The recent scandals relating to recovered and re-looted public funds is mind-boggling requiring some introspection. It would be recalled that before the creation of special anti-corruption agencies, the police was in charge of investigation and prosecution of corrupt suspects. Of course, Nigerians were not satisfied with th poor result as corruption grew more and more. But with the creation of ICPC and EFCC by the administration of former President Obasanjo administration, there seemed to be a reprieve.
Notably, when prosecution of corrupt suspects was taken away from the police to special agencies to deal with, Nigerians were excited. In fact, even the international community was impressed by that effort and pledged to cooperate in the recovery of looted funds kept abroad by corrupt public officials in Nigeria.
The recovery of the Abacha loot, for instance, was the first major efforts of the former Obasanjo’s government meant to return stolen funds kept in foreign banks. And Obasanjo was lucky that Western leaders cooperated with his administration to return looted funds. Nigerians commended his government for the effort. Unfolding events, however, indicate that we have exaggerated our expectations and placed our confidence wrongly. Loot recovery is not enough if Nigerians cannot be convincingly informed how the Abacha funds were used.
Western governments agreed to help Nigeria to recover stolen funds on the understanding that the repatriated funds would be applied to the welfare of Nigerians. As it turned out, their confidence was misplaced. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the management of the Abacha loot is one of the biggest national scandals of recent memory. The Abacha loot benefited Nigerians only on paper.
Former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who served Obasanjo in the same capacity, appears to be determined to confuse Nigerians with statistical claims on paper. In fact, SERAP told her it was not satisfied with her responses to the effect that the Abacha loot was used on health, electricity, water, education and projects. These fantastic claims are only on paper. There is a paucity of physical proofs of the location of these projects anywhere in Nigeria. How come
social services remained pathetic and public infrastructure left in deplorable state, despite the fantastic claims of using the Abacha loot for the welfare of Nigerians? Nigerians cannot pinpoint the location of these so-called social projects. Releasing 700-page document to explain the expenditure of the Abacha loot is merely a diversionary ploy. Do we need a 700 page document to tell us where you claimed to have done those projects?
The management of the Abacha loot is a big moral blow to the claim by the former Obasanjo administration of fighting corruption. What is the point recovering looted funds and then fail to tell Nigerians how the repatriated funds were used for their welfare? In fact, the credibility of the former Obasanjo administration is at stake as far as the management of the Abacha loot is concerned. Accountability is not only about recovery looted funds, but it is also about honest management of repatriated loot. How can you claim to be fighting corruption when you cannot convince Nigerians how you managed those huge funds?
In fact, an estimated 700 million to 2 billion dollars were recovered from the Abachas. These figures are big enough by any standard to bring socio-economic transformation in Nigeria. If there are no adequate and satisfactory answers to how the Abacha loot was used for the welfare of Nigerians, it means that loot recovery efforts were a waste of time and resources.
Those who cannot adequately explain how the Abacha loot was honestly used for the welfare of Nigerians have no moral ground to ask the Western governments to help them return stolen monies. If the Abacha loot was diverted to purposes that have got nothing to do with the
welfare of the citizens, then those responsible should be invited by the EFCC to account for every penny recovered from the Abachas. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission should spare nobody in the investigation to find out how the Abacha loot was managed and spent.
In fact, nobody is too big to be above accountability. Former President Obasanjo has questions to answer. Therefore, he and his former Finance Minister owe Nigerians explanations about the fate of the Abacha loot. Fighting corruption is not enough without asking questions about the management and expenditure of repatriated funds.
Achimugu, a political commentator, lives at No. 78, First Avenue, Gwarimpa Housing Estate, Abuja