Politics & Governance

EFCC, Bello And The Peril Of Mob Mentality In the Battle Against Corruption

By Seun Johnson

The ongoing saga between the former Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has underscored the reason to address the danger of succumbing to mob mentality in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

That the agency has been misfiring from all cylinders in the quest to arrest and prosecute public officials suspected of corrupt practices in office, is no longer a fresh issue for public discourse; the mob mentality and inconsistencies that have greeted Bello’s trial in the last few weeks appear to be the attention-grabbing debate among elite Nigerians who are keenly following the matter.

This development is not only constituting a topic for political and social analysts to dissect in the media but has also made the case more complicated and complex for an average Nigerian to understand.

According to the commission, the former governor alongside his nephew, Ali Bello, and two others is being prosecuted for diverting over 80 billion naira belonging to Kogi state for private use. He allegedly committed the crime months before he was sworn in as governor of the state in 2016.

Following the end of his tenure in January this year, the anti-graft agency moved to arrest him after claiming the former governor had refused to honor an invitation to appear in its office at Abuja. Bello and the residents of his Benghazi Street in Wuse were placed under siege by the EFCC officials. The move ended in futility.

Concerned by the failed arrest, the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede convened a Press Conference in Abuja and told journalists that the former governor transferred 720,000 dollars to American International School to clear his child’s school fees upfront while he was still in office. The school management in a response to the trending report clarified that the payment was made in 2021, barely two years into Bello’s second tenure, and that the money was paid by his family members, not the former governor.

These conflicting allegations and contradictory reports have further fueled the calls by many Nigerians, demanding the urgent need for the anti-graft agency to critically review its strategies in dealing with corruption cases, especially those involving high-profile Nigerians.

One of those holding this view is the former presidential aspirant under the People’s Democratic Party, Chief Dele Momodu. In a recent Instagram Live Show, Momodu lampooned the commission over how it handled Yahaya Bello’s case, questioning the rationale behind the curiosity in prosecuting the former governor by the EFCC without carrying out its due diligence.

In his words: “When you said a man took out the money and paid for his children’s school fees, just as he was about to leave power, and you go and check the documents and you see that these things started happening from 2021, 2022. I am not illiterate.

“How do you expect me to believe everything they said when they were too much in a hurry to prosecute him that they did not take their time to check the file? Once you allow a lacuna in law, everything will fall flat.”

Allegations of corruption against public officials are serious matters that demand a thorough investigation and, if warranted, prosecution. However, the rush to judgment fueled by sensationalism, political rivalry, or public outcry can undermine the integrity of the prosecuting agency and jeopardize the rights of the accused.

The EFCC, as a law enforcement body, is tasked with investigating financial crimes and holding public officers accountable. However, its credibility and effectiveness will be threatened when it seems to be operating under the influence of public opinion or political pressure. The perception of bias or selective targeting tends to erode public trust in the agency’s ability to impartially uphold the rule of law.

Similarly, the perception of mob mentality among the public can lead to scapegoating, and the circumvention of legal procedures. Social media platforms, in particular, have amplified the spread of misinformation and the proliferation of baseless accusations, creating a toxic environment where individuals are tried and convicted in the court of public opinion without due process.

In the case of Yahaya Bello, it is essential to separate allegations from facts and allow the legal process to run its course. While the EFCC has a duty to investigate allegations of corruption, it must do so within the ambit of transparency, professionalism, and adherence to constitutional principles. Premature judgments and character assassinations only serve to undermine the credibility of the anti-corruption campaign and perpetuate a culture of impunity.

Also, the fight against corruption requires more than just punitive measures; it demands systemic reforms, institutional strengthening, and a culture of accountability across all sectors of society. Effective anti-corruption strategies must address root causes, such as weak governance structures, lack of transparency, and impunity for the powerful.

Ultimately, the peril of mob mentality in the fight against corruption lies in its potential to subvert the very principles it seeks to uphold. Instead of resorting to witch-hunts and trial by public opinion, EFCC must reaffirm its commitment to due process, the rule of law, and the presumption of innocence. Only then can we build a society where justice is served impartially, and corruption is truly eradicated.    

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Seun Akin

Seun Johnson is a professional journalist and proficient media strategist with over 10 years of consistent work experience. He is Verse in content creation and versatile in editorial administration with a deep knowledge in digital, print and broadcast journalism.

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