In what is regarded as a landmark judgement, a Federal High Court in Lagos held that successive governments since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, have breached the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability for failing to reveal details about the expenditure of the recovered Abacha loot, including publishing those details on dedicated website.
Presided over by Justice M.B. Idris, the court ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that his administration, the government of former President Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and former President Jonathan account fully for all recovered loot.
The judgement was delivered on a Freedom of Information suit brought by the Socio/Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), which has been unimpressed by the less transparent manner these huge recovered funds were expended, especially with regard to lack of concrete evidence that these looted funds went to the promotion of the welfare of Nigerians. I commend
SERAP and the court for this landmark judgement. It is not enough to seek foreign cooperation in the recovery of looted funds, and fail to account for those funds which were transferred to you. Which country would willing to hand over looted funds only to find that the money was re-looted bycrooks?
Did we ever care to pause and give a thought to why we are haunted by persistent negative perceptions by foreigners? Why do Western leaders hold our leaders in low esteem? Why are our leaders unconcerned about our country’s poor reputation? Why do foreign leaders hardly trust our leaders? Why do they perceive our leaders as selfish and unpatriotic?
During his official visit to Nigeria in 2000, the former United States President, Mr. Bill Clinton, told a joint session of the National Assembly that his country would support a relief for Nigeria “if we are convinced the benefits of debt relief would go to the ordinary Nigerians.” Clinton’s remark was an indictment of our greedy leaders.
Western leaders know exactly the kind of leaders we have. They know the level of corruption among our leaders and how their greed and selfishness are impeding the progress of the country. What Clinton said was the unvarnished truth, and that is why foreign leaders neither trust nor respect our leaders because of corruption.
Now my next question: was Clinton eventually vindicated? Indeed, he was! And the management of and expenditure of the recovered Abacha loot is a case in point. Nigerians have been told that the 700 to one billion dollars Abacha looted have been spent on social projects such as health, education, roads, electricity, and water. Yet, the location of these projects remains a matter of public debate because the credibility gap between what the former Obasanjo Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, claimed on paper and the situation on the ground remains scandalously wide.
Nigerians were subjected to statistical obfuscation instead of being presented with practical evidence of where these so-called social service projects were located across the country. Instead of presenting a 700 page report to Nigerians to convince them that, indeed, the Abacha loot was used for their welfare, one would have expected the former Obasanjo administration to show them concrete proofs of the locations of these so-called projects.
The Obasanjo administration should apologise to the Abachas for using them to divert attention from its own moral hypocrisy. What is the point wasting the time of Nigerians, bombarding them with stories of the billions you have recovered from the Abachas, and found yourself unable to convincingly use these funds for the welfare of Nigerians?
The scandal involving the mismanagement of the Abacha loot is worse than criminal. Are the people entrusted with the management of Abacha loot morally better than Abacha? The anti-corruption crusade of the Obasanjo administration was the biggest fraud Nigerians ever witnessed. We wasted our time hailing Obasanjo when in reality he was not transparent and sincere.
Apart from concentrating all his loot recovery efforts on the Abachas, he also demonstrated hypocrisy in the management of those funds. No government should overlook the scandal surrounding the management and expenditure of the recovered Abacha loot. In fact, the length of time is not an excuse to protect any leader from accountability. Instead of answering questions honestly, Obasanjo’s Finance Minister, Dr. Okonjo Iweala was insulting the intelligence of Nigerians by introducing diversionary issues.
For example, she attacked the integrity of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) by accusing its leaders of pursuing a political agenda. This allegation is utter rubbish. Instead of answering questions about the management and expenditure of the Abacha loot, she was seeking attack the reputation of those seeking accountability.
It is not enough to spend eight years in government holding others accountable, and then fall below the moral standard you held others. Do you need a 700 page document to tell Nigerians how you used the Abacha loot when practical proofs are enough? Do you prove the execution of projects on paper? The communities that benefited from those so-called projects are not ghosts. Nigerians should not be intimidated with sophisticated statistics on paper when all they need are practical proofs of the projects on which the Abacha loot was expended.
With the scandal surrounding the mismanagement of the Abacha loot, it is now apparent that Obasanjo’s anti-corruption crusade was smoke and mirrors. Nobody however powerful involved in the management of the Abacha loot should be spared. The Buhari administration should be courageous enough to investigate the management of the recovered Abacha loot. This scandal is too serious to be treated lightly, no matter who are involved.
Ahmed, No. NO. 58, Cairo Crescent, Wuse 2 Abuja