- October 29, 2019
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Category: Opinions
The Eagle is a great bird of many admirable qualities – such as powerful vision, bravery and tenacity. The bird is a symbol of pride, honour, determination and grace. No wonder the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (“EFCC” or the “Commission”) chose the symbol of an Eagle. The mission statement of the Commission is “To rid Nigeria of Economic and Financial Crimes and to effectively coordinate the domestic effort of the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.” Relying on its eagle-eyes, the Commission boasts that “EFCC will get you anytime and anywhere…”
True to its mandate of combating all forms of economic and financial crimes, the EFCC has overtime displayed admirable level of courage, discipline, determination and focus in discharging its duties. The achievements of this dreaded law enforcement agency have been felt all over the country and has been internationally recognised. Corrupt politicians and fraudsters have all been at the receiving end. The Commission is professional in procedure and quite intelligent in approach.
One fundamental dent on its image of excellence is its apparent disposition in not tackling some influential citizens, especially those under the umbrella of the ruling class. For instance, we have seen instances where it does appear that politicians fingered for corrupt practices decamp to the ruling party and suddenly begin to enjoy some breath of fresh air and safety.
Recent developments (as we shall soon see) seem to cast serious aspersions on the full integrity of the Commission to always maintain a firm stand in all cases. One of such developments is the Bullion Van of Bourdillon.
In the heart of the Island of Lagos is an expensive location called Ikoyi, housing extreme upper class residents of the Nigerian society. It has also been described as arguably the wealthiest community within Nigeria. Together with Victoria Island and some part of Lekki, Ikoyi and the rest of them have been described as the most expensive slum in the world. The reasons for this unfortunate ranking are a discussion for another day.
Within Ikoyi is a famous street/road known as Bourdillon. The home of the former Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is located here.
The Asiwaju of Lagos
The Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of the Borgu Kingdom is a great leader and influential politician who is currently the national leader of the ruling political party, All Progressives Congress (APC). His role in the dethronement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after sixteen years and the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as the President of Nigeria under the APC in 2015 (and till date) will never be forgotten in history.
Also in the annals of history is his role as a founding member of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition, a group which fought for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria during the reign of the Military. According to reports, Asiwaju went into exile in 1994 and returned to the country in 1998 after the death of the Military Dictator, General Sani Abacha, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
One of his major rewards for the democratic struggle was his ascension on the throne as the Governor of Lagos State for two tenures of four years each – 1999 to 2007. A position that eventually laid foundation for his mass of political influence in Lagos State and of course, the entire country.
With his Party on the seat of power, and his influence shinning like blinding sunlight, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu now arguably ranks as one of the most powerful “untouchables” and “invincibles” in Nigeria.
Bullion Van of Bourdillon
The agitations supporting the claim in the preceding paragraph was given credence by the scene created at his Lagos residence at Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi, on the eve of the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria. A bullion van was spotted leaving his premises.
The clamour which has failed to die down is that Asiwaju Tinubu have some explanations to make regarding the bullion van. Now, this clamour can be understood against the backdrop that election in Nigeria is mostly about sharing money to the electorates by politicians – that is, votes buying and selling. A population that is characterised by highly impoverished men and women who look up to selling their votes as a means of securing immediate “dividend of democracy”, to the detriment of their future, which even looks bleak, in view of the level of maladministration, looting and corruption.
When confronted by the media at the time regarding the Bullion Van saga, Asiwaju Tinubu stated that he has the right to his funds. In his words, as reported by Channels TV, he argued:
“I don’t work for the Government, I am not in an agency of the Government, and let anybody come out to say I have taken any contract from the Government of President Buhari and the APC in the last five years. “If I don’t represent any agency of Government and I have money to spend if I like I give it to the people for free of charge as long as it is not to buy votes.”*
At least by his own admission, the Asiwaju of Lagos concedes the obvious fact that the bullion van contained cash.
Where is the Eagle?
The question on the lips of many has been, where is the EFCC? Why has Asiwaju Tinubu not been invited for interrogation on the bullion van display? Ordinarily, one would say that the renowned politician is a respectable man in the country and that no eyebrow should rise when a bullion van is seen leaving his apartment on the eve of election.
However, far be it that this would be the only consideration. We live in a country where huge amount of money in local and foreign currency rented an apartment in Ikoyi (at Gerrard Road, quite close to Bourdillon Road) and lived for unknown period until discovered**; a country where cash flies in the sky during elections like in a busy trade fair.
Yes, the EFCC had (and still has) every reason to open its eagle-eyes and ask serious questions, for whatever it is worth. But the agency did not. When trailed on social media recently, the Commission took the position that if anyone feels strongly about the development, a petition should be submitted.***
Now, does EFCC really need a petition to rise up to the occasion? It is only a court that cannot activate itself. A case has to be filed to activate the adjudicatory powers of the court. But this is not precisely so in the case of law enforcement agencies like the EFCC and the Police. There is nothing in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 (“EFCC Act”) that makes a petition a procedural pre-condition. For instance, Section 7 (1) (b) of the EFCC Act provides:
“The Commission has power to cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s life style and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”
Relying on the above section, the EFCC has over time swept on persons suspected to have committed economic and financial crimes, including money laundering. Under the Commission’s grip are mostly young men and women who flaunt wealth in “mayweatheric” fashion, under suspicious circumstances not unconnected to advance fee fraud. The EFCC carries out these sting operations without any petition being lodged. It is enough if the eyes of the Eagle sights suspicious circumstances.
Now that a petition**** has now been submitted to the EFCC by Human Rights Activist, Deji Adeyanju, it is believed that the Commission will treat it adequately. If the allegations are without merits, it may be accordingly dismissed.
What the EFCC must bear in mind is that public confidence must be taken seriously. The actions of the Commission must be seen to maintain this confidence always. It is not enough to conclude, without concrete evidence, that the bullion van seen hovering around in Bourdillon is a product of corruption or an object of unlawful activities. However, it is not out of place for reasonable questions to be asked. Is there any known legitimate business/trade/services going on at the residence of the Asiwaju of Lagos in Bourdillon Road? If yes, does the business involve heavy cash flow (especially in this cashless economy) requiring movement of cash proceeds with the aid of bullion van by any financial institution or outfit acting as revenue collection agent?
The Eagle should open wide its eyes so that blindness will not befall it, either in broad daylight or at nightfall.