By Fredrick Nwabufo
“The law is an ass.”
This aphorism rings aloud the manipulation of the law by the rich and powerful. At a point in Nigeria, some politically exposed persons procured orders of “perpetual immunity” from prosecution. At another point, the trial of some former state governors sputtered in court, outliving administrations. The fact is, the law has always been an “ass”, routinely used and abused by the political class.
The EFCC investigation of the Rivers state government has thrown up some searing issues about the fight against corruption and the law.
According to reports, Peter Amangbo, MD of Zenith bank, made some startling confessions about alleged suspicious withdrawal of N117 billion by the Rivers state government.
For the sake of clarity, here is what an EFCC detective was reported to have said about the transactions.
“The bulk of the money was collected by one official over the counter with as many as 45 to 50 cheques issued in one day. The records retrieved showed that on June 8, 2015, about N450million was cashed over the counter through 45 cheques with each cheque worth N10million.”
“The same thing was done on June 9, 2015 when N500million was cashed in bit of N10million. There is no record of what the cash was used for.
“There is a case of money laundering which we cannot gloss over. And it is good that the MD of Zenith Bank has admitted that the bank did not report the suspicious transactions. Our detectives are making progress and the nation will soon be briefed on the findings of the EFCC.”
However, instead of submitting his government to the anti-corruption agency for investigation to dispel the allegations, Nyesom Wike, Rivers state governor, is resorting to a fisticuff. He is relying on a purported 2007 judgment precluding the state government from probe by the EFCC.
But should impunity be allowed to reign? Is the “judgment” now an open-sesame to “recondite transactions”?
Also, the governor described the EFCC probe as a “witch-hunt and media trial”. Sadly, this has become the refrain of politically exposed persons facing corruption investigations or trial. So, every EFCC investigation is a witch-hunt?
He said the EFCC had no power to probe his government, and that the “media trial” will fail. This is clearly an extra-terrestrial complex, and a dictatorship of opinion.
“We are not afraid of their probe and they have no power to probe us. No government official will appear before the EFCC until they set aside the court judgment of Rivers state government against them in 2007. We cannot be intimidated.”
What is Wike afraid of? Why is he reclining on the judiciary to stave off a legal investigation? Is the allegation that he has compromised some judicial officers then true?
And why the aggression?
For example, it was an open secret that Wike supported Senate President Bukola Saraki during his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and subsequent cases in other courts in a combative and pre-emptive manner, as if the trial was a war. Little wonder Saraki paid him a visit after his acquittal by the apex court?
The governor only accentuates these allegations and stretches the imagination of credility when he stone-walls legal investigations.
The Rivers State government will be treading the path of honour if it gives space for diligent investigations, and also if it disproves these allegations.
Fredrick is a media personality. He can be reached on Facebook: Fredrick Nwabufo; Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo