As many readers will know, on Monday, November 9, Ibrahim Lamorde stepped down as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the country’s principal anti-corruption agency. Although initial reports say Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari fired him, Presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina denies this was the case. Adesina explained that the President had decided not to re-appoint Lamorde, a career member of the Nigerian police force, to a second term when his current one expires this February and that his leaving the EFCC now is in accordance with procedures governing the rotation of career government employees.
Controversy over the tenure of the EFCC is nothing new. The “reassignment” of its first chief, Nuhu Ribadu, for the flimsiest of reasons was a response by Nigeria’s corrupt class to a far too aggressive investigator. Rumors why Lamorde is leaving point in the opposite direction, the claim being he was let go because he had been going too easy on the gaggle of corrupt businesses and politicians stealing so much of the national patrimony.
GAB asked a close observer of Nigerian politics for his take. He writes:
“Lamorde worked under difficult circumstances. As many Nigerians know, some around or above him may have been “rather counter-productive” in fighting corruption.
“If, according to the law of the land, as head of an institution, your tenure is in the hands of the President (as is the case in Nigeria, where the head of EFCC can be dismissed at any time by the President), then obviously you will not be able to pursue some cases. But one particular one where observers complain Lamorde dragged his heels only landed on his desk a couple of weeks ago, so I don’t think it’s fair to consider lack of action in that case.
“Moreover, it says nothing about the honesty of the person heading the institution. The legislation is bad, and if you want to work and survive, you have to be pragmatic, unless you prefer to go head-to-head. That is a personal choice. During his tenure, several high-level people were arrested, so it’s not right to say that no action was taken.
“Furthermore, considering the end of tenure, it is worth noting that in any case Ibrahim was due for renewal of his mandate or for a re-deployment elsewhere. It has been understood for many months that Ibrahim was not seeking to be renewed and even preferred not to be renewed. In other words, his anticipated leave, before re-deployment, happened with his consent, possibly at his request, and not against his desire.
“The decision seems to have been politically timed to stop the smear campaign against the EFCC in the Senate. A Senate committee said in August said it was investigating charges that $5 billion in assets and cash recovered by the EFCC had been diverted. The EFCC has also been in a long-running battle with Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki over his involvement in a banking scandal that dates back to Ribadu’s tenure, and a senator under investigation by EFCC has initiated an investigation of Lamorde by the Senate claiming the investigation has cost the Senator trillions of Naira. The removal of Lamorde will make such attacks on EFCC more difficult one might speculate.
“The good news is that Ibrahim Magu, another career police officer with a long and distinguished record in the battle against corruption, will take the helm — at least on an interim basis. Magu was part of the original EFCC team Ribadu recruited and, after being “reassigned” by Ribadu’s successor, was brought back when Larmorde took over.
“The key now is where Lamorde will be re-deployed. Will it be another post with influence where he can continue to contribute to Nigeria’s on-going struggle to see that leaders are held accountable and corruption tamed?”
Postscript: A law enforcement agent from another country that has worked closely with Magu had nothing but praise for his professional credentials.
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One of the issues with Nigeria’s EFCC lies with the powers of the President to appoint and fire its head at will. History has shown that these powers have been abused especially in countries with weak institutions. A similar occurence with Ribadu’s removal saw Lamorde being redeployed out of the EFCC and posted to a remote police station. It was former President Goodluck Jonathan that brought him back considering his experience working with Ribadu in the fight against corruption. A situation where people with the requisite credentials are removed at will is detrimental to the country’s fight against corruption.