By Chioma Iruke
One of the many victims of Nigeria’s watchdog agency in charge of fighting corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has recounted to The Heritage Times, how officers of the agency lobby and intimidate Nigerians for ‘settlement’.
While the EFCC has been prudent in the tracking of fraudulent activities across Nigeria, its strategy has often raised concerns, as a new trend of ‘settlement’ has seen officials of the anti-graft agency bully ‘suspected’ Nigerians for their own share of ill-gotten wealth under the guise of helping them.
A businessman who identified himself as Joseph, and resides in the Federal Capital Territory, told The Heritage Times that he was contacted by a certain EFCC officer on telephone, who not only described the business he was doing, but also predicted correctly that he received payment few hours ago.
An angry Joseph said he scolded the officer who immediately apologized and said he was just trying to be friends. Joseph asserted that his friends were called in similar manner and that it has been a trend.
“You know these officers would call and tell you about your work and all you are doing. If you fidget a bit, they would give you the option of settlement. This option can either be half of your proceeds or even all. In my case, I had to clear the officer immediately. I don’t work for the government neither do I do any business that involves the state governor, so why should an officer in the Benue division be calling me? I sincerely didn’t want to allow the young man lose his job if not I would have taken it up with his boss.
“I know things are hard but is lobbying part of their job?” Joseph queried.
A Legal Practitioner, Barr. Noble Justice speaking on the growing trend, expressed worry that the commission which has the power to invite anyone suspected of indulging in fraudulent activities, instead chooses to lobby and intimidate individuals for settlements.
“EFCC can summon you as a person if you get an unusual amount in your account. The summon must be in their office and that’s how you handle, deceptive office. And when you meet them and they insist on settlement, insist that it has to be in their account, never give them cash because that’s the only way to trace it. It’s very rampant, these officers most time call for settlement. Most times they request for part of the money, other times if they want to be greedy they go for half of the money in your account.
“In recent times what happens is that someone from the bank might be monitoring your account and they would tip off the EFCC because many account officers are actually friends with them. It’s this tip off that leads to unsolicited calls. You know the EFCC have designated powers to summon but it’s often misused like most things. People often fall victim for this settlement officers when they don’t know their rights or when their source of income isn’t clean. You know Nigerians are already used to settling people so they would rather pay than confront these men. But like I said, if any officer insists on settlement, its best you also insist on sending the money via an account,” he said.
Meanwhile, EFCC Spokesman Wilson Uwujaren, when contacted on the matter via call, message and WhatsApp, did not corroborate nor deny the allegations against officers of the Commission.
Although EFCC officials can collect gifts in cash or landed properties, these gifts are to be given to the commission and not individuals as the financial provision in part VI section 35 (1) of the EFCC Act states that “The Commission shall establish and maintain a fund from which shall be defrayed all expenditure reasonably incurred by the Commission for the execution of its functions.”