EFCC'S GRAND INANITY AGAINST DANIEL
•Otunba Gbenga Daniel,
So, after all the huffs and puffs, the much-anticipated new corruption charges that will be filed against former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, are a grand total of - please, don't laugh - N200 million?
Can it be true that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will not have grounds for the 'grand larceny,' the N58 billion loot, that it said Daniel stole in eight years of presiding over the affairs of the state?
Recall that when the anti-graft agency arrested him sometime last year, in a sting operation that also netted in former Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala and Alli Akwe Doma of Nasarawa, Daniel was accused of stealing N58 billion. Alao-Akala was said to have stolen N25 billion while Doma's alleged theft was put at N18 billion. In effect, Daniel was the biggest thief, right?
How come that after combing the state, checking all the files, the movement of money from the Federation Account to the pillows in the Governor's Lodge, under the carpet, inside the wardrobe, and rummaging through the rooftops, the EFCC could not fork out decent charges against Daniel?
No wonder, Daniel was unimpressed that the former charges filed against him by the EFCC were quashed on technical grounds and he would have loved to have them shown for the sham that they were at full trial.
Does it mean that in spite of the braggadocio after the court threw out its case against Daniel, the EFCC was in actual fact glad that its tendentious charges were quashed on technical grounds; that the anti-graft agency knew deep down that its allegations were not supported by facts and that it was only acting on the instruction of some puppeteers?
Now that it is re-filing its charges, the EFCC suddenly realised that many of its former charges against Daniel could not hold water and it, shamefacedly, dropped them!
What happened to the charge that Daniel stole more than N4 billion from local government councils, when the total allocation to the councils for the period was far less than the money he was alleged to have stolen?
Or that Daniel withdrew $6 million from the domiciliary account of the state government with the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), and used the money to buy shares in a company, Glanvill Enthoven & Company Nigeria Limited. Yet, the proof of evidence supplied by the selfsame EFCC showed that the Naira equivalent of the sum was paid into the account of the state government that same day? And that that the money went into paying workers' entitlements in the state that year?
At what stage did the EFCC realise that those charges were false and unsupported by facts, necessitating the decision to drop them outright?
Now that the EFCC has, suo motu, dropped all those charges, what do we have as the allegations against Daniel? He stole N58 billion? No, it is not up to that? Okay, shall we say N50 billion? No? Then it must be at least N30 billion that Daniel, the 'great thief' of Ogun State stole? Not up to that again? Not even N20 billion, or N10 billion; no, not N5 billion, or N2 billion; not even N1 billion, N800 million, N700 million, N600 million; not half a billion or N400 million or N300 million, but N200 million!
This is not funny at all.
Granted, no one must defend corruption of any kind, however insignificant the sum involved. But to say that the charges that the EFCC eventually filed against Daniel, who had been presented by adversarial media to the world as perhaps the biggest thief that has ever come out of Nigeria is about N200 million, is the height of perfidy. The ludicrousness of the show of shame is underscored by the known fact the person now being accused of having stolen a total of N200m (in pieces of N7.5m, N3.2m, etc) actually declared a verified (by the Code of Conducts Bureau) assets of N6 billion as at the time he became Governor in 2003.
Yes, stealing even a dime is a crime. But the fact of the instant case is that the different amounts pieced together by the EFCC in its latest charges were transactions details of legitimate purchases of electricity generators, cranes and elevators made by companies that did business with the Ogun State Government from Kresta Laurel, a company owned by Otunba Gbenga Daniel. So because Daniel was Governor, no company doing business with the government he headed must make legitimate purchases from any company he had interest in but which he did not run when in office as Governor?
To say that the same media and the army of so-called activists have continued to lionise people who are known to have billions of Naira of public funds in their private accounts is one of the worst crimes that Nigerians are committing against themselves.
After dropping most of its charges against Daniel, the EFCC has now adopted the allegations of his adversarial successor, Ibikunle Amosun. Again, the charges would have been hilarious but for the grim nature of the circumstances surrounding them.
Counts One to 13 of the fresh charges are on alleged conversion of land to build, among others, Daniel's Asoludero Court in Sagamu, the Regeneration Church of God named after his father, also in Sagamu, Conference Hotels in Ijebu Ode, Golf Place Resort Hotels Limited in Abeokuta and the business premises of the Western Publishing Company Limited, ad nauseam. One of the charges even claims that he gave land to the Aladura Church in Remo area because of his special relationship with the church. So, it must be because of Daniel's relationship with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Deeper Life Bible Church, Mountain of Fire and Miracles, Winners Chapel, NASFAT, among others, that made him give the same concessions to those religious organisations!
You mean these are the charges of 'grand larceny' that Amosun and EFCC can get against Daniel?
Counts 14 to 19 are, perhaps, more hilarious: alleged failure to declare assets in companies while serving as Governor. One would have thought that that was the job of the Code of Conduct Tribunal! Amosun's EFCC did not file charges of illegal transfer of state funds to those companies but that he allegedly did not disclose interest in them!
Counts 20 to 38 accuse Daniel of stealing. The distaste here is not just that he is being accused of stealing a total sum that even a Local Government chairman in Nigeria will find insulting - an infra dig, something so small! - but that the former Governor is the sole suspect in the alleged crime.
Ogun State under Daniel must have been a one-man show. If not, he will not be the only person on trial for the alleged theft of the grand sum of N200 million. He must have been the one who raised memoranda for all projects and raised the vouchers for all the sums that were allegedly stolen: from the office of Governor to the Commissioners in the affected offices, then the Permanent Secretaries, down to the Directors and Deputy Directors in the ministries. Daniel must also have been the one who went to the bank to cash the sums!
One would have thought that with the bitterness that he has governed the state in the last 10 months, and his access to all security documents, Amosun would have come up with grander proofs of the wicked allegations that were hurled against Daniel during the campaigns.
For instance, it was fashionable to accuse Daniel of killing notable opposition politician, Otunba Dipo Dina, who did not share political platform with Amosun in his lifetime.
Yet, 10 months on, and with access to all information - from the State Security Services (SSS), to the Police and even the Army - the Amosun government is so criminally silent on how Daniel effected the murder of Dina and other allegations of killing he so mindlessly mouthed.
The same poser must be raised on the sundry allegations of theft of public funds. Ten months in charge of the state, does it mean that the 'grand' theft that Amosun and the EFCC can come up with is this lousy N200 million and use of land for business purposes in a state where land is still not much of a prime property?
Sure, the day is not far when many of the people who plotted these series of inanities against Daniel will openly plead for forgiveness. The only hope is that when they get round to doing so, even God the most merciful will be so minded as to accept the apology.
Aderounmu, a public affairs analyst, works with Mediagains Ltd, Surulere, Lagos.