A ministerial nominee from Kwara State, Lateef Fagbemi, has suggested the merger of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), one of the anti-graft agencies should be for the sole purpose of investigation while the other exclusively pursues prosecution.
Fagbemi, who spoke on Wednesday when he was screened by the Senate in Abuja, pledged to work with the National Assembly and the judiciary “on certain parameters” if appointed the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice by President Bola Tinubu.
The SAN said the office of the AGF is supposed to maintain a modicum of independence but must take account of the mood and interest of the nation.
He said investigation into corruption cases must be thorough citing the case of an international fraudster, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi, who was probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and subsequently convicted by a United States court after months of underground investigation.
Fielding questions from the lawmakers on how he would investigate and prosecute cases of unexplained wealth, Fagbemi, who was accompanied to the screening exercise by over 10 senior advocates, said, “Truth be told, we fight corruption but at the same time, the way it is being fought in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. That is the truth.”
“If I have my way, I will advise the President to unbundle, first of all, bring ICPC and EFCC together, unbundle them. Investigation should not be handled by the same body; there must be a supervisory authority within the same system,” he said.
“If there is investigation, it is another body, prosecution is another body. It doesn’t augur well to ask the same body to do investigation and prosecution. That is where we have problem.
“Then, we are also not patient enough, you know investigation takes time in especially serious corruption cases. Are we prepared to wait? My take is that a situation should be created such as the one that happened when Hushpuppi was arrested. They had been trailing him for years and he didn’t know and nobody would talk to him but the day they said his time was up, he also knew that his time was up.
“Investigation should be thorough; it shouldn’t be that when a given governor leaves office, then you now say EFCC is inviting you. That is not the way to prosecute corruption matters. You can take your time to investigate but when you knock, it should be the way an average American would react when the FBI knock at the door, it won’t be to come and defend, it would be for plea bargain.”