TINUBU TO EFCC: SUSTAIN THE FIGHT AGAINST INTERNET CRIMES
President Bola Tinubu has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to keep its flames burning against the scourge of internet crimes and other acts of corruption.
He gave the charge in Abuja on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, at a one-day public engagement on youth, religion and fight against corruption and the launch of Fraud Risk Assessment Project for Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs organized by the EFCC.
The President pointed out that the disturbing contagion of cybercrimes has been a challenge and slur on the image of the nation and the EFCC should spare no effort in tackling it more frontally. “Our country is not a nation of fraudsters and the pejorative reference to internet crimes as the “Nigerian scam” across the world is unfair, untenable and unacceptable. Cybercrimes, to all intents and purposes, are a global phenomenon. Today’s world is run real time on the internet. Governance, businesses, institutions and even individual domestic affairs are dependent on the Internet. Cyber criminals are, therefore, a threat to the rest of the world. This is why no effort or expense should be spared in confronting the evil. I want to assure the EFCC that the government will continue to offer its support in its quest to kill the dragon that internet offences have become”, he said.
Tinubu, who spoke through Vice President Kashim Shettima, expressed government’s determination to give corruption hard tackles, stressing that “we cannot be focused on growth and development and at the same time offer any breathing space to corrupt practices. No nation grows without breaking the fangs of corruption. The EFCC has been duly instructed to do its job at all times without any extraneous considerations. The Renewed Hope agenda of our government is impervious to corruption. We should all join hands together to move Nigeria in a new direction of purpose.”
Tinubu spurred the EFCC not to be dismayed by throwbacks coming from some sections of the society regarding its consistent fight against internet crimes and other corrupt practices, pointing out that government is “ aware of all the foul cries and unwarranted accusations against the lawful efforts of the Commission to bring fraudsters to book. We cannot fold our hands and watch our youths descend into morbid criminalities”.
EFCC’s Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, in his Opening Remark, took a retrospective look at the efforts and profile of the Commission over the years in tackling the monster of corruption and noted that, though much ground had been covered by the EFCC in the areas of convictions and recoveries, the un-abating trend of corrupt practices across the country called for serious concerns. To address the situation, he called for greater emphasis on prevention of crimes through well-thought-out and coordinated efforts of the Commission.
“Indeed, proactive implementation of effective and coordinated policies against corruption remains the best guarantee for public security, economic development, and the effective functioning of public and private institutions. The recalibration of the Commission’s prevention strategy seeks to promote proactive deterrence and greater inclusivity in terms of participation of all stakeholders. Our motivation is to see how corruption, whether in ministries and agencies of government, in the ivory towers, or the private sector, could be prevented before it occurs”, he said.
The EFCC boss also stated that the Commission is prioritizing two areas of concern which is the involvement of youth in cybercrimes and the susceptibility of our ministries, departments and agencies to grand corruption. He expressed concerns about the disconcerting allure of computer-related fraud for youths in tertiary institutions, stressing that “ the danger of having a tribe of future leaders whose outlook in life is that fraud and corruption are the stairways to fame and fortune, is however, too dire to treat with kid gloves”. Olukoyede, therefore, called on managers of academic institutions to rise to the challenge of mentoring youths on the right path of life.
“ It is our view that the Academia can contribute more in the anti-corruption fight through mentorship as youths in today’s fast-paced world need close supervision to navigate their path to success and purposeful living”, he said. The EFCC’s boss equally unfolded the Fraud Risk Assessment Project to assist government agencies to address systemic vulnerabilities at the personnel, institutional and environmental levels and take preemptive measures. He assured that the Project “ will save the nation billions in stolen wealth, time and resources spent in investigating grand corruption cases”.
He commended President Tinubu for his unflinching support to the fight against corruption in Nigeria, maintaining that, “with the political will of the administration. I believe that we have a golden opportunity to rewrite the story of our nation’s quest for improved transparency and accountability in public affairs”. The EFCC’s engagement drew notable national political, religious and traditional leaders, with many of them offering sterling proposals to address the problem of corruption.
In his remarks, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi urged the EFCC to intensify its preventive method which according to him is cheaper and easier to prevent crimes. “I believe that concerted efforts should be channeled towards the preventive aspect of the Commission’s mandate as it is cheaper and easier to prevent crimes. The Commission’s mandate is beyond investigation and prosecution of financial crimes which it had over the years pursued vigorously. The cost of investigating and prosecuting all species of financial crimes will significantly reduce with adequate preventive measures in place.”
President, Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Daniel Okoh stated that corruption remains the major challenge of the country. “Corruption remains one of the major challenges that we have in our country, the albatross that hampers development and stifles the potentials of the youths. Corruption undermines the principles of justice, fairness and equality, eroding the very fabrics of the society, it is a cancer that eats away the trust and integrity of institutions, hindering progress and development. It discourages hard work, dignity of labor, honesty, respect for one another and creates a wicked generation that destroys the future of their nation.
The Sultan of Sokoto and Chairman, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence, Sa'ad Abubakar, promised to support the EFCC in its fight adding that the fight against corruption is a fight for all. “We want to assure you that we will support you one hundred percent in this fight because it is a fight for our lives. If we really want Nigeria to be Nigeria we can proudly call our country, we must fight this corruption to the last level. We want to assure the EFCC chairman, as religious leaders, we will invite you for a close door interaction about what we should do as religious leaders", he said.
OOni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi called for devolution of powers, explaining that local governments should be empowered and greatly encouraged to bring development closer to the people. “If we don’t look inward and change the structure, nothing tangible would be achieved. Go and make the local government powerful. It is the root of our heritage and customs, make them powerful”, he said.
In his seminal presentation as the Guest Speaker at the occasion, John Momoh, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Channels Media Group advised youths about the consequences of cybercrime. According to him, the digital age has brought with it opportunities and threats in equal measures, describing cybercrimes as identity theft and financial fraud that are not just illegal, but also erode the very fabric of trust that holds society together. He argued that the immediate gratification and illusion of 'easy money' that activities of internet crimes promise are nothing but a mirage. Momoh warned that consequences of engaging in cybercrimes are severe ranging from legal repercussions to a loss of reputation, trust, and future opportunities.
“A momentary lapse in judgment can lead to a lifetime of regret. It’s crucial to understand that the skills used in these crimes if channeled positively, have the power to revolutionise industries, create jobs, and contribute to the economy in meaningful ways”, he said. He called for corporate reflection on the issue of internet crimes to ensure that youths are directed to more useful engagements on the internet. “As we gather here, let us reflect on the power of our collective action and the promise held by our younger generations. The fight against corruption is not just a battle for today but a foundation for a prosperous future. In an era where technology has become as essential as the air we breathe, it's no surprise that our youth are more connected and tech-savvy than any generation before them”.
Addressing the theme of the event, "Youth, Religion, and the Fight against Corruption", the channel's boss pointed out that the role of youth and religion in upholding ethical standards and combating corruption cannot be overstated. “The influence of religion, in its essence, teaches us about morality, ethics, and the virtues of honesty and integrity. Across different faiths and beliefs, these principles remain constant. The moral compass provided by religious teachings can be a formidable force against corruption", he said.
Momoh emphasized that both the Bible and the Quran encourage young people to live lives of moral and ethical integrity, and called on religious leaders and institutions to assert more positive influence on their followers and communities, maintaining that they can mobilise the masses, shape ideologies, and instill values that reject corruption.
The event, which was marked with the relaunch and unveiling of EFCC’s Interfaith Manuals and Fraud Risk Assessment Project for MDAs, was well-attended by various political, religious, and traditional leaders, including youth groups, academia, civil society organisations, anti-corruption agencies, among others.