The war on corruption is real, no doubt anymore. Banks are no more safe havens for financial criminals. Huge sums of money belonging to politicians or petty tradesmen can easily be traced in banks. Besides, it is clear that all the monies used for politics and a lot used for illegal businesses were stuck in private houses after President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn-in in May 2015. Daily discoveries by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), with the support of patriot-whistle-blowers reveal the scenarios, confusion and tension which the treasury looters found themselves, leading to the abandonment of our monies in their many inhabited houses. That has partly caused the recession. Yet, corruption does not end there.
Startling revelations by the EFCC has shown that treasury looters also hid their loots in forests, graveyards and unimaginable places. There are now in existence all kinds of banks in Nigeria, an invention by the looters for the safekeeping of their ill-acquired wealth. There are deep forest bank (DFB), vacant house banks (VHB), graveyard bank (GYB) occupied house bank (OHB), farm house bank (FHB), airport lounge bank (ALB), parked cars bank (PCB) water reservoir bank (WRB) and soak-away bank (SAB).
More discoveries are on. Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammad, through his media aide, Segun Adeyemi, confirmed that funds looters now bury money in cemeteries and in deep forests, asserting that many of them are abandoning their booty at unusual places, including airports even as they continue to run helter-skelter.
A friend sent me a whats up massage that he is mobilizing a group of volunteers to relocate to Lagos to assist in finding those houses and dens where the looters have hidden our monies. According to him, EFCC has been doing a good job and needs to be supported. But how to find out the houses, he said would need to consult spiritualists in order to get his percentage as a whistle-blower. He wondered why the looted funds are found in Lagos more than Abuja.
But the controversial Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose claims that the looters who have resorted to burying stolen funds in their backyards and burial grounds are looters in the Buhari’s presidency, especially those being compensated for funding the election of the President in 2015. He claimed that they bury their own loots in the Villa with Presidential protection. His special assistant on public communications and new media, Lere Olayinka, described the anti-corruption war as a laughing stock because most of the discovered monies including N49 million at Kaduna Airport, N448 million in a shop at Victoria Island, Lagos and N13 billion in Ikoyi, Lagos neither have owners nor the identities of owners of the properties where the money was found known.
He faulted the claim that only the President’s appointees were saints, while other Nigerians, including those in the National Assembly, judiciary, opposition politicians and the civil servants were rogues. The cabals in the Presidency, he squeaked, have been taking advantage of the President’s state of health to oppress Nigerians.
Actually, most of the culprits are ex-political office holders and it is quite understandable. But however, there are cases of incumbent government officials entangled in corruption. There have been several reports on that and the courts are still handling many, though accusations are mounting that those in government are untouchables, thus being protected.
And with the clearance of alleged corrupt members of the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government at the federal level, a lot of citizens have been questioning the sincerity in the corruption war proclaimed to be total and effective in all its ramifications. We recall with sadness that Nigeria lost four corruption cases in one week. Questions from recent events have been nagging.
The first was lost by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when Justice Abdulaziz Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos lifted the forfeiture of N75m in the account of Mike Ozekhome a lawyer of Ekiti state governor Ayo Fayose. The following day, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) lost the case involving a former Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godsday Orubere who was discharged and acquitted by an Abuja High Court over alleged complicity in N1.97bn contract fraud. Recall that Orubebe alone nearly disrupted the 2015 Presidential polls because Goodluck Jonathan was losing out.
Orubebe’s trial Justice Olukayode Adeniyi also discharged and acquitted all the defendants, after the charge was withdrawn by the prosecution. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a letter to Chairman of the ICPC, confirmed that money which Orubebe allegedly diverted, was intact, but was awaiting further contract decisions and directives from the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs.Moreover, an Abuja High Court discharged and acquitted Justice Adeniyi Ademola; his wife, Olabowale and Joe Agi of 18-counts charge. Ademola was last year arrested by the DSS for alleged corruption and possession of firearms. The trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke ruled that there was no justifiable reason to call on the defendants to enter their defence and discharged all of them.
The EFCC also within the week lost the case involving former First Lady Patience Jonathan. Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court in Lagos defroze her $5.8m Skye Bank account which she quickly wanted to withdraw but was stopped by the EFCC. Olatoregun freed her and discharged affected five companies: Finchley Top Homes Ltd, Aribawa Aruera, Magel resort Ltd, AM -PM Global Network Ltd, Pansy Oil and Gas Ltd, and Pagmat oil and Gas Ltd as well as one Esther Oba said to be having a total sum of N7.4 billion in six different banks. This is unbelievable! Why the rush to court without thorough investigations. This is unbecoming of the EFCC.
It was really a blow to the federal government. The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, met behind closed-doors with President Buhari in Abuja over the anti-graft war, expressing optimism that the war was not losing steam despite the lost cases because the system was designed in such a way that anyone who loses at a lower court can appeal the ruling. However, there are allegations of a ‘gang-up’ by the judiciary against Buhari’s administration with the fraternity in esprit de corps influencing judicial rulings.
Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has also accused members of the National Assembly of lack of commitment in the corruption fight as the annual budget of the NASS lacked transparency. But Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said NASS fought corruption through support because Nigerians expected higher and better performances in terms of service. Also recently, former President Goodluck Jonathan was accused of receiving $200 million as proceeds from the Malabu Oil deal, an accusation he has denied.
DESPITE ALL THESE, THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, LAI MUHAMMAD FEELS STRONG THAT NIGERIA WILL WIN THE WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION. IT IS a long, tough and arduous war. The administration must be equipped for it. To him, all lost cases discourage the administration because it is Nigeria’s war of liberation from poverty, misery, sickness and wretchedness.
In a letter to President Buhari by Charles Oputa aka Charly Boy who describes himself as area fada and president of frustrated Nigerians, the hope of recovering Nigeria out of the mess would be to round up all looters and destroyers of the country and “deliver us from the vile, evil and wicked politicians/cabals that have enforced this kind of poverty, hunger, hopelessness on my people, with impunity.”
Furthermore, although incumbent administration has made a lot of goofs in some areas, Nigerians were with him on the corruption fight which cannot be fought by the president alone or a few kitchen cabinet members some of whom the people do not even trust. He said Nigerians must see corruption as a crime that must be fought starting from the National Assembly. He recalled the running battles Buhari had with some of the blackmailers, scammers, certificate forgers and the riff raffs in the National Assembly and urged him to act for the interest of Nigerians because, “After all, Obasanjo dealt with many of them in the house; Goodluck dealt with House Speaker”.
He suggested that it was time for Nigerians to formulate their own kind of democracy, because the Oyibo’s way has failed to fight corruption, thus the people should decide to scrap the Senate or drastically turn it down to a more manageable level.
Written by Muhammad Ajah, an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja.