It’s in order; but there should be no sacred cows in the anti-corruption war
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government appears poised to expand its war against high profile corruption beyond what is commonly called Dasukigate. According to a report, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) has directed the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to reopen already investigated corruption cases against 31 former governors. The AGF also reportedly asked that file copies of the cases be duplicated and copies sent to his office within 14 days.
We support the government’s effort to prosecute every crime and to recover assets stolen from our country, and we hope the AGF’s request is geared towards that mission. But we also note with concern that the effort in the past few months, characterised by excitable media attention, has not yielded much result. Many of the cases against high profile officials in the last government are barely off the starting block, despite the high hopes in the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act. So, we hope the newest effort to dredge up the old corruption scandals will not merely end up in more media attention and drama, with little to show at the end of the day.
We are also mindful of the fact that credibility challenges are already sniffing at the anti-corruption campaign, with some serving high-profile officials, like the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, and the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, linked to allegations of corruption still in government. There is even the allegation that their names have been surreptitiously removed from the list of those being investigated and who may soon be charged for diversion of funds meant for arms purchase, while they were all in charge. So, the public can legitimately ask, whether a government which cannot treat a fresh wound, can cure leprosy?
For, while it is in our common interest to see that those who abused public trust pay for their crime, the AGF and agencies under him must be seen not to treat some people as sacred cows. In his letter to the anti-corruption agencies, the AGF reportedly defined high profile cases as those “involving alleged misconduct amounting to economic sabotage; involving complex financial transactions or property movement; involving any of the suspects, who is a politician, a public officer or judicial officer; and where the subject matter involves government or corruption of its official or involves the abuse of office.”
The names of the former governors attached to the memo of the AGF fit into the above definition just as the two officials in the present administration that we mentioned earlier. Some of the governors, despite cases of alleged corrupt practices pending against them in courts, have even gone ahead to occupy more sensitive positions, as elected or appointed officials, and unless the cases against them are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, their fortunes may continue to rise, from the ashes of corruption.
According to the report, the list of former governors to be further investigated include the current senate president, Bukola Saraki, who is a former governor of Kwara State; senate minority leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio; the factional chairman of Peoples Democratic Party and former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff. Also on the list are former governors Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia); Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu); Saminu Turaki (Jigawa); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Joshua Dariye (Plateau); Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara); Gabriel Suswam (Benue); Martin Elechi (Ebonyi); Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa).
Other names on the list include Ikedi Ohakim (Imo); Obong Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom); Achike Udenwa (Imo); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Gbenga Daniel (Ogun); Jolly Nyame (Taraba); Boni Haruna (Adamawa); George Akume (Benue); Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo); Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto); Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Usman Dakingari (Kebbi); Adamu Mu’azu (Bauchi); Peter Odili (Rivers), and Lucky Igbinedion (Edo). The case of Dr. Odili will be interesting to follow, considering that he was reported to have secured a strange perpetual injunction from a high court, against further prosecution, by some of these anti-corruption agencies.
So, while we support the anti-corruption drive to strike as far as it can, we also urge the AGF to bring in greater efficiency to the cases already in court. We note of course the involvement of the Presidential Advisory Council headed by Professor Itse Sagay, in fashioning out a comprehensive prosecution manual, to help the on-going anti-corruption war. Perhaps, their support and direction may help change the tide against the inefficiencies noticeable among the prosecutors.
As stated by Professor Sagay in an interview, the option of plea bargain can be guardedly used to help achieve quicker result and save scarce state resources. This may be very useful in some of these resurrected old cases, with all the challenges that may arise from the delay in investigation and prosecution.