Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana on Wednesday advised the Federal Government to adequately fund the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to enable it effectively deliver on its mandate of fighting corruption.
Falana gave the advice while speaking a forum organised by the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) in Lagos.
The Nigerian Pilot reports that the forum, with the theme“Perpetual Hearings and Delayed Justice on Corruption Cases in Nigeria: Causes and Way-Forward, “ was organised by CACOL to commemorate its 10th anniversary.
The lawyer said that investigating corruption cases, especially of politically-exposed persons, was capital intensive, and urged the government to give the EFCC the needed funds to achieve diligent prosecution of cases.
“The Federal Government has not funded the EFCC the way the commission should be funded. In fact, the funding is not even there at all.
`This government has spent about 2 billion dollars on the war against insurgency in the last two years but has not spent 2 million dollars on the fight against corruption, and yet we want the EFCC to be very effective.
“The fact is that fighting corruption is very expensive.Britain spent 2 million pounds just to prosecute and convict a former governor in Nigeria for corruption.
“So the EFCC needs funds to diligently investigate and prosecute corruption cases. The government should provide the wherewithal for the commission,“ he said.
Falana said corrupt politically-exposed persons had the resources to get the best legal services and turn the tide against the EFCC in the court of law.
He said for the EFCC to match this category of people “ fire-for-fire,“ there was the need for the government to give the commission funds to hire the best lawyers to prosecute cases.
Falana said the successive loss of high-profile cases by the commission should not be misconstrued as as a setback for anti-corruption fight, pointing out the war had fared well despite the odds.
The senior advocate said the EFCC had recorded 200 convictions ,including those of politically-exposed persons in the last one year, describing the figure as impressive.
He, however, urged the commission to improve on human rights issues, saying incidents of illegal and prolonged detention of suspects at its detention facility could affect diligent prosecution of cases.
The lawyer described the recovered N13billion in a Lagos apartment as a tip of the ice-berg of looted funds, saying much more were being stashed at home and abroad.
Falana urged the Federal Government to take the necessary steps to recover the billions of dollars taken to the West and utilize such for the common good of Nigerians.
He described corruption as a major impediment to the development of Nigeria and urged all Nigerians to unite to fight the menace.
Also,speaking , Mr Latona Gbolahan, Head, Legal and Prosecution of EFCC, said lack of adequate funding was a major problem in the operations of the commission.
He, however, said despite the problem, the commission was doing its best to fight corruption and make governance more accountable.
Gbolahan dismissed belief in some quarters that the commission had lost a string of cases in recent times due to poor prosecution, noting that the said cases were not well understood.
“Nigerians were concerned that we lost some cases. Well, we are happy they are showing concern and it shows they really want us to succeed.
“But we need to clarify that we didn’t lose the cases of the former First Lady and a governor in the South-West on freezing of bank accounts because we didn’t commence prosecution.
“What we did was to freeze the accounts in line with powers given to us by the law to do so, if we suspect that the accounts have monies suspected to be proceeds of corruption.
“We did that and a court ordered the unfreezing of the accounts.We didn’t prosecute, so we didn’t lose the cases,“he said.
Mr Debo Adeniran, CACOL`s Executive Chairman, urged the government to give the EFCC a percentage of all recovered funds to aid its operations.
He said the commission would do better if it had the backing of all Nigerians and the government in the realization of its mandate.
Adeniran commended the EFCC for exposing some corrupt persons but said a lot still needed to be done to bring corruption to its knees.