The reaction by the National Peace Committee, led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar to the disclosure by President Buhari that trial of treasury looters would commence seem to have taken a life of its own few hours after the august body cautioned the President to follow due process in implementing the trial. Buhari who hosted members of the committee in Aso Villa during the week mince no words in explaining why he was focused of eradicating corruption in the country. He said: “Nigeria has to break the vicious cycle before we can make progress.
We have degenerated as a country. Our national institutions including the military, which did wonderfully on foreign missions in the past, have been compromised. But we are doing something about it…Those who have stolen the nations the national wealth will be in court in a matter of weeks and Nigerians will know those who have short-changed them’’ But speaking with journalist in Abuja immediately after the two-hour visit, Rev Father Matthew Hassan Kukah, a member, drew the attention of the government on the need to follow the civilised conduct as obtained in a democracy and not the fiat mentality prevalent under military regimes.
He said: “ I thing we are concerned about is the process, it is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws everybody is innocent until proven guilty. Again, our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody, the former President’s commitment and what he did remain spectacular and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that.
So our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done” Since the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto made reference to due process in the Federal Government anti-corruption war, comments have been running free especially in the words that President Buhari has been deploying in the conduct of government business. Says a critical observer close to government; “It is either the President orders as is done under the military in preference to direct which is expected in a civilian, democratic regime?.
The military mentality is still there, that is why Kakah’s reminder is crucial. In fact even a senior legislator belonging to the same party as the President has added his voice in this matter of due process. He is the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad The Speaker on Wednesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the Administration of Criminal Justice Acts to effectively fight corruption in the country. Dr Ahmad made the call in Ilorin during his maiden interactive session with newsmen in his office.
The Speaker said it was necessary for the President to implement the Acts signed by the former President Goodluck Jonathan for his anti corruption crusade to be successful. The Acts were those that fast tract dispensation of administration of criminal justice by limiting court adjournments to four and the Anti-Corruption Whistle Blower Protection Act. “If President Buhari did not implement these laws, I am afraid that the war on corruption will be scuttled in the law court,” Ahmad added. He was of the view that if the Acts were not implemented, the court through litigations would frustrate any anti-corruption war by individuals accused of corruption.
Ahmad also noted that anti corruption whistle blowers have to be protected against victimisation by indicted public officers The Speaker also advised President Buhari to appoint the Attorney General for the Federation without delay who will then put the body to administer the law in place. Ahmad said war on corruption would be fought and won in the court as well as by following due process. He commended the President for the appointment of Prof Itse Sagay as the chairman of Presidential Advisory committee on war against Corruption.
The Speaker said Kwara House of Assembly would soon pass the Administration of Criminal Justice and the Anti corruption whistle blower Act into law in the state making it the first state to do this. In the same vein, chairman of Labour Party of Nigeria, LP, Abdulkadir Abdusalam has slammed what he called likely selective posture of the Federal Government on corruption probe. According to the Labour chieftain, if the probe of treasury looters is to be meaningful and not be considered selective, the FG must extend the probe up to the beginning of the current democratic dispensation since 1999.
He particularly named ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar as well as Senate President, Bukola Saraki and past governors. In fact in the past few days the government posture on corruption has drawn the rival PDP and APC to the public arena, shouting at each other. President Muhammadu Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP senators engaged in a war of words over alleged biases in the administration’s war against corruption.
The PDP senators particularly accused the administration of partisanship in the anti-graft war with allegations that security agencies were coercing election officials to rewrite reports in some states to the favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. The allegations were immediately rebuffed by the Presidency. It vowed that the unfolding war against corruption would not be tempered by media blitz of a witch-hunt against political interests as he affirmed that only the guilty should have reason to fear. The Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, gave the challenge when he received a delegation of members PDP in the senate at Legacy House, the party’s campaign office in Abuja.
Mr. Secondus said: “So far, statistics has shown that EFCC has only arrested members of our party, those who have served in previous government. But there are APC governors and members, who have served various governments, they have been left alone. “We believe that a government that is serious with anti corruption crusade cannot be one sided or selective. It should be holistic,’’ Mr. Secondus said.
He called on the EFCC to also investigate APC governors rather than targeting only PDP ex-governors and ex-ministers. “We have seen on the pages of newspapers allegation from Lagos and Rivers states on the ex-governors. What is EFCC doing to those allegations? ” Mr. Secondus asked. President Buhari’s assertion was a direct riposte to assertions by the Senator Godswill Akpabio led PDP Senate caucus that the President was using the instruments of state to target the opposition.
The PDP caucus had at a press conference in the National Assembly building alleged that the Department of State Services was coercing officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to be conscripted into plots to undermine the election of PDP officials in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia States. But the All Progressives Congress, APC, spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed soon rose to the occasion, stating that who also said that only the guilty have something to fear about the Buhari administration. Buhari, speaking through his spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina rebutted the accusation of the PDP Senate caucus, saying that it was natural for the guilty to be afraid.
He stated that the anti-graft war which was one of the cardinal objectives of the administration would increasingly pick momentum irrespective of the threats against it. “It is only the guilty that can be afraid. If anybody is not guilty, they should not be afraid. This President will not witch-hunt anybody. But if anyone has a skeleton in his cupboard, he has every right to be afraid. “If they don’t have skeletons in their cupboard, they have no cause to be afraid but anybody that has any skeleton in his cupboard has every right to be afraid.
“The war against corruption is one of the cardinal objectives of this administration and the war will not hold on because some people are afraid. “The war will continue, no matter whose ox is gored. So, if anybody has skeleton in his cupboard, yes, he has a right to be afraid but the war is not targeted at anybody”, Adesina said. Meanwhile, Gov. Ayodele Fayose, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to start his anti-corruption fight by probing those that sponsored his election to reveal their sources of income. Fayose, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, took a swipe at the Federal Government anti-corruption drive, describing it as mere noise-making, witch-hunt and diversionary tactic to hoodwink the public into overlooking the seeming failure of the government to deliver on its electoral promises. Fayose said, “Some of those who sponsored the President’s election have not done any other jobs apart from holding public offices.
Yet, they provided private jets and funds with which the President campaigned across the length and breadth of Nigeria. He should let Nigerians know where they got money to buy private jets and the everal billions of naira spent on his election. “No one sits with corruption to fight corruption because as it is today, President Buhari is sitting among corrupt people and he must first extricate himself from the comity of corruption”.
The governor also faulted Buhari’s statement that he knew where Nigeria’s looted funds were domiciled. According to him, “If President Mohammadu Buhari knows exactly where the stolen funds are kept and who looted the funds, he does not need all these public announcements. Rather, he should make public names of the looters and bring back the purported stolen funds, location of which he has identified. It is when he is able to bring back the money that he should make announcements of recovered funds.
“You don’t announce a process to the public; rather, you announce the results because that is what is of interest to the people. It is like you are announcing that you know where armed robbers reside, won’t they change their location? The answer to these positions will come out in the days ahead when the trial of alleged looters commences.
-Abioye Olarewaju, Ilorin and Patrick Osedebamen, Abuja