant stakeholders in the fight against corruption, the Ibadan Zonal Office is working assiduously to identify and connect with strategic stakeholders whose mission and vision are tailored towards ensuring a Nigeria that we will all be proud of. This informed our recent engagement with the University of Ibadan. The relationship is already yielding fruits as the management of the premier university has offered free airtime to the commission on its Diamond 101.1 FM Station. The programme, Eagle Alert, is a weekly event designed to create awareness on the ills of economic and financial crimes and how they could be tackled. It is billed to take off next Tuesday between 1.10 and 2pm”.
While fielding questions from the newsmen, Ebelo, who lamented the increase in criminal activities in the nation, pointed out that the commission in the zone is collaborating with other security agencies to ensure that kidnapping and other forms of violent crimes with the intent of getting the victims or his or her relatives to pay ransom are tackled head long.
Ebelo described the proposal of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State to establish the state anti-corruption agency as a welcome development, pointing out. “The establishment of anti-corruption agency in Oyo State is a welcome development for me and I want to say that anything that can be done to curb corruption in the country is welcome. The agency will be for the well-being of the society. We are not going to compete with the state anti-corruption agency. This space is big enough for us to work. They will work within their ambit of the law. There are laws that will always guide against whatever you are doing. If you are checking me and I am checking you, then all of us will be doing the right thing” Ebelo explained.
Clearing misconceptions about the concept of plea bargaining, Ebelo explained that the legal practice of negotiating an agreement between the prosecution and the defense whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offense is a concept that is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, he pointed out that plea bargaining does not say that the criminal would not go to jail for the crime committed, pointing out that the commission in the zone will not recommend less than six month jail sentence for anyone who enters into plea bargaining. “If someone who is just going to the university is arrested on financial crime related offence, the minimum jail sentence ahead of such is seven year. Once we prosecute, minimum is seven years. Now if they write asking for plea bargaining, we will examine the case and its circumstances and this will help us to arrive at a logical conclusion. Not all the requests for plea bargaining are accepted. We do reject plea bargaining. We should not forget that conviction is at the discretion of the judge. When EFCC and the person sit and agree on what to do, we will send it to court and the court will look at it and say, fine, this is what we will do. The power of conviction and sentence lies in the court. Sometimes last week a case of plea bargaining was concluded and by the time it got to court, the judge said that he would not give six month but a year jail sentence and if that was not acceptable the suspect should go for full trial”, the EFCC boss said
Also commenting on the percentage of fraudsters in his zone, though, as at present, Ebelo said Ibadan has the highest number of fraudsters, it is difficult to conclude that a particular town or state has the highest number of fraudsters. According to him, more fraudsters have been arrested in Ibadan because the agency is able to operate more in Ibadan since the zonal headquarters is located there.
Giving the age bracket of the cybercrimes perpetuators to be between 18 and 40, he said, “We are based in Ibadan and since I resume here January the tempo of our activities increased here. We have discovered that those who are involved in internet and cybercrime related issues operate from Lagos and hide in Ibadan. We have an office here. That is one of the major reason my boss asked me to come here. If we are looking at the percentage in the zone, for now, based on what we have done in the last six months, Ibadan should have the highest percentage of fraudsters. But this is because our office is in Ibadan and we carry out more activities in Ibadan than other states. If I concentrate on Ekiti, Ekiti will become number one”, he explained.
The EFCC boss lamented the level at which the youth are involving in crime urging parents to ensure that they monitor the activities of their wards in school and at home. “Most of the suspects are young Nigerian citizens that have potentials to be great in life. Parents and guardians should know that it is not enough to send their wards to school. So, they should monitor their children regularly. They should pay them unscheduled visits and when you do this, you may notice some behaviour in them that you have to stop” he advised.
He also admonished people to be weary of rendering assistance to friends and relatives as well as not providing details of their bank accounts to anyone irrespective of the closeness. He said some fraudsters, in order for the authorities not to trace proceeds of crimes to them, ask unsuspecting friends to help them receive money into their bank accounts warning against helping people to withdraw money particularly when received on behalf of a third party. “Even if someone sends money to your account, provide a paper trail for the sender and for the owner of the money to withdraw it himself. Some people have innocently helped fraudsters to withdraw money and got into trouble when they are arrested at the point of withdrawal as the money is being traced”.