This is certainly not the best of times for the immediate past Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, on whom the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has slammed an 11- count charge bordering on alleged procurement fraud and money laundering. Charged along with him is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry at the time, Mrs. Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia, and three others.
Specifically, they are accused of defrauding 676,675 Nigerian applicants of N676,675,000 (six hundred and seventy six million, six hundred and seventy five thousand Naira) through a recruitment process. The applicants paid N1000 each through an e-payment platform for their online recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Immigration Service. I personally believe that this is not true. It is only unfortunate that the exercise which was meant to emphasise in recruitment process turned sour. The issue of the procurement process and pitfalls in the presentations is a subject for future write-ups.
It is debatable what the arrest and detention of the former Minister of Interior under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was intended to achieve. There is a groundswell of reasons why the surprise move against Moro and others may have further diminished the plummeting image of the current administration. The action raises the question as to whether his current ordeals are not part of an alleged grand design to castrate and decimate leading lights within the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) camp. Otherwise how can one explain the rationale behind his current incarceration in Kuje prison at the instance of the EFCC?
First, nobody questions the fact that the ill-fated recruitment process by the Immigration Service during his tenure was a well-intentioned process that sadly derailed along the way due to accidental acts that were beyond the control of the former Minister. The resultant tragedy which rather unfortunately culminated in loss of lives is not only painful and unfortunate but an unforeseen act. It is incontestable that if the recruitment exercise had been a success story, the country would have been better for it.
One can also recall that during the time of the unfortunate incident when emotions were very high, not a few people called for the Minister’s resignation. But the Minister had his reasons for not yielding to the spur of the moment by throwing in the towel. By opting to stay on his post, he was able to play a leading role in remedying the ugly situation. Mechanisms and processes were put on steam to assuage and compensate the bereaved families and the injured applicants.
Matter of fact, if the palliative plans have not been exhaustively implemented till date the logical thing for the incumbent administration to do is to continue from where its predecessor stopped rather than make a scapegoat of former office holders like Moro.
It is a well known fact that Nigeria has for decades been facing alarming rate of graduate and youth unemployment, with the country’s percentage of jobless youths being one of the highest in the world. Such worrisome statistics were not created by Abba Moro but nevertheless remain a sad reality still staring our leaders and people in the face. The former Minister was and is not responsible for the scandalous rate of unemployment in the country that resulted in multitudes turning up at the various recruitment centres.
Nobody denies the fact that the unfortunate stampede which resulted in the death and injury of tens of innocent job seekers opened our eyes on the severity of the unemployment saga in our land. What the incumbent government ought to devote its energy to are policies and programmes that would create employment and job opportunities for the millions of school leavers roaming the streets without productive engagement.
Chasing and persecuting the likes of Abba Moro and hounding them into Kuje prison cannot solve the problems at hand. Indeed, there are many questions that are begging for answers concerning the ongoing persecution of Abba Moro: Why is his arrest and subsequent detention coming barely a week after his political god father and former Senate President, David Mark of the PDP defeated his All Peoples Congress (APC) opponent, Daniel Onjeh in a bitterly fought election for the Benue South Senatorial seat? Why was Abba Moro singled out for an orchestrated media trial and public ridicule while the key actors in the Immigration recruitment saga continue to enjoy their freedom?
Those who know Abba Moro well are unanimous that he is an upright gentleman who cannot hurt a fly. He is also a very modest person whose lifestyle is guided by Spartan discipline. The question arises as to why such a peace-loving and genial man should be so crudely harassed and hounded into prison for an alleged offence that can hardly stand the test of time. It is however worthy of acknowledgement that the former Minister’s has been granted bail on self recognition and we doff our hats for the Presiding Justice of the High Court for that sound judgment. No doubt, his detention was anomalous and has further lent credence to the allegation that the rave of arrests and hyped up trials of a section of the political elite is aimed at humiliating, intimidating and silencing the leaders of the main opposition PDP.
All considered, while Abba Moro Abba Moro cannot be said to be a saint, he is definitely not a villain. In the present circumstance, he may well fit the bill of a victim. He meant well for his country and fellow citizens. It is unfortunate that lives were lost following stampedes during the aborted recruitment exercise but the current haunting and detention of Abba Moro is unjustified and reprehensible the issue of the Procurement Process and pit holes in this presentation so far will be addressed.
Mr. Osuji writes from Mpape District, Abuja