Nigerians are in serious hope that the current war against corruption is not a rehearse of the 1983 exercise when the military led by Muhammadu Buhari overthrew President Shehu Shagari in a bloodless putsch. The regime went after the former minister of Transport, Alhaji Umaru Diko suspected to have frittered away much of the nation’s resources through the presidential taskforce on rice put in place by the Shehu Shagari administration. Umaru Dikko was to be desperately deported from Britain in a crate dubbed “Diplomatic suitcase.”
Also at that time, the military regime went after some State Governors notably among them: Late Professor Ambrose Folorunso Alli of Bendel State, Aper Aku of Benue, Barkin Zuwo of Kano, Dr. Sam Onunaka Mbakwe of Imo, Chief Jim Nwobodo of Anambra and a host others. They were tried and jailed for hundreds of years under military laws for alleged misappropriation of state funds. At that time, Former Governor Barkin Zuwo of Kano made a rhetorical but very important point. He posited that the military went after the Bus conductors of the civilian administration and jailed them for corruption but let the driver of the vehicle off the hook. Put in clear terms, the military administration ought to have arrested and prosecuted the head of that administration, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
From our chequered history that is ridden with massive corruption amongst the political elites, it does seem that former Presidents are deliberately shielded away from trial whereas they were the leaders of the various governments that have kept the nation where it is today. Their aides are the ones showcased as corrupt in the regimes they led after their exit from power.
With the arrest and prosecution of former National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan over the misappropriation and stealing of over $2.1billion belonging to the Nigerian public, and the confessions that oozed out of the former NSA and his collaborators, expectations were high that former president, Goodluck Jonathan ought to have been arrested for interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or the Nigerian Police for his role in the misappropriation of funds meant for the procurement of arms to fight Boko Haram insurgency.
Sambo Dasuki, his former National Security Adviser (NSA) was arrested by the EFCC for allegedly disbursing and embezzling money meant for security issues. Chief Raymond Dokpesi was questioned by the agency for also receiving money from the former NSA although he claimed the fund and several others. Sadly too, they claimed the money they misappropriated was money retrieved from the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s family members, that money remains the hard earned money of Nigerian people held in trust by that government.
Some of the suspects under the radar of the EFCC claimed they got approvals from then President Goodluck Jonathan on some of the expenditures. Whether oral or written, Jonathan has questions to answer just like every other suspect in the Dasukigate scandal.
Nigerians need to be serious with its war on corruption for other nations to take it serious. The war on corruption must not be for some Nigerians. All citizens are equal before the law and from elementary knowledge of the law, we are told that the law is no respecter of any person. But Nigerians are curious that our laws respects the rich and pounces on the poor with reckless impunity.
President Muhammadu Buhari must, this time around, not replay Barkin Zuwo’s words. Knowing that he declared war on corruption before assuming office, Principal Officers of the Jonathan administration fled the country and majority of them are still in hiding overseas. That in itself is a strong signal that there are more that transpired in that regime than meets the ordinary eye. The alleged fraud by the NSA is largely believed to be just a tip of the iceberg in what would have happened in that regime Nigeria must join the rest of the civilised world in its fight against corruption. Former Presidents, former governors must be properly investigated and tried and their loots recovered to serve as a deterrent for others as it happens in other climes.
For instance, after the 2010 presidential election in Ukrain, a number of criminal cases were brought against the ex- Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. On 11 October 2011 she was convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power, and sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay the state $188 million. The prosecution and conviction were viewed by many governments – most prominently the European Union, who repeatedly called for the release of Tymoshenko but the point was made that no Ukrainian was above the law.
Also, Former Mongolian President Nambar Enkhbayar was jailed four years for corruption, a charge he dubbed “groundless”. A Mongolian court found him guilty of misappropriating gifts intended for a monastery and illegally privatising a hotel along with other corruption charges, in a hearing broadcast to the nation. The court originally sentenced him to seven years, but reduced it by three years, citing an amnesty law. Enkhbayar, served as prime minister and then president for almost a decade until losing office in 2009. He was arrested in April same year in a dawn raid broadcast live on national television, tried and found guilty and consequently sentenced.
Only recently, former Israeli President, Ehud Olert was jailed for receiving bribe. Israel’s top court last week upheld a bribery conviction against former premier Ehud Olmert, which will make him the country’s first ex-prime minister to serve jail time. The 70-year-old, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2009, was sentenced in May last year to six years in prison on two separate charges of taking bribes in the early 2000s. Olmert was acquitted of the felony of taking a bribe of 500,000 shekels ($128,500/117,000 Euros), but was unanimously convicted of the felony of taking a bribe of 60,000 shekels.
In November last year, New Caledonia’s criminal court sentenced a former president, Harold Martin, to two years in jail, of which one year is suspended, over the way he awarded a large contract to an associate. The court found Martin guilty of favouritism over the allocation of a US$29-million contract to an associate, Jean-Marc Bruel. Martin was the board chairman of the publicly owned OPT telecommunications company when he defied the board to seal the deal.
The court also deprived Martin of his civic rights for five years. Bruel was given a three-year prison term plus an $80,000 fine and banned from running a business. His company has been ordered to pay a $450,000 US dollar fine and to be dissolved.
When will similar actions be seen in Nigeria? Nigeria bleeds today of corruption orchestrated by its past leaders and Nigerians are happy that President Buhari is leading the war on corruption. But more importantly, the Buhari administration must be total in the war on graft if he wants to develop the country.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Edo State.
Source: Nigerian Observer