Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde has described the media as a significant ally in the fight against corrupt practices. He said this on Monday, October 28, 2013, in Lagos at a capacity-building workshop for media practitioners organized by the EFCC.
According to Lamorde, the task of fighting economic and financial crimes was painstaking and broad-based and should be embraced by all strata of the society with the media serving as channel of communication and enlightenment.
His words, “Without a doubt, the media is a critical stakeholder in the anti-graft war. With your pen, you could make or mar the fight against economic crimes and corruption. The media’s potential to inform and educate the people is crucial for us. We believe that on our own, we cannot win the war against corruption without a buy in by the people. This is where the support of the media comes in. We need the media to help sensitize the people on the ills of corruption and economic crimes”.
Lamorde, who was represented at the event by the Director of Operations, Mr. Olaolu Adegbite, cautioned the media against stereotype in reporting economic and financial crimes. He particularly referred to some issues in sections of the media concerning the profiling of the EFCC that he considered to be less than desirable. Such issues pertain to the allegation of selectivity of the EFCC in the discharge of its duties and its purported dwindling effectiveness. Lamorde took exemptions to the charges and advised such sections of the media to be more factual and objective in their reporting of the EFCC.
“The notion that only those who have fallen out of favour with the powers that be are touched by the Commission, that the Commission has gone to sleep, are unfortunately the creation of the media. Even in the midst of contrary evidence, a section of the press have been so swayed by these stereotypes that they are unwilling to shift their gaze.” He challenged the media to hone its investigative skills more and always verify facts before publishing any story about corruption and economic crimes because of their sensitive nature.
At the workshop, participants raised various issues, especially as it concerned the challenges inherent in the reportage of corruption cases. One of the resource persons and group managing director of Leadership newspapers, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene, advised journalists to cultivate the virtues of trustworthiness and responsibility in the reporting of financial crimes. He noted that the issue of indictment of individuals for corrupt practices was serious and delicate and facts must be ascertained by journalists before reports are used. “The EFCC could invite anyone to its office for several reasons. It is important to find out the basis for every invitation before reporting such individuals. Even if the invitation is about an investigation into a case of corruption, it is still not enough to stigmatize or label such an individual as corrupt. It is only a court of competent jurisdiction that can pronounce anyone guilty or not”, he said.
Editor of the Guardian, Martins Oloja urged Journalists to shun the culture of fictionalized news reporting but rather to stick to the facts of events for the benefit of society.
Addressing the challenge of digital convergence and the pressure it brings to bear on journalists, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, Managing Director of Premium Times, in his presentation, New Tools for Economic and Financial Crimes Reporting, said while the new media has been condemned for its viral nature and lack of verification, it has also added great value to news coverage and increased access to information.
Mr Simon Kolawole, publisher of Cable Newspaper and former Editor of Thisday, cautioned journalists reporting economic and financial crimes against stereotypes. To avoid this, he challenged journalists to be hardworking, incisive, probing and penetrating in their reporting. He also encouraged journalists to cultivate the skills of analytical reporting and steer clear of stereotypes
He admitted that censorship was real but for journalists that are hard-hitting and investigative, it would be hard to “kill” their report. “No matter the censorship, there are stories and scandals that cannot be killed”, he said.
Chief of Staff to the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Oladele faulted the media for feeding the public with misleading information that the EFCC had gone to sleep and was no longer getting convictions especially of politically exposed persons. “The EFCC investigates, and if the case is worth going to court, the matter is then charged to court, and its then left to the court to decide if to convict or not”, he said.
Journalists from the print, electronic and social media attended the workshop.