Looters list: Matters arising
The Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo recently re-opened the matter of former government appointees who were alleged to have looted the treasury while in office.
The discourse centred on when and how the Federal Government would name and shame such looters. Osinbajo noted that the Jonathan Presidency illegally pulled out billions of naira from government coffers shortly before the 2015 elections.
Shortly after, the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed went ahead to make public a list of some officials he alleged had looted the treasury. Since then there have been different lists published on the pages of different newspapers.
There is also a court suit against the Information Minister originating from Rivers State; PDP National Chairman Chief Uche Secondus has sued the government because his name was on the so-called list of looters.
At the core of it is whether an accused can rightly be named a thief before being so confirmed by a competent court of law.
The whole anti-corruption exercise has been politicized. It has lost any iota of credibility because the pot is calling the kettle black.
There is no doubting the level of pillaging that has taken place in the country from 1999 till date. Corruption has become part of the national ethic in a sense.
People who seek elective office spend huge sums of money to secure positions. It is a long chain. From party men, security agencies to the electoral body officials, many officials are in the take.
Once in office the ‘successful’ candidates seek to re-coup their investments. This they achieve through dipping their hands into the till or through outright stealing.
Often in the name of the notorious security votes, millions of naira are carted away. Contracts are inflated. The old tradition where the people fund political parties through party dues has been jettisoned.
The bigwigs in the party are now expected to loot funds from government coffers to fund elections. There is no indication that things have changed under the Buhari administration.
The main opposition party PDP has made a mockery of the government list; they have asserted that names of persons who are sympathetic to the ruling party and who are currently under investigation do not appear on the looters’ list.
Indeed, the Government and its officials have made a joke out of a supposedly serious issue. It does bear reiteration that judging by figures in the public space, some of which have been authenticated in courts of law, the level of plundering which took place in the last sixteen-odd years is frightening.
State officials charged with keeping the national patrimony threw all codes of decency overboard and sucked the nation dry.
Sadly, even under the current administration, looting appears not to have stopped.
The humongous amount of money found at the apartment in Ikoyi said to belong to the NIA, the inflated grass-cutting contract, which the former Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) David Babachir Lawal awarded his company show that the government is yet to contain the menace of official corruption.
Tellingly, the name of this former SGF did not appear on the Federal Government’s list! It is against this background that we call on the Federal and State Governments to take the anti-corruption war seriously. Sloganeering or shielding party stalwarts from prosecution is corruption.
The current narrative is that erstwhile PDP officials who switch political parties are protected from the hands of the law. What could be more hypocritical than this?
Where are the men of honour in the land? Where are the heroes in public service who would courageously say no to the power of filthy lucre?
Have we so degenerated that the soul of every one in political office is for sale? What can the nation’s political parties do to reverse the incipient and endemic corruption in the electoral process?
Have we deliberately made our institutions very weak so that corruption may thrive? Can we beat our chest about any of our regulatory or anti-fraud institutions as being above board?
We need to go the drawing table. We need a revolution of the heart and mind, both among the leaders and the people.
We need men of honour in our public institutions. Often the high expectations of the people drive office holders into despicable actions.
It is no justification for corruption. But it does provide an environment where unexplained income and life style are acceptable. Family values must be restored.
Time was when families treasured their names, stressing integrity and impeccability of character. These values have all but disappeared. Those who tread the path of honour in public office are getting fewer and fewer because of the all-pervading culture of wealth acquisition.
Finally, we urge the Federal Government to firm up the fight against corruption. No one should be spared, no matter their political affiliation.
The future of the country depends on how we can successfully institutionalize best practices and protect the national patrimony from the hands of rapacious Nigerians in and out of the corridors of power.