When agents of Nigeria’s financial crimes body arrived this month to arrest a former intelligence chief fired by President Muhammadu Buhari for stashing $43 million in cash in his wife’s apartment, they were stopped by armed secret policemen.
After a 10-hour standoff, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission backed down in the upscale Asokoro district of the capital, Abuja, with its boss, Ibrahim Magu, vowing his agents would be back to arrest former National Intelligence Agency boss Ayodele Oke.
It was the latest in a string of incidents that have dented the credibility of Buhari’s war on graft. Propelled by pledges to tackle corruption, the 74-year-old former military ruler became in 2015 the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat an incumbent at the ballot box. The West African nation ranked 136 out of 176 countries in
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2016, the same as the year before.
Inter-agency rivalry has been a consistent feature of Buhari’s graft war.
Twice he sent the nomination of Magu as head of the financial crimes commission, known as the EFCC, to lawmakers for approval, and on both occasions they rejected him based on state security police reports of alleged prior wrongdoing. That’s left the president’s anti-corruption czar in a weakened, acting capacity more than halfway into his tenure.
“This clearly shows the lack of tactics and strategy in the approach of fighting corruption by the current administration,” said Oluseun Onigbinde, head of Lagos-based BudgIT, a civic group that lobbies for government transparency. “There’s no clarity on who’s directly responsible for arresting or prosecuting people.”
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said he couldn’t comment on the clash between the two security agencies over the attempted arrest of Oke when contacted by phone, saying he hadn’t been briefed on the matter. Buhari says his administration is making progress.
“The gains of our initiatives over the past 2 1/2 years have been very obvious to all Nigerians,” he said Nov. 22 while setting up a committee to audit assets recovered in the anti-graft campaign. “This is clear from the level of investigation, prosecution and forfeitures involving both public and private sector officials in the country.”.