ADOKE'S INTERJECTION ON FUEL SUBSIDY REPORT
Following calls from individuals and civil society groups on government to take immediate action on the report of the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has ruled out immediate prosecution of all those indicted by the Committee.
Instead, Adoke explained that the Federal Government would be guided by the dictates of due process and the rule of law in its handling of the probe report. He also said that the government would conduct thorough investigation in the matter before commencing prosecution.
There is nothing patently wrong with Adoke's position. It makes sense for government to ensure that those accused of wrong-doing are not being improperly charged. There is therefore the need to carry out another layer of investigation by a relevant government agency as Adoke said.
However, we are worried that implementation of such measures such as the one Adoke has outlined may not work out after all. This is because there is nothing as yet that suggests that government is disturbed or alarmed by the revelations of the House Ad hoc committee that investigated the disbursement of the subsidy fund. If government were interested in the matter, it would have taken steps to probe into the sordid affair before the intervention of the House of Representatives.
We therefore suspect that Adoke's interjection may be a ploy to divert attention from the issue, after which the matter will be laid to rest. In fact, government ought to have initiated the subsidy probe in the first place to prove that it is serious in the fight against corruption, especially financial malfeasance.
Besides, will Adoke's proposition be carried out to the letter? We doubt such possibility. Is it not a diversionary move that will eventually sound a death knell to the entire fuel subsidy probe report?
Like everything in Nigeria, if that is done, the matter will soon be forgotten in the usual Nigerian style.
Perhaps, government's reaction through its AGF came probably because the civil society groups had vowed to shut down the country, once again, as they did during the January 2012 oil subsidy removal protest, if the subsidy report is not immediately implemented. It is also worth stating that apart from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the AGF has the right to prosecute all criminal matters. And the subsidy scam is one of them.
Therefore, the AGF should look into the matter dispassionately and if there is a prima facie case against any individual or firm, he should go ahead and prosecute the matter without fear or favour. There should be no attempt whatsoever to sweep this matter under the carpet in the usual Nigerian way of doing things. However, if the matter is swept under the carpet, government will be indirectly aiding and abetting corruption. Allowing the matter to die a natural death is in itself a crime. It will also embolden other Nigerians to toe that path of dishonour knowing full well that at the end, that they will not be punished.
Above all, let the relevant authorities investigate these allegations that emanate from the probe report and bring the matter to court. It is at the court that all issues relating to the probe report should be trashed out once and for all and not in the media as it is presently the case. And let all those contesting the House of Representatives Committee report on the matter go to the court and prove their case. The court remains the final arbiter in this matter.
To prove that its intention in the matter is not misconstrued, government should be interested in seeing to it that the matter is diligently prosecuted in keeping with the dictates of due process and the rule of law. All those found culpable in the matter should be punished according to the laws of the land. And all monies fraudulently siphoned from the subsidy scam should be refunded to the government.