By Musa Abubakar
Insidious corruption in high places was what gave birth to the creation of agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Diligent as these agencies were meant to operate, beneficiaries of corruption in all forms began to fight back with all the foul means at their disposal. As time went on, government agents joined in assisting or conniving and indeed, abating or participating in acts of corruption.
As in a manner of institutionalisation, the federal government, in one body language or the other began selective prosecution of suspected corrupt government officials, businessmen, etc. Today, government does not seem to be firm with corruption. There exist sacred cows. Identified corrupt people are allowed to get away with the breach of the law or the perpetration of corruption and evil. When former president Obasanjo saw the need for “a fundamental reorientation within the country to build a robust culture of resistance to corruption,” less did he know that there would rather be a full blown orientation across Nigerian divide for robust culture of assistance to corruption.
If Obasanjo thought that until 2005, there was no political will to fight corruption; truth is that the will is still nonexistent. The romance between the federal government and former governors that are indicted by EFCC/ICPC speaks volumes of language that is not in tandem with reason. Again, thinking that the era where leaders’ stewardship was consigned to history books is no longer the case is truly the case. Stewardship after office has since been unexamined. His thought that history will never remove the searchlight on the conduct of those in leadership positions, as it is now, “the reliance on immunity, bureaucratic complexity and other such escape routes” is not only an option for those in leadership positions but also those outside it.
Nigeria is no longer a country “that is determined to mobilise available resources to the benefit of all” or one that is there to “challenge inherited contradictions and negative coalitions” or one that is ready to “dismantle all structures that had hitherto approved of corruption and primitive appropriation of public values and resources.” For upwards of seven years, cases against former governors, ministers, national assembly members and scores of political big-wigs pursued by Nigeria’s anti-corruption body – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), have dragged at snail-step in the watchful eyes of the international community.
As 2015 elections draws close, there now exists marriage of convenience with the accused persons trooping into a haven that they feel safe – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Interestingly, as a ruling party at the national level, the party has become has become a rescue platform for these class of people alleged to have plundered public funds running to Billions of the Nigerian Naira. Among these governors are Peter Odili (Rivers), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Orji Kalu (Abia), Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Rasheed Ladoja (Oyo) and Ayo Fayose (Ekiti). Others include Mohammed DanjumaGoje(Gombe), Aliyu Akwe Doma (Nasarawa), Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa) and BunuSherif (Borno) who is linked to the sponsorship of the dreaded Boko Haram.
Although these cases have not been determined by the courts and the suspects set free, the PDP has continued to accept them into the party with sheer show of pride. Already, Peter Odili, Attahiru Bafarawa, Boni Haruna (who was cleared by the court), BunuSherif (named as sponsor of Boko Haram) and Ayo Fayose have joined and been accepted into the PDP. Gbenga Daniel is said to be set to join in a couple of days. Chief Bode George, who was jailed for 30 months in October 2009 for an N85 billion scam in the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has returned to the mainstream politics in the PDP.
Without clearance by the courts, a noliprosecu has been entered for some accused persons by the Attorney General of the federation, the bargain according to feelings in some quarters, being the accused readiness to join the ruling party.
If there is one thing that continued to bother former governor Attahitu Bafarawa, that thing is his prosecution by the EFCC for the N13 billion public funds alleged to have been cornered by him. The exit route for him therefore is his defection to the ruling party.Here is a man that has been on prosecution by the EFCC since 2007 as a result of findings by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which indicted him for gross financial misconduct. His joinder with the PDP is seen by pundits as aimed to escape the EFCC sledge hammer.Following the indictment, the Sokoto State High Court granted leave for the prosecution of Bafarawa and others on a 47 count charge. This was with respect to specified alleged offences bordering on criminal breach of trust and conspiracy in violation of insert sections of the Panel Code Act of Northern Nigeria.
Why many of these EFCC suspects including businessmen, politicians, etc defect to the ruling party is the belief that the EFCC/ICPC cases preferred against them would be dropped and presidential pardon granted them. In return, Mr. President would be expected to enjoy their support for his presidential ambition. The suspicious manner, by which the ruling party accommodates people that have criminal cases in courts, is wrapped in both national and international shame. An ex-ICPC boss said recently that “the whole thing is suspect and it is unfortunate because you are encouraging other people to commit crimes and get away. It is the same thing with plea bargaining when you say you will return part of the money and chop the rest.”
A judge of Taraba State High court, Justice Philipus Andedur, recently took a swipe at the EFCC stressing that the anti-graft agency adopts selective justice in the prosecution of suspects. “Arraigned suspects were perhaps unfortunate people who probably were unable to interfere with investigations.” The judge disclosed this while hearing a case brought his court by the EFCC against two former NULGE officials in Yoro local government of the state. He added that those who looted large sums of money were allowed to move freely while those who stole small sums were prosecuted.
In spite of President Jonathan’s religiosity, he has continued the tyrannical abuse of power and exploitation of ethnic differences and prejudices to serve his personal ambition. Instead of demonstrating courage to tackle corruption and introduce changes and innovations that Nigeria needs, he prefers to use government agencies in a selective manner to avenge or settle old scores. The EFCC has continued to be used to target politicians who are not in the good books of the President while many that have spent their time enriching themselves are suckling to the present in the hope that he would protect them from the fate of Ibori when they leave office.
The President is more interested in rehabilitating those that have been convicted for corruption rather than ensuring that things are put in place to make it more difficult for politicians to misappropriate public funds. The likes of Niger state governor, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and his Jigawa state counterpart, Sule Lamido were rumoured to have been threatened with the EFCC. They rescinded their hitherto stand to defect with other G-5 governors to the APC.
Musa Abubakar wrote in from Kaduna.