Youth Urges FCT Minister, to probe JIBA over IGR

A philosophy is a thought which drives a process. This administration
came into being on the philosophy of change and change is what defies
the power of time. It has a tone and tenor which Mathematics cannot
equate. It is something that is supposed to be well-wrought and
well-thought. On our part as an organisation seeking to assist
government with the fight for transparency, accountability and good
governance, we have keyed into the ‘change’ philosophy.

Yet before we keyed into Mr. Buhari’s philosophy, we studied the
unending corruption cases in Nigeria. One of the things we found out
is that corruption is festering. What we mean by that is that nearly
all former and serving governors, senators, big bankers, and private
businesses seemed to have gone to a school where they took degrees in
the fine-art of tweaking the law and avoiding doing time. Till date,
no high-profile politician, apart from Bode George and a couple of
others have done time for stealing nearly six trillion naira. And just
the way corruption cases in Nigeria can be tweaked and bought by the
highest bidder, the one high profile case which led to the conviction
of James Ibori was reportedly tweaked as well in the UK.

Most politicians know that the rule of law supports democracy and the
mode practiced here in Nigeria. They are aware that the three arms of
government are supposed to be independent but must work together for
us all. But politicians have exploited this paradox to feather their
nests and line their pockets A report titled _Justice or Impunity_ by
Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, says that after cases involving heists in
billions were instituted, many of them are in limbo nearly a decade
after. Is it the case with Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Otunba Gbenga
Daniel, Ayo Fayose, Joshua Dariye, Aminu Turaki, Orji Uzor Kalu, Jolly
Nyame, Boni Haruna, Attahiru Bafarawa, Adamu Abdullahi, Rasheed
Ladoja, Danjuma Goje, Alao Akala and etcetera?

So the questions are: Why, why and why? Nobody can claim to have all
the answers. We don’t. But one thing we know is that the world over,
people are coming together to campaign for a paradigm shift based on
one strong conviction: there seem to be a lot of laws guiding the
prosecution of corruption but there is hardly any justice dispensed.
The laws on ground support the rich who steal billions and gets a slap
on the wrist after a lot of yak, money and time is spent with
prosecution. It is not like so with the case of the poor who probably
steals because he has to eat. Just a confession that he stole to eat
gets him more than 15years, without a corresponding punishment for the
government that either did not give him a job or did not provide an
enabling environment for him to get one.

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The paradigm shift we sought at the inception of this admin is the
non-conviction assets recovery of stolen monies, together with the
proceeds thereof. This is the contrast of the traditional systems as
enunciated above. In fighting corruption the old-fashioned way, we
unwittingly give it a chance to fight back with the monies that have
been stolen. A Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative, StAR, report
published by the World Bank and the United Nations (2007) detail how
stolen funds are ploughed back into the system through an intricate
process which transcends geography – first the monies are stolen and
invested in real estate or in offshore tax havens like the Jersey,
Panama, Bahrain, Singapore, Germany and Japan. Thereafter, the monies
find their way back into the shadows of business, likely to be used
for legitimate dealings which provide employment for our people. Until
the Panama Papers Leak, we all did not realize that very well placed
people in Nigeria, and indeed the world over, operate two sets of tax
laws which offer undue advantage and clout to the rich. But if a
politician has stolen monies stashed abroad, convicting and jailing
him won’t bring the monies back.

We recommended a Truth Commission on Corruption at the dawn of this
administration. The idea of the Truth Commission on corruption is
based on antecedents in South Africa, Australia, Nigeria, Germany,
Ecuador, Haiti, Liberia, Canada and 15 other countries. We suggested
that we could imitate the World Bank Voluntary Disclosure Programme,
VDP, which has been in operation since 2006. Simply, we give former
political office holders accused or alleged to have stolen public
monies a chance to come own up and return monies which they have
stolen Our argument has nothing to do with an ‘amnesty’ or a
‘slap on the wrist’ or a plea bargain. A corrupt person who
refuses to disclose and return funds forecloses any chance of a plea
bargain because you likely get a plea bargain only after you get a
conviction. In the VDP and on our Truth Commission on Corruption
proposal, we wanted the government to build a framework for
non-conviction asset recovery juxtaposed with the old-fashioned
methods. And as a matter of fact again, we must stress that we should
not unnecessarily get tangled with issues of amnesty or pardon for
corrupt people. We just want justice but what we have presently is
justice being delayed and denied because the justice delivery systems
in Nigeria and many parts of the world are greatly compromised. A
lawyer present at the Stakeholders Meeting on the Lingering Corruption
Trials of former and present public office holders in Enugu 5-6 May,
and organized by the DFID, said that the system of justice
administration we inherited from the British is defective and
encourages corruption. And this is even with the passage of the
Administration of Criminal Justice bill into law in 2015. We believe
him to the extent that failures being recorded in fighting corruption
come because we are so conditioned to fighting corruption the
old-fashioned way.

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We therefore introduced the non-conviction plan on the VDP aegis.
Unfortunately, it was misconstrued as an amnesty programme which would
eventually promote more impunity. We are shocked at that insinuation
and therefore took our call to Mr. President via other channels. Even
though Mr President listened, yet he seemed to have misunderstood us
as well because he inadvertently set up a Presidential Advisory
Committee on Corruption, PACC, where individuals would go to, to
confess their sins, return their loot and be asked to go sin no more.
That was not our plan. Our thinking is that he could have given us a
chance to resolve the issues we raised on critical recommendations on
the Truth Commission on Corruption with his administration. However
till date, nobody has come before the PACC to ‘confess’ and even
though we are very discouraged by this, we take consolation in the
hope that the PACC will get real serious with formulating a platform
upon which contemporary fight against corruption will commence.

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We will never ask for an amnesty for looters of public monies,
neither will we ask for a slap on their wrists. We want justice not
laws. As Mr President leads a team to the UK on an anti-corruption
Summit with David Cameron, what should be uppermost in his heart is
not despair – he was reported to have said in a Vanguard newspaper
report of May 6, 2016 that the fight against corruption was getting
tedious. Mr. President as well must not also be looking to the UK for
help with a stolen asset recovery plan. Let Mr Buhari start by
getting a network of persons across the local and international divide
– the IMF, the World Bank, and Transparency International – to put
together a truth commission on corruption in Nigeria. We believe that
this will most likely lead to the formulation of a framework for
stolen asset recovery where a voluntary disclosure programme would
form part of the technique for asset recovery. Rather than making a
case with Prime Minister Cameron or the EU for help with the return of
the Abacha Loot and all other loot, Mr. Buhari will do well to realize
that loot already returned were re-looted locally because there was no
asset recovery and utilization framework on ground. If there is a
stolen assets recovery framework on ground, it convicts Cameron and
the EU that returned loots will not be re-looted. Mr Buhari would do
well to include CSOs, and let them be an integral part in the truth
commission on corruption.

Therefore, part of our memo to the Anti-Corruption Summit is this:
let governments empower those affected by corruption, let governments
deploy digital reporting systems in complaints and reporting
mechanisms, and let us shut down all offshore centres and safe havens
around the world.