No matter how benign a context in which it was intended to manifest in the public domain, the trending story that the anti-graft agency – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is ‘deepening’ its probe of Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), is one gist that may not lapse into oblivion like an inconsequential flash of a shooting star, on a starry night. As a former two time governor of Lagos State, chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and an aspirant for the office of the country’s President come 2023, Tinubu parades an uncommon persona which commands attention whenever his name is mentioned in the country and ostensibly, beyond.
However, in recent times the media has been awash with the story of how the EFCC had revived an ongoing probe of his financial activities with respect to one Alpha Beta Consulting firm, in which he is widely believed to have controlling interest. It is reported that the firm was established by Tinubu, while he was serving as governor of Lagos State, for the purpose of by-passing extant statutory structures to collect revenue exclusively for the state, even under his watch. The involvement of the EFCC was at the instance of a petition to the agency by Dapo Abara, a former Managing Director of the firm, in which he accused the former governor of gross financial misconduct while in office. From Abara’s account, he fell out with Tinubu over sharing the money generated through the questionable activities of the Alpha Beta company.
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Reportedly, the EFCC had recently written a reminder dated November 6, 2020 to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), to avail it of Tinubu’s assets declaration records. The EFCC had earlier written the CCB as far back as November 2018, in respect of the same matter and the recent letter was to remind the latter of the subject matter of the previous letter.
One of the twists tying the two letters is the fact that the November 6, 2020 letter was signed by Bawa during his days as the Head of its Lagos Zonal office and before his ascendancy to the office of the Executive Chairman of the agency, while the second one was signed by his successor Taufiq Sabir as the new head of the Lagos Zonal Office, just days after Bawa exited from the post. Another twist which is stirring public interest in the matter is the trending spin that Tinubu’s asset declaration records are reportedly missing from the vaults of the CCB. Incidentally too, most unhelpful has been the claim by officials of the CCB that Tinubu’s records had long left its coffers as they were used for his earlier prosecution in 2017. Just as well has the EFCC denied the angle that it was targeting Tinubu in its request of his records from the CCB. Yet another twist was the recent rebuttal by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami that his office which supervises both the EFCC and CCB had no hand in the investigation of Tinubu.
Interestingly, the entire scenario featuring the interplay between Tinubu, Bawa and the EFCC constitutes a trilogy in an interesting context and with significant implications, more for the fledgling tenure at the Commission’s helmsman Bawa than they are for Tinubu. The first implication is that under the new leadership of Bawa, the EFCC is expected to have adopted a fresh operational zeal to address the anti-corruption fight – especially the high profile cases, and the ongoing matter of Tinubu, easily fits into the immediate instances. If that be the case, then it is kudos to Bawa to have taken off on an impressive and assertive pace on his brief by matching his lofty promises to the country during his Senate screening, with action. As at last count the EFCC had outstanding in its kitty, hundreds of unresolved corruption cases involving high profile citizens in the country, which cumulatively had eroded the nation of humongous stocks of the common patrimony. A most disturbing aspect of the situation has been the general impression that due to their high profile, some citizens prove even too big for the EFCC to cage. In the context of the new dispensation in the EFCC however, Nigerians are expectant to see the wheels of justice catch up with whosoever is culpable.
In another vein lies the disappointing twist of the shenanigans in the CCB, specifically the reported loss from its vaults, of the assets declaration records of Tinubu. Such a report deepens an already trailing suspicion that the Tinubu affair has more than meets the eye. And such is unhealthy for the Bawa dispensation in the EFCC, so early in the day. Primarily, it fuels the insinuation that he may be leading the agency to serve as an attack dog with targeted persons in its sight and among whom may be Tinubu. To many Nigerians, the entire rigmarole over this matter points to the involvement of either the pro or anti Tinubu lobbies, as well as extensive network of moles in the government’s woodwork, for one nefarious purpose or the other.
This is where the Office of the Attorney General’s needs to carry out its oversight responsibility with respect to ensuring that a new order featuring due process prevails in the anti-corruption war, with Tinubu’s case as a metaphor. As a Nigerian citizen the law considers Tinubu innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, just as the African proverb goes that “when the hand of a monkey stays too long in a pot of soup it starts looking like that of a human”, the Tinubu matter is a test case and should enjoy routine processing, as the ongoing rigmarole remains unfair to him as it fuels insinuations of unfair play. So far the attitude of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation can be likened to burying its head in the sand like an ostrich does when faced with danger. This issue is serious enough to deny Abubakar Malami the liberty of playing the ostrich, as the buck actually stops on his table, just in case he needs to be reminded.