Past leaders to face trial for economic sabotage: AGF

By The Rainbow
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arely 24 hours after he was returned to office, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, yesterday vowed to prosecute past leaders, private individuals and corporate entities that connived to sabotage the country's economy.

This came on a day international anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, TI, raised the alarm over looters in the new cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated Wednesday.

The TI allegation got the backing of Pan-Yoruba Socio-Political Organisation, Afenifere; Northern Elders' Forum, NEF; former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Timi Frank; and Mr. Akin Osuntokun.

However, anti-corruption organisation was pooh-poohed by Second Republic Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa; and Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed.

However, in a speech delivered at an event the Federal Ministry of Justice organised to celebrate his re-appointment as the AGF, Malami warned that President Buhari's administration “cannot afford to fail on account of lawless acts of corrupt and unpatriotic few who always derive pleasure in seeing us fail as a nation.”

According to him, “the law must work; it must speak its firm language of justice at all times no matter whose ox is gored.”

Malami revealed that his first line of action would involve the prosecution of every person and institutions that engaged in what he described as underhand dealings that led to the August 16 ruling of a court in the United Kingdom that ordered seizure of $9billion in Nigerian assets.

He said: “Sadly, in spite of the spirited and concerted efforts of the current administration to combat corrupt practices and rent seeking in all its forms, Nigerians woke up on Friday, August 16, 2019, to the rudest consequences of the underhand dealings of the past administration that has resulted in the award of $9 billion against the Federal Republic of Nigeria by a British court which ruled that Process and Industrial Development Limited, P&ID, had the right to seize $9billion in Nigerian assets.

“It may interest you to know that the dispute that led to the arbitration between the FGN and P&ID which consequently resulted in the said court ruling arose from a 20 year Gas Supply Processing Agreement, GSPA, purportedly entered with P&ID by the past administration in 2010 which contract P&ID never performed as agreed.

“That being said, it must be placed on record that the Federal Government strongly views with serious concerns the underhand manners by which the negotiation, signing and formation of the contract was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration in connivance with their local and international conspirators all in a bid to inflict grave economic adversity on the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the good people of Nigeria.

“As a government that has the mandate of the people, and their interests at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished as all efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government officials, home or abroad and past or present that played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the purported agreement.”

He decried the fact that the country was bedeviled with an existential crisis of nationhood that is threatening to tear it apart, “with needless calls for separation, dismemberment and ill-motivated restructuring”, blaming it on “long years of failure of our justice system”.

He said the Ministry of Justice would rigorously pursue judicial reforms targeted at protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country, as well as promote the policy thrusts of President Buhari's administration.

Malami said the administration had in its bid to further recover proceeds of corruption, decided to fully activate the provision of section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act. 2011 (As Amended), against private individuals and corporate entities culpable of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring, hiding, removing from the shores of Nigeria, acquiring, using, retaining or taking possession or control of any fund or property they knowingly or reasonably ought to have known to have formed part of the proceeds of unlawful acts.

“As bad news to the rogues within our financial system, in the next four years, the Federal Ministry of Justice, in collaboration within anti-corruption agencies, shall be beaming anti-corruption searchlight on the financial institutions (F18) and Non Designated Financial Institutions, DNFIs, in order to make them pay dearly for the dastardly role they have played and are still playing in encouraging and deepening corruption in Nigeria.

“From arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery case to Diezani case and several others, quantitative data available to the Federal Government abundantly shows that financial institutions are directly involved in most of the major corruption cases investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, from 2015 till date”, he added.

He said the Justice Ministry would equally support the development and promotion of appropriate executive bills capable of achieving the objective of combating systemic and grand corruption ravaging the country.

“Where necessary, the Ministry shall initiate necessary executive orders to close apparent gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives currently in place in Nigeria. To compliment this, we shall be improving on the Ministry's asset recovery drive through collaboration with relevant stakeholders, and leveraging technology for greater efficiency; development of a culture of cohesive synergy among the three arms of government.''

Meanwhile, Transparency International, TI, yesterday, raised the alarm over looters in the new cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated Wednesday.

The alarm was raised by Head of Transparency International, Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, popularly called Rafsanjani, in a chat with Vanguard while speaking on the anti-corruption fight under the Buhari-led administration.

According to Rafsanjani, many people in the newly inaugurated cabinet are “professional looters” whose corrupt practices are widely known by Nigerians, hence they lack moral standing to be in the business of governance.

Rafsanjani said: “In the area of corruption, a government that comes to fight corruption is inviting people whose corruption cases are under investigation, on which they are supposed to step aside. In other places, even in Africa, when you are accused of corruption, you will resign and answer them until the investigation is over.

“But in this case, some people have even returned money and properties were confiscated but under this pretentious integrity government, you can see that they are even being appointed as ministers. It is really disheartening.

“Nigerians do not need Amnesty International to wake them up to demand for accountability in the area of human rights. Transparency International does not need anyone to tell them that the amount of looting, stealing and waste of public fund is glaring and alarming and is increasing level of underdevelopment in Nigeria.

“Continuing this bastardization of public funds, how can you have a prosperous fight against corruption with infrastructure, health care and education suffering? These are the things that the President said he has come to fix.

“With these kind of people, questionable people you have appointed ministers, you are spoiling the confidence of Nigerians to believe in any anti-corruption fight. They are celebrating questionable and are being rewarded with appointments…

“In Nigeria, we also have the obligation to draw the attention of the monumental corruption going on in the country and these things are happening at local government and state levels, and if all of us continue to keep quiet, we will continue to face the misery of life because this government claimed to have come to fight corruption and what we are seeing now from local government, state and national levels is disheartening. They cannot be fighting corruption with slogan. Slogan is not all about fighting corruption.”

We've been taken for a ride with anti-corruption bogey—Afenifere

Reacting to the TI's claim, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said Nigerians have been taken on a ride with the President's anti-corruption drive.

Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “It is a Buharicidal self-combustion that a man who rode to power on anti-corruption would appoint 43 people out of 200 million people and people don't have to scratch their heads to say “see thief, see thief, see thief.

“There is no rational explanation for this action than the fact that the country was taken on a ride with an anti-corruption bogey.”

It'll dent Buhari's war against graft – Northern Elders

On their part, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said the presence of persons being prosecuted for corruption in President Buhari's cabinet will “compromise the government's integrity credentials and dent its credibility in the fight against corruption.”

Spokesman of the Forum, Dr. Yima Sen, told Vanguard that the defence being put up by supporters of government does not hold water.

He said: “In addition to the position by Transparency International, I have seen that concern expressed by some Nigerians as well. The resultant effect would be to compromise the government's integrity credentials and dent its credibility in the fight against corruption.

“There is even the report of two ministers pairing in a ministry whereby one prosecuted the other in EFCC cases. I don't know if the government has deliberately overlooked some of these issues or if it has evidence to the contrary that the public is not aware of.

“Another argument, perhaps more legalistic than moral, could be that these cases are mere allegations and accusations that are unproven. Furthermore, it could be that there have been plea bargains unknown to the public.

“Whatever the case, corruption remains a serious threat to national development in Nigeria and if not checked could eventually destroy this country. It has become endemic, pervasive and even seems hegemonic. Additionally worrisome is the fact that this concern is applicable at the state and federal levels.”

It shouldn't come as a surprise – Osuntokun
Mr. Akin Osuntokun, Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the report should not come as a surprise.

Osuntokun said: “I have not read the details of the report. But of course, this should not come as surprise neither can it be otherwise. It is a specific extrapolation from their annual country reports which have consecutively scored Nigeria worse in corruption perception index than the predecessor government of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The devastating significance is the manner in which it has put the lie to the fictive anti-corruption posturing of the Buhari government. I have always argued that the true measure of this government is the assessment of those international organisations and agencies which have no vested partisan interest in Nigeria.

There has been no credible international organisation that has not reached similar or worse conclusion on Nigeria under Buhari. And you don't need to look too hard to see evidence. Just look at the regime of the oil subsidy finances and the escalating debt overhang that has dramatically piled up in recent years.

Look at the corruption impunity implied in the composition of the new cabinet. Not to talk of the reinforcement of the culture of nepotism as cardinal feature of government. It is the measure of the gap between reality and the false counter claims of probity and integrity. And the tragedy is that since his re-election the President has deepened rather than alleviate this syndrome.”

TI's views are cooked – Junaid Muhammed
However, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, berated Transparency International, arguing that sometimes their accusations are doctored to ridicule some people internationally.

“My experience with Transparency International is that their views are cooked within Nigeria and because it is cooked here, it always contains a lot of biases. I appreciate what they do but they have to be very careful and very transparent, otherwise they will inherit some of the politics and biases in this country.

“I could remember vividly in 1986, Transparency International declared me an international prisoner of conscience. In spite of that, I still believe they can do a better job. I do not believe in nasty generalisation.

''There is no perfection in government, Buhari has committed error in government, whoever comes after him would also commit his. But I am not bound to accept anything by Transparency International,” he said.

It's difficult to find leaders that are not corrupt in Nigeria – Balarabe Musa, Adeniran

Former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, was indifferent to the allegation, saying it was difficult not to appoint corrupt people

“It's inevitable because of the state of corruption in Nigeria. It is difficult to find leaders that are not corrupt in Nigeria. It possible but is very difficult. We should all try and expose those we know that are corrupt.”

Chairman, Centre For Anti-Corruption And Open Leadership, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, spoke in like manner, saying: “We also made the same observation but we reasoned that many of those ministers are under investigation.

''When you look at all the ministers, only a few of them don't have corruption allegations. We feel for the benefit of doubt, and because of the principle that all accused persons are innocent until proven guilty, we cannot say they are guilty.” (Vanguard)