The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Mr Ola Olukoyede and Muhammad Hassan Hammajoda as the chairman and secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, respectively.
They were confirmed following the successful completion of their screening on the floor of the Red Chamber during Wednesday’s plenary.
Olukoyede, in his presentation, promised to be impartial in fighting corruption while respecting the provisions of the law.
He said, “Whether you are in the ruling party and you deep your hands in what you are not supposed to deep your hands into, you will be called to question.
“You’re in the opposition, you swallow sandpaper that will not digest, you also will be called to answer questions.
“The mandate that EFCC gives to us does not discriminate. This is where equity and justice comes in, so you will not be seen as chasing a particular section.”
Olukoyede also said the anti-graft agency under his leadership would focus more on preventing corruption than enforcement.
He said, “Enforcement is a very strong tool in our hands and we are going to apply it very seriously.
“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 banana. The owner stood outside with a cane. The monkey would either eat the bananas got beaten and be alive, or allow the bananas to get rotten and die of hunger.
“Everyone wants to live a luxurious life and the incentives are all over the places. 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.
“There is what we called 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, 1000 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 standard? 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 three room bungalows in place after I had worked for 20 years? An average Nigerian does not own a home, when he has the opportunity, he would steal. Even if he did not have the opportunity he would create one.”
Senate Minority Leader, Simon Mwadkwon advised the new leadership of the commission not to be used as an instrument to fight political opponents.
He said, “This is because we have seen this clearly that if you don’t like my face or if I’m contesting an election, you may decide to go into political issues instead of fighting economic crimes and therefore you take sides.
“You have to tell this Senate that you must be immune by any political-high profile person to level innocent financial crimes against them, to deter them from achieving their right to contest elections.
“The only way you can prove to us that you are out to fight economic crimes is for us to see that transparency is in you.”
Senate President Godswill Akpabio decried the operational style of the anti-graft agency, lamenting that the EFCC engaged more in sensation than real investigation.
He also deplored the gestapo manner the EFCC operatives invaded the residence of former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, to arrest him.
He said the act establishing the anti-graft agency should be reviewed to make it more efficient.
He said, “We need to take a critical look at EFCC and look at whether the act setting the EFCC even allows them to function.
“This hallowed chamber has the gavel and we have the right to review the law setting up the EFCC for proper functionality and effectiveness”.
Daily Trust reported that a mild drama earlier played out in the Senate during plenary when the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, told the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ola Olukoyede, not to use him as an example in the anti-corruption fight.
Olukoyede, who appeared in the Red Chamber for screening, had cited Akpabio’s name as an example in his presentation on investigating a graft case but stopped when he realised the mood of the lawmakers.
“If we are investigating the Senate president for example…” Olukoyede said, prompting the lawmakers to burst into laughter. The laughter became louder when Akpabio told the EFCC chairmanship nominee not to cite his name as an example in the investigation of a corruption case.
Akpabio said, “I am very glad that the nominee wants to use the Senate president as an example. But Mr Nominee, leave the Senate president for now, look in this direction (pointing at the seats of opposition lawmakers).”
After the laughter, Mr Olukoyede continued his speech without mentioning names, saying, “If you are fighting corruption, you become the enemy of everybody.”
It was gathered that Akpabio has an alleged N108.1bn theft of funds case before the anti-graft agency.
The commission commenced investigation of the former Akwa Ibom State governor after a petition by an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, Leo Ekpenyong.
Although the EFCC had detained Akpabio over the alleged fraud, the former Niger Delta Affairs Minister has consistently maintained innocence.
But a human rights activist, Maxwell Opara, has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain President Bola Tinubu and the new chairman of the EFCC, Olukoyede, from carrying out the functions of the commission.
Opara, in an originating summons which has Tinubu, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the EFCC and Olukoyede as respondents, is contending that the latter is not qualified to hold the office.
He also requested the court to set aside the appointment made by the president for being in breach of Section 2 (1) (a)(iii) of the EFCC Act.
He argued further that Olukoyede, not being a serving or a retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent could not be validly appointed to hold the office.
Other reliefs are: “A declaration that the sole qualification of being a legal practitioner cannot be equated to be the same with the rank of any government security or law enforcement agent in Nigeria without formal enrolment into same.
“A declaration that the 4th defendant (Olukoyede), who is not an active or a retired security agent or law enforcement agent but a legal practitioner of not less than 22 years post-call with six years’ experience of rendering administrative services within the commission is not qualified to be appointed as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission who by Law shall be the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Commission.”
No date was fixed for hearing.