Given former President Obasanjo’s silence over the scandal surrounding the management of the recovered Abacha loot, one was shocked at his latest bravado, calling the EFCC a toothless bull dog. Impunity feeds arrogance.
If the anti-corruption agency had invited him earlier to explain what he knew about the management and expenditure of the Abacha loot, he wouldn’t have dared the agency. It is not too late to invite him.
The alleged mismanagement of Abacha loot and the paucity of details surrounding its expenditure have demystified former President Obasanjo. His administration’s anti-corruption crusade was greeted with so much razzmatazz and moral grandstanding. Nigerians bought into the idea that the end of corruption had finally come with the election of Obasanjo as president. To prove that he meant business, he established two anti-corruption agencies – ICPC and EFCC – to deal with the issue and prosecute offenders.
Of course, Nigerians were excited thinking that it was a since attempt to rid Nigeria of corruption. However, the truth is that anything clothed in hypocrisy would soon become bare and exposed for what it is. And that was precisely the fate that befell Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade. It was a good initiative destroyed by hypocrisy.
Obasanjo was clever enough to throw dust in the eyes of Nigerians who were hailing hypocrisy in the guise of fighting corruption. In fact, to demonstrate that he meant business, Obasanjo made the recovery of the Abacha loot his biggest priority and preoccupation. And using his international goodwill, Western leaders had extended their full support to Obasanjo to recover Abacha funds kept in their private banks.
Admittedly, there was nothing wrong with launching international efforts to recover looted funds, provided there is sincerity in the efforts, and the transparency to manage the repatriated funds for the welfare of Nigerians. The problem, however, is that Obasanjo had successfully fooled Nigerians about the Abacha loot. Over one billion dollars were reportedly recovered from the Abachas, with Switzerland alone returning 700 million dollars to Nigeria. These are big funds by any standard. But why is it that the management and expenditure of the Abacha loot for the benefits of Nigerians was shrouded in secrecy, despite the huge publicity that initially greeted the repatriation of these funds?
In fact, there is a limit you can fool Nigerians. While Nigerians appreciated the efforts to recover looted funds by Abacha, it is naïve to expect them not to ask questions when they cannot have proofs of how the repatriated funds were expended on the welfare of Nigerians.
If you cannot account for the expenditure of recovered funds, can you morally justify castigating Abacha? In fact, can you claim to be better than Abacha when you cannot adequately and convincingly explain to Nigerians how you used the funds to executed social projects? Is it enough to make fantastic claims on paper of how you used the funds, but your citizens cannot verify the claims with available evidence about the physical locations of the projects on which the money was spent?
The management and expenditure of the Abacha loot has cast doubts on the sincerity of the former Obasanjo administration. How can a government that claimed to be fighting corruption be unable to satisfactorily explain to Nigerians how it spent the Abacha loot? If recovered stolen money cannot be accounted for in a transparent and convincing manner, then it makes nonsense of the entire efforts to repatriate looted funds.
Whoever thought that the recovery of the Abacha loot was the evidence to gauge the success of the anti-corruption crusade launched by Obasanjo should now feel righteously angry at the hypocrisy that greeted the management of the recovered funds. After concentrating all the loot recovery efforts on Abacha’s funds, the Obasanjo administration could not at the end of the day justify the efforts.
Obasanjo’s former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is currently facing public criticisms for claiming that the recovered Abacha loot was used on social projects such as water, education, electricity and roads, but could not cite the locations of the projects across the country. This is a big shame for a government that claimed to be fighting corruption.
The Social, Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) recently expressed dissatisfaction with the answers provided by Madam Ngozi because the names of the locations of the projects across the country were not adequately explained. The 700 page reply was merely meant to confound Nigerians with statistical claims on paper. Figures of expenditure on paper are not enough if Nigerians cannot locate these projects physically.
Having portrayed Abacha as the “worst” leader Nigeria ever had, Obasanjo should live by his own standard of claiming “better” moral credentials. It is surprising that a government that recovered billions from Abacha found itself unable to explain adequately how it managed and expended the Abacha loot. This is the worst hypocrisy we can imagine. Re-looting recovered funds makes a mockery of loot recovery efforts.
Nasamu is of No. 49 Cairo Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja