The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has decried its huge pile of lingering investigations, a setback it blamed on internal problems.
EFCC Secretary, George Ekpungu, spoke on Monday at a capacity building workshop organised for officials of the anti-graft agency in Abuja.
The four-day workshop being facilitated by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies is aimed at enhancing the capacity of EFCC personnel on recovery and management of proceeds of crime.
Mr Ekpungu while declaring the event open on behalf of the acting EFCC chairperson, Abdulkarim Chukkol, asked investigators and prosecutors to conclude all pending matters.
He said the government was at the receiving end of protracted cases.
“EFCC has arguably the most inconclusive matters in the world. You finish (an investigation) but there is no report telling you the end of it.
“I tell our operatives that when a matter continues to linger… especially at the level of investigation, the government doesn’t benefit, somebody else does. Investigation should be started and finished.”
He reminded the operatives of EFCC’s cardinal role in Nigeria’s battle against corruption.
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Mr Ekpungu urged his colleagues to “disgorge these criminals of their proceeds of crime,” adding that depriving criminals of their loot was the surest way of discouraging financial crimes.
Mr Ekpungu’s lamentation comes on the heels of stalled investigations and cases involving several politically exposed persons.
In Mr Chukkol’s address to the participants, the EFCC boss said the fight against sleaze had yielded “significant benefits” to Nigeria.
He noted that the next phase of anti-graft campaign should focus on “prevention, scrupulous investigation, assets tracing, recovery and management”.
Some investigations and court cases involving former governors like Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa (and former APC national chairman), Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, Gabriel Suswam of Benue and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom states, respectively, have lingered endlessly.
Another instance is the seven-year delay in the trial of a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, accused by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration of diverting billions of dollars meant for procurement of arms under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
These cases have lingered in courts in perpetuity.
Proceeds of Crime law necessary
In a goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the Federation, Beatrice Jeddy-Agba, said the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act 2022, provides the legal framework for seizure of unlawful activities.
Represented by the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mohammed Abubakar, Ms Jeddy-Agba called on stakeholders “to commit to the effective implementation of the provisions” of the law.
In his welcome remarks, Yemi Akinseye-George, founder of CSLS and lead facilitator of the workshop, said the proceeds of crime legislation removes “profit from crime.”
Mr Akinseye-George, a law professor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said greed “drives criminal behaviors such as trafficking in drugs, human beings or organs, extortion, corruption, abuse of office, economic and financial and other crimes.”
He noted that it was necessary for anti-graft operatives to acquaint themselves with provisions of the law.
“POCA is aimed at taking away the reward or profit of criminal activity.
Criminal proceeds are also what sustain criminal organizations and enable corrupt officials to continue to dominate and influence the socio-economic and political system of the country.
“This workshop will therefore closely examine the POCA which is an indispensable tool in your hands,” he explained.
Top officials of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) attended the opening session of the workshop.
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