The case of Ibrahim Lamorde’s sack as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman and looming senate probe is that of when the hunter becomes the hunted!
Following allegations that he diverted N1 trillion and the subsequent controversy which has since engulfed the commission, the hammer fell on the police officer on Monday, November 9, 2015, after he was asked to proceed on terminal leave, culminating into his retirement and effectively ending his four-year tenure as chairman of the agency.
That is not the last, however, as the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Senator Samuel Anyawu is to begin its probe of the one-time EFCC head of operations scheduled for today (Tuesday, November 17).
Many, on different levels of the social strata, have had their say on the unfolding drama; ENCOMIUM Weekly, however, spoke with legal practitioners and rights activists to share their thoughts.
‘The senate probe is in order’
– JONATHAN IYIEKE, Legal Practitioner, Rights Activist
What we know about Lamorde’s sacking is that he was asked to proceed on terminal leave which would culminate into his retirement.
However, there is also report that some money was moved by him, that is, he was involved in corrupt practices.
What happens when someone who is the head of an institution which fights corruption is involved in the practice! He was expected as someone who was in charge of an organization that should fight corruption not to be involved. Otherwise, you cannot escape the punishment of the law on those who are corrupt.
Also, the senate is in order, it has the go-ahead to probe him through the committee.
After all, the Senate is a part of the National Assembly and by section 14 of the constitution of the Federal Republic is elected by the combined force of the people, so they are duty bound to enforce the laws of the country.
‘The powers that appointed him have removed him’’
– FRED AGBAJE, Legal Practitioner,
Why can’t Lamorde be removed? What is so spectacular about him? Has the chairmanship become hereditary and vested in the Lamorde family alone, so that he has to be retained whether he is performing or not? The powers that appointed him have removed him! And if there is any case established against him while he was still chairman of the EFCC, and if it borders on criminality, he would be arrested and prosecuted.
Nobody is above the law as far as I’m concerned, including the Lamordes of this world. He does not enjoy constitutional immunity from prosecution, and if there is any established case of corruption or abuse of office against him, he should be arrested and prosecuted.
‘The president has lost confidence in EFCC, the removal is in order’
– JOHN ITODO, Legal Practitioner
The directive from the Presidency to Mr. Lamorde asking him to proceed on terminal leave a few months to the end of his tenure which ends February 2016, didn’t come as a surprise to me at all. In fact I expected it earlier in view of the allegations against Mr. Lamorde and the obvious stand of the present administration of President Buhari against corruption and corrupt leaders.
Besides, under Mr. Lamorde, EFCC lost its bite. The awe it commanded under Mr. Ribadu was totally dissipated under Mr. Lamorde, corrupt persons had a filled day during his tenure which came as a surprise to many because it was said that he was the brain behind the successes recorded by Mr. Ribadu and all expected him to just come on, fit in and glide to greater success but that was not the case. So I think relieving him of that position was in order.
He probably was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task as the head of the number 1 anti-corruption agency in Nigeria; who knows, he may even function better in other tasks.
With the enormity of the allegations against him, there is no way he was going to be left alone.
Whether there is any iota of truth in the allegation is a matter of evidence if he is charged to court.
The President’s body language did not betray that he has lost confidence in the EFCC and, of course, the leadership of the EFCC hitherto led by Mr. Lamorde; we all see how all of a sudden ICPC and CCT seem to become so powerful out of the blues. You will recall that the president had muted the idea of having special courts to try corrupt persons, well, since the whole process is taking too long, he has turned to CCT which is a special court with regard to corruption cases bothering on public officers and politicians.
Part of the Senate’s function is oversight responsibilities and they have the right to probe the EFCC, of course. It’s just that most times when they probe, they come out more indicted than the probed. The subsidy probe and the $16 billion power probe are still fresh in our minds.
All in all, the directive on Mr. Lamorde to proceed on terminal leave is in order.
‘This is very dangerous’
– SULAIMON ARIGBABU, Human Rights activist
The sack of Mr. Lamorde as EFCC chair, though was the rude reality, it did not come entirely as a shock. Some of us had anticipated that his position and continued stay in that office was uncertain the moment the commission decided to take on some powerful elements. And the reality is not farfetched, the EFCC decided to take on certain powerful people, particularly in the Senate, and all of a sudden the Senate turned on the EFCC with purported allegations of misconduct against Mr. Lamorde, even for issues dating before he became chair of the commission. And similarly, you can see that the same Senate has decided to probe the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). So, you have a situation where agencies are afraid of carrying out their constitutional duty because they do not know what the eventuality of it will be. This is very dangerous, especially for the Buhari government with its anti-corruption posturing. The idea of sacking randomly and indiscriminately sensitive public office holders does not give credence that the government is sincere about its anti-corruption fight because positions such as the one Mr. Lamorde occupied ought to have some immunity and some protection from indiscriminate decisions from the executive and any political quarters.
What you are seeing is that the man was unceremoniously sacked, and when you do that, the person coming in next is getting conflicting signals and wondering “what is it that I have to do that I won’t fall on the wrong side of the powers that be and get me booted out?” So the confidence and courage, audacity needed to confront corruption and wrestle it to the ground is lost, because the occupiers of these offices do not know how those who have the powers to remove or retain them would react.
We are going back to the era where the EFCC will only be very effective against people that the powers that be want it to, while closing its eyes to others.
That is wrong! Even whilst Lamorde was still there, the EFCC and similar anti-graft agency do not have the kind of autonomy and immunity from influence of political office holders that it should; this has been proven by the sack.
So the sacking of Mr. Lamorde is very unfortunate; what is more unfortunate is that the government failed to communicate the reasons behind their decision to the populace. This is very dangerous! Because when you fail to provide information, then you give room for misinformation to thrive. And you can see that theorists have gone to town with so many postulations as to why Mr. Lamorde was removed.
If you are going to remove a political office holder, someone holding a very sensitive position such as this, be ready to leave the public clear about the government’s decision. So that the public and the government can be on the same page.