EFCC broke, can’t pay lawyers

The Federal Government’s anti-graft war, which many have dismissed as below average, may collapse as  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, one of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting  the  campaign,  is said to be broke.

Investigations by our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday revealed that the  EFCC  had been finding it difficult to meet its obligations to the  lawyers handling cases on its behalf.

The most affected are senior lawyers in charge of cases against  influential politicians/ suspects who are either involved in high profile money laundering or outright stealing.

One of the lawyers, who disclosed this to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said  he and some of his colleagues, were not happy with the turn of events.

He said that some of them had not been paid their professional fees for long, adding that this was capable of affecting their performance in court.

The lawyer said, “It may interest you to know that we have not been paid for long. I believe that  the commission is broke.”

It was also gathered that the cash crunch had seriously affected the commission to the extent that its enlightenment programmes  on radio and television stations had been suspended.

The programmes called Zero Tolerance, is used to educate Nigerians on the  evils of corruption in the society.

Apart from that, the commission needed for also uses the   programmes  to inform Nigerians about its activities and ongoing cases in court.

The presenters of the programmes, especially those on television,  interview notable people in the society on the evils of corruption.

But the inability of the commission to pay the affected stations, our correspondent gathered, made it to suspend the programmes.

A top source in the commission said, “It is painful that we could be in this mess. Imagine an agency fighting corruption to be financially incapacitated? It  is  bad.

“The programmes  we suspended were designed to project the commission and also keep Nigerians abreast of  the activities of the commission.

“But now, they are dead because we can’t pay the affected stations. We could have suspended the publication of our in-house magazine as well, but the Chairman resisted it and vowed to make sure that it  is not suspended.”

In the last edition of the magazine, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had berated those running the commission, saying  there were areas they were not doing well.

He said because of this, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Obasanjo said in the interview, which was published in the magazine, “I feel concerned about Nigeria and I will never stop feeling concerned and that’s why occasionally, I speak up.

“Even now, I am speaking up to say that all of you in EFCC, there are areas where you should be ashamed of yourselves.

“If you take an organisation which took Nigeria from level 2 to level 43 and then it starts coming down to level 34, then,  something is wrong.”

The Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, had while addressing the House of Representatives earlier this year said,“It is important to note that for 2012, we requested N21.8bn from the Budget Office of the Federation out of which only N10.9bn was allocated, representing 51 per cent of our requirement.”

He further revealed that of the N300m and N700m for Legal Services and Staff/Office Equipment Insurance Premium respectively for 2012, not a kobo was allocated.

Also, the total budget estimate of N10, 97bn  for 2012 represents a decrease of N2.87bn from that of 2011 appropriation figure of N13 85bn  or 21 per cent  thereof.

Of the N10bn acquired for the construction of the Head office in the 2012 budget, only N3bn was appropriated and as of November 21, 2012, only N1.39bn  was released.

Attempts to get an official response from  the Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, were unsuccessful as he  did not pick  calls to his mobile telephone.

Uwujaren  also did not  respond to a text message sent to him on the subject as of9pm on Tuesday.

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