Visit to EFCC: A corper’s experience 

It was one evening when my boss simply told me, “I have an invitation from the EFCC. You and Zekeri should join me tomorrow!”

Since I was posted to this PR firm as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), my tasks included writing news, opinion articles, and monitoring media coverage related to our clients and stakeholders. Despite being busy with my mobile phone, I never entertained or engaged in suspicious activities that could lead to fraudulent corrupt intents, whether online or offline.

“The invitation indicates 10 am, but we should leave the office at 9 am to arrive there on time. Have a nice day!” the boss interjected my thoughts before I could even respond.

I immediately picked up my phone and Googled terms like “EFCC,” “invitation,” “guest,” and “youth.” The search results left me apprehensive—students, top politicians, and public figures had all been guests (meaning detained) after an invitation (meaning investigation) by the EFCC operatives, primarily related to online fraud and other corrupt practices.

Despite the EFCC’s efforts to combat corruption across all sectors, questions persist about the perceived preferential treatment given to political officials and government figures compared to ordinary citizens or young internet fraudsters. Citizens argue that the principle of equality before the law must be upheld, urging for a more equitable approach to justice by law enforcement agencies.

Some contend that the EFCC tarnishes people’s image and reputation. I often wonder whether suspects in EFCC custody are truly innocent of the accusations or allegations, given the damning reports and stories—such as the ongoing case involving former Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state.

However, accountability must be a two-way street. While the EFCC bears the responsibility of upholding the law, the accused must also uphold transparency and sincerity to avoid tarnishing their image.

The mandates of the EFCC can be incredibly demanding, considering the fate of past chairmen who faced challenges and controversies both during and after their tenures. The unsteady nature of leading the agency underscores the gravity of the task at hand and the constant threat of backlash from political intrigue.

Recently, the arrest and prosecution of cross-dresser Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju, alias Bobrisky, and celebrity barman Pascal Okechukwu, popularly known as Cubana Chief Priest, on allegations of misusing the national currency caught public attention. Both were accused of abusing naira notes by spraying and tampering with them during social events, contravening the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Act of 2007.

While the cases of these two influencers may impact nightlife enthusiasts, musicians, and public gatherings, they also serve as a deterrent against extravagant spending and flaunting wealth irresponsibly. Such measures, while initially restrictive, contribute to a more responsible and accountable society.

I have been closely following an ongoing investigation into a financial scandal involving the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development. It becomes even more interesting when the EFCC confirmed the recovery of $445,000 and N3 billion, in addition to the earlier retrieval of N30 billion. The probe, initiated after the suspension of Minister Dr. Beta Edu, has now extended to her predecessor, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, and Halima Shehu, the Coordinator of the National Social Insurance Programmes Agency.

There were also probes into fraudulent activities related to COVID-19 funds, World Bank loans, and the Abacha loot, among others.

However, beyond its role in tackling financial crimes, EFCC also engages in advocacy campaigns against the scourge of corrupt practices.

Many questions consumed my thoughts on the EFCC until I fell asleep in the Corper’s Lodge close to the office. I woke up even earlier than usual, anxiously pacing around my room, hoping my boss wouldn’t ask me to accompany him again.

However, my hopes were dashed when my phone rang, and my colleague informed me that our boss was already outside waiting for me in the car.

Fearfully, as I emerged from my room, I noticed that our boss’s driver was not available to drive us. It was very unusual. My senior colleague, Mr. Zekeri, instructed me to sit in the back seat while he sat in the passenger’s seat as the boss drove us.

As we zoomed off, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a very strange affair, especially since it was rare for my boss to drive himself.

We arrived at the EFCC gate precisely at 9:40 am. The security personnel were on high alert, wearing stern expressions. My boss introduced himself, explaining that we had an appointment at 10 am. The security guard insisted we wait until the exact time before entering, so we bided our time nearby. Minutes after 10 am, we were granted entry.

As we proceeded to the office, I noticed other staff members, including cleaners and gardeners, wearing friendly smiles and offering warm greetings. In fact, when I almost slipped, one senior officer quickly helped me regain my balance. This experience led me to realise that the EFCC has a diverse staff, with some appearing stern but others displaying kindness and politeness.

Once inside, our phones were immediately confiscated, and we were escorted to a secure area with heavily armed security personnel. We proceeded to the registration room to provide our details, then we were led upstairs to an office where we underwent thorough security checks before being seated. I positioned myself beside my boss, hoping his presence would offer some relief.

A female EFCC staff inquired if we needed anything, but we politely declined. She was even jovial with us. Eventually, we were informed that it was time to proceed.

We were then escorted to a larger room, more like a conference hall, where we encountered a sizable crowd.

As we entered the room, my boss was warmly received by senior officials from the Public Affairs Department of the anti-corruption agency. 

It then dawned on me that the ‘invitation’ extended to my boss was not for a suspect but as a Guest Speaker to discuss “Effective Public Relations Strategies for Law Enforcement Agencies” at the quarterly lecture organised by the Public Affairs Department of the agency.

The lecture aligns with the dreams of the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ola Olukoyede, who aims to constantly hone the public relations skills of staff.

This visit corrected the erroneous impression that visitors to the EFCC office are all financial crime suspects. It also dispels the notion that the agency is merely a den of lions waiting to pounce on unsuspecting visitors.

Haroon Aremu is a corps member with PRNigeria center, Abuja, and writes via [email protected].