Since 1999, the loot recovery efforts appear to have been concentrated on the recovery of the Abacha loot. Every press conference addressed by the successive governments was telling Nigerians how much they had recovered from the Abachas. In fact, the Abachas are the most investigated and pursed as far as loot recovery efforts are concerned. I have no problem with that because stolen public money by anybody should be coughed out back into the national treasury.
It is naive, however, to believe that corruption ended with the death of
General Sani Abacha. Does it mean nobody stole money under the former
President Obasanjo administration? What efforts (if any) did the former
Obasanjo administration make to recover looted funds kept abroad by other Nigerian kleptocrats under his government? Why was Obasanjo not interested in the billions of dollars stolen by members of his own administration? Why didn’t he tell Nigerians how much he had recovered from members of his own administration?
It would be a huge joke to pretend that the war against corruption should begin and end with the recovery of the Abacha loot. The Washington-based
Global Integrity Group, a transparency watchdog, reported that 229 billion dollars were fraudulently transferred out of Nigeria by corrupt officials from 1999 to 2010. Obasanjo’s reign witnessed the fastest rise of public office holders to overnight prosperity without any signs that the monies were acquired legitimately.
Why didn’t we see sincere efforts by the former Obasanjo administration to launch international legal efforts to trace and recover stolen funds kept in foreign banks by other Nigerian public office holders? Let nobody be deceived that corruption ended in Nigeria with the death of Abacha. If it did, President Buhari would not make it an issue of his election campaign.
Nigeria is a country full of contradictions. Here was a President who established the EFCC and ICPC to demonstrate his commitment to fighting corruption. But, surprisingly, he became an overnight multi-billionaire eight years after leaving office. His Ota farms were in ruins when he was in jail. But the farms started making thirty million naira every month after he became President in 1999.
Did Obasanjo have a magic formula for making money? The former Minister of Defence, General Yakubu Danjuma, told The Guardian newspaper in February 2008 that Obasanjo “was stone broke” when he came out of jail in 1998. He expressed disbelief at Obasanjo’s sudden wealth. Today, Obasanjo has a private University to call his own in addition to other huge and incredible investments. Besides, he used his office to collect donations from private businessmen, state and local governments for his Private Library Project.
Selective anti-corruption crusade will defeat the spirit of loot recovery in the country. You cannot claim to be fighting corruption when the sources of your own wealth are causing public concern. The Coalition Against
Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), led by a Lagos lawyer, had written repeated petitions to former EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu, asking him to investigate how Obasanjo made his billions overnight.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Ribadu didn’t pick up the challenge because he was appointed by Obasanjo. It is insulting to the intelligence of Nigerians to concentrate loot recovery efforts on the Abachas. One is not defending stealing by anybody, but it is not acceptable either to give the impressions that corruption began and ended with Abacha.
While the former Obasanjo administration was enthusiastically telling
Nigerians about the recovery of the Abacha loot, why didn’t his government show the same interest in recovering other looted funds? Why was his administration entirely interested in the monies taken by Abacha and treated other cases of looted funds with indifference?
Can we fight corruption in this way? Former President Obasanjo locked down former Habib Bank (now Keystone Bank) in search of billions allegedly stolen by Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Did he do so because Atiku was the only one that he thought was corrupt? But he had other motives other than fighting corruption; he was after Atiku because the former Vice President sabotaged his third term project.
Such was the pattern of Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade. He was more interested in monies stolen by his perceived opponents. He was not interested in what others stole as long as they were his loyalists. You cannot fight corruption with this kind of insincerity. Nigeria should recover all looted funds by anybody instead of concentrating the efforts on Abacha and other perceived enemies of Obasanjo. In fact, no nation can fight corruption and pursue loot recovery with credibility when the man at the centre of the effort cannot explain the sources of his sudden wealth.
No. 103 Gwarimpa Hosing Estate Abuja