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THE denegation of some law enforcement agents in the country has become an issue of grave concern. The veritable issue is not just about their inability to deliver optimally on their mandates; it is, more significantly, about their tendency to become a crucial part of the problems their agencies were established to solve. They seem to have developed a penchant for latching onto the privilege of being insiders within the law enforcement and security apparatuses to engage in activities that are obverse to, and capable of vitiating the accomplishment of their mandates. Just recently, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) cadet identified as Abel Isah was allegedly killed by his superior officers for refusing to sign off on the incomplete exhibits handed over to him.
Apparently, the rogue officers had tampered with the exhibits and proceeds of crime seized from some suspects and they wanted the official record of the EFCC to reflect the ‘edited version’ of the exhibits, but Isah, the upright officer, would have none of that. And for keeping fidelity to his oath of office and moral values, he was allegdely murdered by the crooked superior officers in order to cover their tracks. This is a terrible story if true: a cadet died trying to fight corruption in EFCC, which was itself set up to fight corruption! This horrific incident must have sent shivers down the spines of many a Nigerian as it points to the total breakdown of law and order even among and within the agencies expected to help society to fight corruption and maintain law and order.
EFCC, is arguably, the flagship of the various anti-graft agencies established by government to lead the fight against corruption, and to find that the same agency is at an unenviable juncture where its officers turned rogue and decided to kill one of their own to cover up their corrupt act is both disturbing and horrifying. It is indeed ironic that Isah was allegedly killed fighting against the corruption of those employed to help fight corruption for the society. This is a bad reflection on the society, not just on the EFCC, because the society would appear to permit, condone and even reward criminals who have made a ‘success’ of their deplorable enterprise. Also, the government’s lackadaisical approach to reviewing and inquiring into allegations of official corruption has been quite unhelpful. For instance, EFCC has been consistently indicted by Auditor General reports for violating financial regulations and the leadership has also been held in contempt of court, showing that the agency is not being run the right way. But there has not been any serious official reactions to or sanction for the organisation’s alleged aberrant conduct, and thus it has no incentive to shape up and strive to meet societal expectations, especially of fidelity in its official conduct. Worse still, officials of the state, especially the legislators who are the representatives of the people and who should ordinarily be at the vanguard of insistence on due process, are usually reluctant to hold the agency to account, perhaps for fear of a ‘backlash’ since they, too, are most probably guilty of pilfering from the common till.
It is nonetheless comforting to note that the EFCC has apprehended the two suspects connected to the dastardly act and handed them over to the police for further investigation. We urge the police to launch a painstaking inquiry into this felonious act and ensure proper prosecution of the case in the law court. This is very important as diligent prosecution will ensure justice for Isah and keep his memory alive in that respect. More significantly, holding the culprits to account for their murderous and treacherous act will serve as a positive indication of the readiness of the government to stamp out this kind of degeneration that would, if not checked, make a mockery of the fight against corruption in the country. We suggest that the supervisors of the EFCC officers who carried out this bizarre act of criminality should not be allowed to go unscathed even if they had no hand in the hideous activities of their subordinates. They must have created the atmosphere of indiscipline that the suspects exploited.
Perhaps if the supervisors of aberrant law enforcement agents are held liable for the actions of their direct subordinates, they will step up their supervisory and oversight functions and ensure conformance to due process at all times. It has become fashionable for law enforcement and security agents to act clearly outside their briefs and behave like outlaws. This uncivilised tendency must be reined in. And one way to check this dangerous proclivity for breaching the law, whether in the regimented services or in the society at large, is to reduce the possibility of impunity to nought. To deter criminals and would-be criminals, there must be commensurate consequences for infractions of the law. It is thus imperative for the government to always do, and be seen to be doing, all that is required to punish crimes to the fullest extent of the law.
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