NIGERIA: A NATION SUBMERGED BY CORRUPTION
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 may as well turn out as one of my worst days not necessarily because of any personal loss but a cover picture in the PUNCH newspaper of that day which shows some of the high profile suspects in Nigeria's largest modern day heist of public fund running to over N32 billion smiling broadly while being ushered into the Federal High Court premises in the Abuja Division,. This was my source of sadness and unprecedented trepidation.
That cover photo in one of Nigeria's leading newspapers has once more thrown up a national question whether Nigerians have lost our collective sense of shame and opprobrium. Have we as a people lost our national conscience so much so that persons in high offices caught red-handed helping themselves with public funds as sacred as pensioners' money could afford to shamelessly smile their ways into our nation's courtrooms and walk out of that same court, armed with a reprehensible verdict of bail, guaranteeing them some modicum of freedom?
What this cover photo conveys to the younger generation is that theft of public funds is permissible and that, in fact, those caught in the criminal and treacherous act of diverting pensioners money only need to have saved enough cash out of the prying eyes of the heavily compromised operatives of the Nigerian security community and use same to hire the services of some of the best senior lawyers in Nigeria to seek to escape punishment in accordance with the due process of the law.
Ironically, only few days before these high profile government officials were granted bail by Justice Abubakar Talba on very liberal grounds, some very senior lawyers were engaged in a battle of wits and quarreled over legal representations for these key suspects that included a serving Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Atiku Abubakar Kigo; Esai Dangabar; Ahmed Inuwa Wada; John Yakubu Yusufu; Veronica Uloma Onyegbulam and Sani Habila Zira. But why is it that Nigerians did not turn out in their large numbers to attend these court sessions to show public disapproval of this alleged brazen act of criminal breach of trust committed by these high profile government officials?
Why has President Jonathan not shown the indicted officials the way out by dismissing them or at least suspending them from their official functions pending conclusion of the cases against them? Is the government unaware of the extent of damage that the repeated mention of the title of Permanent secretary in the media as a prime suspect in this monumental case of heist will bring to the institution of government? Have government officials, including President Jonathan, lost their collective conscience and sense of shame so much so that the Federal Government still keeps suspects accused of the most horrendous of economic crimes on the payroll funded by taxpayers? To even find out that this bail granted these alleged pension fund thieves happened about the same period that the Federal Government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, lost more than half a dozen high profile anti-graft cases such as the prosecution of some former public office holders over the Halliburton bribery scandal that ran into several hundreds of millions of United States Dollars and the throwing away by the Federal High Court, Lagos Division headed by Justice Charles Archibong of the criminal prosecution by the State against erstwhile indicted Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, who incidentally appeared on the cover page of The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria of Tuesday April 3, 2012 smiling from ear to ear over his pyrrhic victory.
Dissatisfied with the lacklustre approach allegedly adopted by the powerful prosecution team made up of the current National President of the Nigerian Bar Association Mr. Joe Daudu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Mr. Damien Dodo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a national award winner; and another law Professor in the prosecution of Mr. Erastus Akingbola who is accused of alleged theft of depositors funds running into several billions of naira, the Presiding Judge of the Federal High Court, directed the Federal Attorney General to debrief and/or sack these highly respected senior lawyers from handling the matter.
The collapse of these high profile anti-graft cases signpost that Nigeria is, indeed, submerged in the ever flowing and threatening ocean of corruption and to compound the critical situation that Nigeria now faces because of the unwillingness of the Federal Government to prosecute and punish officials and alleged rogue former managers of some Nigerian banks, these suspects are still being allowed to insult the collective psyche of millions of Nigerians by enjoying unfettered access to some of the stolen fund and, therefore, are able to engage the services of some of the so-called best lawyers who are ever willing to defend even the murderers of their loved ones if, and only if, the alleged suspects can make them smile to their banks with stupendous legal consultancy fees and some more slush fund for bribing government paid prosecutors, especially the staff of the two anti-graft bodies and by extension the judges to make their cases weak and compromised.
Onwubiko writes via www.huriwa.blogspot.com.