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Anti-graft war should start from N’Assembly – EFCC chair

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The Senate, on Wednesday, screened and confirmed the nomination of Ola Olukoyede as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

While fielding questions from the senators during his screening, Olukoyode told the lawmakers to ensure that the fight against corruption begins in the National Assembly.

He declared that he was ready to work no matter whose ox was gored.

 “Let the fight against corruption begin from this hallowed chamber.

“If you are fighting corruption, you become the enemy of everybody,” he said.

Olukoyede said the time had come for all anti-corruption agencies to focus more on prevention rather than enforcement.

He said,” Enforcement is a very strong tool in our hands and we are going to apply it very seriously.

“Without downplaying the importance of enforcement, there is what we call a transactional credit system. If we continue to allow Nigerians to buy houses, cars and other luxurious properties by cash, because we don’t have an effective credit system, one thousand anti-corruption agencies will not do us any good and that is the reality.

“We must create an atmosphere to make sure that people have choices. If I don’t steal money, can I afford to train my children in school with good standards? If I don’t steal money, can I buy a car after I have worked for five years? If I don’t steal money, can I put a three-room bungalow in place after I have worked for 20 years?

“An average Nigerian does not own a home, when he has the opportunity, he would steal. Even if he does not have the opportunity he would create one.”

The new EFCC chairman also called on the judiciary to place substantive justice above technicalities when dealing with corruption cases.

“We must encourage our criminal justice system to adjudicate in such a way that it will not drag for a very long time.

“Prosecution should not be allowed to last for a maximum of five years from the court of first instance to the Supreme Court. The Senate can work on that very seriously. If we make the administration of the criminal justice system really work, you will see the great work the anti-corruption agencies are doing,” Olukoyede added.

He said there was a connection between the low standard of living in the country and the rise of corruption.

“The savings of an average civil servant in Nigeria all through his service years cannot build the type of houses they are building and cars they are riding.

“The problem we have is just like the proverbial monkey that was locked up in a cage with a bunch of ripe bananas. The owner stood outside with a cane. The monkey would either eat the bananas, get beaten and be alive, or allow the bananas to get rotten and die of hunger,” he stated.

He added, “I will do more in the areas of blocking the leakages. We spend more money fighting corruption when we could have spent less to prevent it.”

The EFCC chairman noted that Nigeria lost a total of N2.9tn to procurement fraud in three years.

According to him, he did a survey between 2018 and 2020 on 50 entities in Nigeria; both human and corporate entities.

Olukoyede narrated, “I picked just one scheme, one species of fraud, which is called contract and procurement fraud. I discovered that within the three years, Nigeria lost N2.9tn.

“When I put my figures together, I discovered that if the country had prevented the money from being stolen, it would have given us 1,000 kilometres of road, it would have built close to 200 standard tertiary institutions; it would have also educated about 6,000 children from primary to tertiary levels at N16m per child.

 “It would have also delivered more than 20,000 units of three-bedroom houses across the country. It would have given us a world-class teaching hospital in each of the 36 states of the country and the federal capital territory.”

Meanwhile, the Senate erupted in laughter when the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, told Olukoyede not to use him as an example in the anti-corruption fight.

Olukoyede had while speaking said, “If we are investigating the Senate President for example…”

But Akpabio said, “I’m very glad that the nominee wants to use the Senate President as an example. But Mr nominee, leave the Senate President for now, look at this direction (pointing at the seats of opposition lawmakers).”

Apart from Olukoyede, the Senate also confirmed Muhammad Hammajoda as the Secretary of the EFCC.