* Is the crusade lopsided?
The global acclaim for the anti-corruption efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari remains as encouraging as it is motivating for the All Progressives Congress, APC federal administration. The same goes for the record recoveries of looted monies and landed properties being recovered from hitherto, untouchable serving and rested public servants.
Lagos-based anti-corruption crusader, Martins Osemeikhian holds strongly that “corruption may not be about stealing public funds. It covers bypassing processes for shortcuts or preferences which approved due processes would not permit.” He thus told Nigerian Pilot that “it is only when you see corruption in this light that you will realize the magnitude of the Nigerian problem because there is corruption everywhere, especially in government.”
No doubt, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Directorate of State Security, DSS as central to the huge progress made in the foregoing respect, complement the administration’s drive to prosecute the peculiar war.
But against the backdrop of the maxim that no ox would be gored in the war against corruption, Nigerians are taken aback by the fact that inspite of public outcry and related revelations about some Buhari appointees, they still work free in the land bestriding Nigeria’s political terrain without caution, fear or remorse.
Put together, Nigerians are asking why most of the identified allegedly corrupt persons remain free, and even dictating modicum of behavior to other saner fellow Nigerians.
Rotimi Amaechi/Ogbonnaya Onu
Till date, the former Rivers state governor remains a record holder in the number of times his name has recurred and continues to recur in alleged corrupt practices.
Take the Rivers State government white paper of October 9, 2015 demanding the immediate prosecution of the former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and all persons involved in what the government called fraudulent transactions for instance.
F ollowing the report of the 30-day sitting of the Justice George Omeregi – led Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the sale of state assets the state’s Attorney-General was mandated to start all legal processes against the former governo r. Amaechi; a former military administrator of Rivers State, Brigadier Anthony Ukpo ( r td) and some other former political office holders to refund over N 97 billion allegedly misappropriated in the sale of the state valued assets.
Further to its vow that the issues of illegality against Amaechi and other indicted persons cannot be swept under the carpet , the state government gazetted the White Paper and caused copies to be dispatched relevant government agencies, embassies and President Buhari . But one year after, Amaechi works free as a minister and APC’s chief enforcer of sort.
However, like a sore thumb, Amaechi’s name and acts inimical to the cardinal anti-corruption objective of the Buhari administration continues to be thrown up.
Early in the week, Supreme Court Justice Inyang Okoro alleged that Amaechi and the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom, Umana Umana tried on separate occasions to bribe him in order for him to invalidate the outcome of the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom.
Justice Okoro was one of two Justices of the Supreme Court targeted by agents of the Department of State Security (DSS) in a recent operation against allegedly corrupt Judges, stated this in a letter he wrote to the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The Supreme Court Justice alleged that his ordeal was possibly tied to Amaechi’s visit to his residence, alleging that the minister “said that the President of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress mandated him to inform me that they must win their election appeals in respect of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom State and Abia State at all costs.” Justice Okoro also claimed that Amaechi stated that he “sponsored Umana Umana, candidate of All Progressives Congress for that election and that if he lost Akwa Ibom appeal, he would have lost a fortune.”
He wrote: “Mr. Amaechi also said that he had already visited you and that you had agreed to make me a member of the panel that would hear the appeals. He further told me that Mr. Umana would be paying me millions of naira monthly if I co-operated with them.”
According to Justice Okoro in the October 17, 2016 letter, he had told Amaechi “that it does not lie within my power to grant his request and that I would do all within my power not to be on the panel for Akwa Ibom State,” adding that the CJN “graciously left me out of the panel for Akwa Ibom State.”
Few days later, a second Supreme Court Justice, Sylvester Ungwuta accused Amaechi of attempting to manipulate him to rule in favour of the ruling APC in an election dispute. Apart from accusing Amaechi of plotting to manipulate him to rule in favour of the APC in the Ekiti election dispute, Ungwuta also accused the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, of also seeking his help.
The two accusers, Messrs. Okoro and Ungwuta, are the most senior among the seven judges arrested recently for alleged corruption by the DSS.
Amid other allegations, observers wonder what Amaechi is still doing in public office especially under Buhari’s administration with anti-corruption as its peg. The same worries go for Onu too.
He was the all-powerful Principal Private Secretary to immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan. By his sheer ability to out-maneuvre established procedures and schedules, Tukur literally ensured he became the neck that turned Jonathan’s administration to whatever direction that pleased his whims and caprices.
Last May 17, anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested Tukur allegedly in connection with the release of some funds by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
According to one source then, Tukur was grilled over night in respect of the release of funds by ONSA.
“These funds have nothing to do with the procurement of funds but certain operational funds. The ex-Principal Private Secretary had been under investigation in the last few months on the arms cash allegedly disbursed to them for campaign purposes and counter-insurgency initiative with Boko Haram,” the source said.”
But there was no relief of any sort among stakeholders in the government who hold that Tukur knew much more than he was grilled for by the EFCC. They argue that the former PPS was central to lots of “whatever allegations of improprieties being leveled against the Jonathan administration and many of his aides. They thus wonder why he still walks free in the current dispensation.
“He was quizzed for one night and released. That is worrying for a man that wielded enormous powers while he was PPS to Jonathan. He was neither charged to court nor did EFCC alert anybody on their findings the way they did and are doing with others. He was defacto president and should not be as free as he is today,” said a worried presidency source.
In 2009 when the former Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Inde Dikko mounted the saddle following his appointment by the then president Umaru Yar’Adua, not a few petitions followed the development. While some questioned his competence and integrity, the most damning alleged that he had falsified his academic record.
Even as the new Customs helmsman laboured to extricate himself from the allegations, documentary evidence and the records at some of the institutions which Inde claimed to have attended, allegedly proved conclusively that he was being economical with the truth.
Like a leopard that does not change its colour, the former CG, Customs allegedly lived up to the billing when he was arrested during his retirement over the source of funds with which he acquired his Abuja mansion.
Though there were no indications that the charges against Dikko were totally dropped, it was gathered that the ex-Customs boss was released days later and reportedly returned to his N2bn Abuja mansion.
Instructively, by the time the Jonathan administration was leaving of May 29, 2015 Dikko had reportedly amassed properties estimated at billions of naira across the world using the notorious Vaswani Brothers as agents of buying properties abroad while a senior Customs officer supervised his deals at home.
“His landed properties in Lagos, Kano, and Abuja alone are in the region of billions of naira,” said one source. “When you add these to the 200 or so exotic cars he recently moved from his Zaria/Funtua home and the millions of hard currencies he is believed to have stashed both in foreign banks and in different houses in Nigeria, it becomes evident and undisputed too that Mr. Inde is by far the richest Customs CG Nigeria has ever had,” he added.
But today, Dikko remains a free man.
Lopsided anti-corruption war?
Increasingly, more and more Nigerians, especially those of the opposition political parties argue that the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration is lopsided. They argue that its effectiveness depends on the political camp to which a person belongs.
“You see the increasingly safer way out nowadays is to belong to Buhari’s party and make a loud noise about it. Or if you hail from the North especially the North West, then you can always eat your cake and still have it,” retorted the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP not too long ago.
Last month, national president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Dr.Felix Omobude described the anti-corruption crusade being championed by President Muhammadu Buhari as lopsided, saying it is shrouded in secrecy as Nigerians were not aware of what is behind the veiled activities of the EFCC.
Omobude who disclosed this in Lafia, Nasarawa state at a press conference said the church was worried that the anti-corruption fight was targeted at selected persons as some politicians who defected from their political parties to a particular party became saints overnight despite their proven track record of involvement in corrupt activities.
“It is worrisome that some people who defected to a particular political party are now putting blames on one political party which does not make sense to us as a church,” he said.
The cleric noted that the church was not in any way against the fight against corruption but insisted that the fight must be holistic if the desired result must be achieved.
What easily passes for a new definition for corruption was thrown up recently following the celebrated raid on the houses of Judges by operatives of the DSS. Affected Judges described the incident as some set-up designed to discredit them by some powers that be. So far, the names of Amaechi and Onu have been mentioned.
Justice Okoro’s letter to the CJN on the raid gave an insight.
According to him, he received a phone call around 9 p.m. on Friday, October 7, 2016, the unknown caller claiming to be from the Presidency and to have a letter from President Muhammadu Buhari. However, on opening the door, the judge remarked that he “saw so many heavily armed men with an inscription ‘DSS’ on their uniform,” adding that one of them, dressed in mufti, announced that they had to search the house. Justice Okoro said the agents dismissed his appeal that he’s allowed to inform the Chief Justice of Nigeria, adding that the agents then seized his phone.
The account said the agents spent more than four hours searching his residence, including the boy’s quarters and all official vehicles. Justice Okoro said the search, which ended about 1.30 a.m., yielded one IPad, three telephones (only one active), $38,800, N3.5 million, and four cheque books.
“Also, the DSS operatives informed me that their Director-General wanted to see me that night. I requested to visit their office upon the break of the day but they refused. In view of the presence of the heavily armed men who accompanied them and who were pointing their gun at me from all angles, I had no choice than to follow them to their office that night. I was detained by them in their office till Sunday, 9th October, 2016 and upon your Lordship’s intervention that Sunday, they released me in the evening of that Sunday,” wrote Justice Okoro. He remarked that the DSS agents also brought other serving and retired judicial officers to their office.
He disclosed that, before his eventual release, the DSS agents asked him to make a statement regarding the money found in his house. Justice Okoro explained that the foreign currency was the leftover from the sum of $24,000 and £10,000 a year he has received each of the past three years as annual medical/vacation allowances, explaining that he had not spent more than £5,000 on each of three trips abroad. “I was entitled to have more than the amount recovered from me. Put differently, My Lord, the money was the balance of my estacode received from this court for the past three years. This is quite outside the estacodes I have received for the International Conferences I have so far attended since joining the bench of this court,” said the judge.
Bottom line of the Judges account was that the huge sum of monies allegedly recovered from his house was a frame-up by the DSS.
To continue to have government security officials and their leadership who plant incriminating evidences on Judges for whatever reason many respondents told this newspaper portends danger to the nation, Buhari’s administration and democracy. They want those responsible identified and dealt with appropriately.
Although there were speculations during the week that President Buhari may have decided to reshuffle his cabinet in line with current developments, many are still worried. One of such is the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB which has flayed President Buhari as well as the APC for supporting Amaechi in inducing the judges to deliver election cases against the governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states.
The organisation in a statement signed by their spokesman, Emma Powerful yesterday, described the alleged inducement of judges to thwart justice as a corruption of unimaginable magnitude, adding, “this is corruption in the highest order and the president is shielding him and others whom his is using to distract the people of old eastern region.
“The All Progressives Congress party is a group of corrupt clique who are bent to ruin the country, if not so, why the government still appointing the corrupt people while they are good and transparent people in Nigeria?,” the statement further said.
“Amaechi Chibuike as a corrupt man is an errand boy to the Aso Rock who shared money to judges to deliver cases in favour of president Buhari and APC party in Nigeria.
“In the same vein, Amaechi Chibuike and co were used to share money to justice John Tosho to jail Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and others who were detained illegally alongside with him before he was pushed out of the case by the judicial commission based on the petitions written by IPOB and the leader, Prophet Nnamdi Kanu.
“He used the Rivers State funds to finance the campaign for APC party and government that brought hardship to the people of Nigeria against his brother Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015 general election.
“The fight against corruption in Nigeria is a system where government of the day uses to torment the opposition group who say whatever evil the government and the APC party does and committed.
“Therefore, the government and the givers of bribe are corrupt because the law says that he who gives and he that takes bribes are both corrupt and it is dangerous for the government to still retain those corrupt people, if the government still believes in fighting corruption with high level of transparency,” the statement further pointed out.