Why EFCC’s prosecution of cyber criminals is actually counter productive

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under its new chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa has not arraigned any politically exposed persons and other Very Important Persons for money laundering and embezzlement of public funds instead, the commission has been vigorously chasing after cyber scammers and other petty criminals.

And people are beginning to notice, Punch in an editorial noted that the 40-year-old EFCC boss, 10 months into his tenure has barely made any mark. All of his big cases have been stalled.

The arraignment of a former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, failed to hold at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on November 22, following a letter from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, calling for the review of the case.

Oduah, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, and eight others, were to be arraigned by the EFCC on alleged N5bn fraud.

Also, on October 16, a former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, was interrogated over alleged non-remittance of N10bn pensions fund.

The Peoples Democratic Party chieftain reportedly turned himself in at the EFCC headquarters, after previously snubbing several invitations from the commission.

On October 24, the agency detained for a few days a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, in connection with the allegations against the former aviation minister, Stella Oduah.

On July 28, the EFCC quizzed and detained a former Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Al-Makura and his wife, Mairo, for misappropriation of billions of naira while in office.

Three days later, it questioned a former president of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, over alleged misappropriation of public funds and money laundering.

Similarly, a former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion, was on November 12 invited and quizzed for three days for allegedly diverting N1.6bn public funds.

None of these suspects have been arraigned in court.

Frustrated by these high profile defeats, the EFCC these days seems to be focusing its energy on petty criminals and online scammers. The commission would regularly post mugshots of suspected cyber criminals on its social media pages with regular updates on their prosecution.

But this can be counter productive! here’s the alternative argument.

These cyber criminals bring in badly needed dollars into the country. A nation of 200 million people that is barely productive need all the Forex it can get and from whatever source it is coming from.

Nigeria is not the only country that has had to calculate the alternative cost of turning a blind eye to the activities of criminals who bring in loot from abroad. Russia practically protects many of the people on the FBI’s cyber most wanted list allowing them to operate and live in Moscow for a fee.

The Americans and British themselves are not innocent. Britain has a law which allows the British government to confiscate and keep resources foreign government officials brought into the country. This law is what the British used to confiscate part of almost N2.4 billion that former governor James Ibori stashed in the UK.

Secondly, focusing on petty criminals instead of the actual criminals who are stealing the country’s resources distracts the EFCC. Some have argued that the commission has other motives other than altruism as its officials get to keep what ever the seize from these cyber criminals with no accountability.

The argument here is that yes cyber criminals are bad and should be stopped. But that shouldn’t be done at the expense of the bigger criminals who are doing way more damage to the average Nigerian. The EFCC needs to get its priorities straight!



A writer! Columnist and an academic researcher
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