Exactly one week ago when I was leaving Nigeria for Switzerland to attend an international conference on “news media development and sustainability in Africa”, I had imagined that my absence from the country for this period might hinder my search for a good article of public interest for this column.
I was proved wrong because through the help of the internet, I was able to find today’s topic with some ease; special thanks to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Army which I hear have instituted 2 probes that are no doubt worth welcoming. While the EFFC has reportedly begun a probe into the 2014 Immigration recruitment scam which took the lives of some citizens, the Army was said to have reopened the case of their officials alleged to have been involved in election malpractices during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections of 2014. Both probes are significant as they are likely to unravel serious issues that the last government swept under the carpet-a habit which made many citizens buy into the change agenda of the then opposition party.
Thus it was heart-warming to learn from the media that the hitherto untouchable ex-Minister of Interior, Abba Moro was summoned and has been grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, over the 2014 ill-fated recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service which claimed many lives across several recruitment centres in the country. Moro was reportedly taken into EFCC custody last Monday in the Abuja office of the anti-graft agency to discuss how he managed the recruitment exercise in which over 700,000 applicants paid N1000 each to write a test for an employment slot of just 4,000. He was reportedly quizzed again last Thursday.
The first sign that the EFCC recognizes as a disservice the cover-up of the scandal by government which should not be allowed to last long was observed in September when David Parradang, who was in office as Comptroller-General of Immigration, during the botched recruitment exercise was interrogated by the Agency. Parradang had earlier been removed from office by President Muhammadu Buhari in August
The second cheering news has to do with a report that the Nigerian Army has set up a high-powered board of inquiry to probe alleged malpractices by its personnel in the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states in 2014. The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman, was quoted to have said that the panel was also mandated to extend the probe to cover allegations of misconduct against Army personnel in all the formations and units of the Army in the last general elections and other operations in the country.
This is a step in the right direction as the allegations were weighty and generally believed to be true by many Nigerians. It was alleged that an audio recording provided by a Captain in the 32nd Artillery Brigade stationed in Ekiti State, revealed that some top officials of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) planned and successfully rigged the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State, and plotted a similar scenario in Osun in 2014. The said Captain who the media say has since fled the country recorded the conversation on 20th June 2014 when he accompanied his Commanding Officer, a Brigadier to the meeting held at Spotless Hotel in Ado-Ekiti. Thus, the probe is overdue considering that the audio recording disclosed the names of the Captain, his Commanding Officer and all the PDP top officials allegedly involved in the plot.
It is commendable that both the Army and the EFCC probes have at last seen the light of the day. It is hoped that now that both bodies have taken the right step to do the needful, they would not allow interested forces to derail the probes. Being a civil matter, the immigration exercise, would probably interest more people. Although the senate of the 7th Assembly waded into the matter its report was never released making it appear that those who swindled the young Nigerians to death were exceedingly powerful.
In fact, even the presidential directive that the blood money of N1000 collected from the young job seekers should be returned was ignored. Rather, a Presidential Committee to Assist in Immigration Recruitment was constituted on 26th March, 2014 as if the Service had suddenly become incapable of recruiting its own staff? Well, the EFCC can now investigate what happened to the over N700million naira realized as only N45million was rumoured to have been declared. Again if the probe is well handled and those found culpable are sanctioned, it would discourage abuse of office in that service. For example, it would probably bring to an end the practice whereby the supervising Minister of Interior and his boards often impose on the service, spurious promotion of officers over and above by their superiors without proven evidence of competence or any justifiable reasons. No one needed to be told that as a regimented environment, that would produce indiscipline and disaffection.
On its part, the Army probe would assist the service to restrict itself to purely military functions instead of usurping police routine duties. Even if our military got involved in the last general election because as experts in security matters, its officers saw the urgent need to so act, the illegality of the action is quite clear now bearing in mind that a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, had before the election, restrained the Federal Government from deploying soldiers for the general elections.
It is also instructive that the Court of Appeal in Abuja made a similar pronouncement that based on the provisions of the law; the military had no role to play in the electoral process, adding that whoever deployed the military during the election in Ekiti State had breached the law. It is against this background that we commend the Army for seeking, in its own words “to prevent future unprofessional conduct by officers and men in the performance of their constitutional roles while strengthening Nigerian Army’s support to democratic values and structures in Nigeria.” Bravo to EFCC and the Army.