Fight Against Graft: Better Late Than Never
An alien to Nigeria, who has witnessed the ongoing war on corruption in the country by various anti-corruption agencies, may wrongly assume that these agencies only came into being few days ago. But such an alien may be shocked to realise that some of these agencies have been in existence here for over 10 years.
The sudden wake up from long slumber, as it were, by virtually all the anti graft agencies in the country, speaks volume and calls for a closer analysis. Nonetheless, like the saying goes, it is better late than never.
Amongst the ongoing investigations/prosecutions, I find the inquiry into the last year's Immigration Service job scam most instructive. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recently invited the former Comptroller-General of Immigration Service, David Parradang, for questions into how the Service fund was managed under his watch and possibly how job applicants were alleges extorted by the Service during the Immigration recruitment fiasco, which unfortunately claimed the lives of over 13 Nigerians.
It is instructive that the Commission is taking this step more than one year after that ill fated exercise. The implication of this delay is that the proof needed by the Commission to effectively prosecute the culprits in that despicable act might have been tampered with by those fingered in the scam. It needs, however, be stated that the Commission must do a thorough job in the circumstance, and this will include extending similar invitation to the arrow head behind that ugly incident, former Interior Minister, Abba Moro. As a matter of fact, Moro ought to have been invited first by the Commission considering the role he played thereto. No at stone should be left unturned towards bringing all the culprits in that disaster to book.
Perhaps, the allegation of witch-hunting being deployed by those currently facing anti corruption trials should not have arisen if these agencies had been alive to their duties in the days of yore. It is most regrettable that the agencies are now digging out these infractions committed many years ago. For instance, it took the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) these long years to begin the prosecution of the embattled Senate President, Bukola Saraki, over offences allegedly committed 12 years ago. Little wonder the Senate President has been capitalising on this obvious lapses to whip public sentiments. Much as one does not hold a brief for Senator Bukola Saraki, it is pertinent to state that the Bureau and other anti-graft agencies in the country hold Nigerians some explanations and apology on why it took them these years before they begin to act rightly.
However, when the years of the inactive of the anti-graft bodies and the attitude of the last regime under former President Goodluck Jonathan towards the war on corruption are juxtaposed, one may tend to justify their past dilly-dally behavior against this menace. Recall that the last regime never made pretence of its lacklustre attitude towards the fight against corruption.
It naturally follows that these anti corruption agencies would not have acted otherwise at material time, more particularly under a regime which appeared largely to have shielded corrupt persons within and outside its fold from prosecution. Nonetheless, we would expect that those heading some of these agencies, on moral and principle grounds, ought to have thrown in the towel the moment they discovered that they were being hindered from carrying out their functions.
Meanwhile, the apparant delay in prosecuting these cases should not be a ground for refusing to submit to the rule of law or trial, as some of the individuals currently facing various corruption charges want us to accept. The point is: there is no statutory limitations affecting these charges. Simply put, the fact that EFCC, CCB, ICPC, the Police and other anti-graft agencies did not, at material times, prosecute these allegations can never be an alibi to dismiss the trials as witch hunting or selective exercise or out rightly refused to submit to the courts. An attitude like this can only end up derailing the fight against the malady and return the country to her ugly past.
There is an urgent need for President Mohammadu Buhari-led administration to revive the anti corruption institutions such that they cannot only bark but it also be able to bite under any government, irrespective of who or which political party is in power. The government, therefore, needs not be deterred by the current subtle campaign by the disgruntled political class to arm twist it.
Okoro Gabriel, Esq. Lagos....