By Aliyu Dangida
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ola Olukoyede has said Nigerian tax payers lost N2.9trillion (est) in just two years (2018 -2020), to contracts and procurement fraud alone.
Olukoyede made the startling revelation while responding to questions from Senators during his screening and confirmation hearing in the Senate, on Wednesday.
He said, ” Between 2018 and 2020, Nigeria lost N2.9trilion to contract and procurement fraud.”
The amount he noted was enough to pay for the construction of at least 1000 kilometers of roads, build close to 200 standard tertiary institutions, educate about 6,000 children from primary to tertiary levels at N16million per child.
Giving clarifications as to the investigative powers of the Commission, the newly confirmed EFCC boss declared that as EFCC boss, he was at liberty investigate even the President of the Senate.
He, however, promised not to abuse power while vowing to be accountable to the Nigerian people as well as ensure transparency and taking preventive measures to reduce if not eliminate long drawn litigations.
Olukoyede said the EFCC under his watch will not hesitate to prosecute any offender irrespective of social or political status.
While appealing for support from all and sundry, he said, “for Nigeria to earn a reputation for transparency and accountability, there must be a collective decision that indeed corruption must be eliminated.
“We must build international reputation in transparency, and as an agency I can investigate even the Senate President, because we must call a spade, we must look at evil and call it evil no matter who is involved.
“We must look at more of the preventive measures than curative, corruption has become too rampant in our society and we will do our work diligently and with respect to the provisions of the constitution.”
He also stressed that the EFCC under his watch will work together with sister agencies such as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), to avoid duplication and waste of scarce public funds.
According to him, there was no better time than now for all anti-graft agencies to shun rivalries and focus on preventing crime more than enforcement.
Addressing the issue of corruption in public service, the EFCC Chairman noted that the truth be told, the kind of mansions being built by some civil servants cannot be said to be the product of some prudent savings.
He said, “The problem we have is just like the proverbial monkey that was locked up in a cage with a bunch of ripe banana.
“The owner stood outside with a cane. The monkey would either eat the bananas got beaten and be alive, or allow the bananas to get rotten and die of hunger.
“Everyone wants to live a luxurious life and the incentives are all over the places. I will do more in the areas of blocking the leakages. We spend more money fighting corruption when we could have spent less to prevent it.
“Without downplaying the importance of enforcement. There is what we called transactional credit system.
“If we continue to allow Nigerians to buy houses, cars and other luxurious properties by cash, because we don’t have an effective credit system, 1000 anti-corruption agencies will not do us any good and that is the reality.
“We must create an atmosphere to make sure that people have choices. If I don’t steal money, can I afford to train my children in school with good standard?
“If I don’t steal money, can I buy a car after I have worked for five years? If I don’t steal money, can I put three room bungalow in place after I had worked for 20 years? An average Nigerian does not own a home, when he has the opportunity, he would steal. Even if he did not have the opportunity he would create one.
“In order to encourage our criminal justice system to work, the substance should be taken above technicalities.
“We must encourage our criminal justice system to adjudicate in such a way that it will not drag for a very long time. Prosecution should not be allowed to last for maximum of five years from the Court of first instance to the Supreme Court.
“The Senate can work on that very seriously. If we make the administration of criminal justice system really work, you will see the great work the anti-corruption agencies are doing.”
He further said, “I did a survey between 2018 and 2020 on fifty entities in Nigeria. Both human and corporate entities.
“I picked just one scheme, one specie of fraud, which is called contract and procurement fraud. I discovered that within the three years, Nigeria lost N2.9trillion.
“When I put my figures together, I discovered that If the country had prevented the money from being stolen, it would have given us 1000 kilometers of road, it would have built close to 200 standard tertiary institutions. It would have also educated about 6,000 children from primary to tertiary levels at N16m per child.
“It would have also delivered more 20,000 units of three bedroom houses across the country. It would have given us a world-class teaching hospital in each of the 36 states of the country and the federal capital territory.
“This is where we are coming from, this is where we are. Where we are going, depends on the decision the Senate would take this afternoon”.