Of probes and arrests
WITH a promise to fight corruption and curb other excesses in and outside government as a central goal of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, it is expected that national agencies responsible for investigations and prosecutions would probe citizens against whom allegations of misconduct have been made.
But what is not expected and would not easily be glossed over is when such investigations are done in a manner that engenders impunity on the part of the agencies of government and have the potential to damage the case for the country. These acts of overzealousness of government agencies that border on impunity would not help the government.
Worse still, they hold the potential of eroding the high moral ground from which the President intends to fight corruption. Therefore, to help the President fight corruption and other excesses that have impeded the nation’s development, government agencies should learn to operate within the confines of the laws of the country, and with manifest sincerity of purpose.
If the arrests and investigations, especially of the officials of the immediate past administration lead to illegalities, government agencies responsible for them would easily lend themselves to the charge of being used to persecute past public officials. And of course, nobody else but the president would bear responsibility for such conducts.
The Department of State Security (DSS) might not have taken into consideration these ramifications before it decided to investigate the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) Gordon Obuah, both aides of erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan.
The result was the condemnable shoddiness of the DSS in the performance of its duties that has jarred public consciousness. The agency’s operatives laid siege to Dasuki’s home and prevented his family from having access to him. They took away vehicles, money and other valuables and even broke into his father’s home while the old man was away in London.
And for Obuah, his detention for days triggered anxiety over his health that was only allayed when he was allowed to appear before journalists. Nobody queries the right of the operatives of the DSS to summon any citizen for questioning, especially when allegations of the abuse of public office are made against him or her.
However, it was obvious that the DSS operatives did not execute the investigations of the two officials in a manner that freed it of criticism. Sadly, such sloppiness sabotages the efficiency of the DSS and mocks the President’s fight against corruption.
To be taken seriously and be seen as doing a sincere work, the DSS and other agencies must perform their duties without courting unnecessary publicity and controversy. They should do a thorough investigation and only inform the public of their findings. The DSS cannot claim to have exhausted a thorough and a quiet investigation and it failed before resorting to the showmanship displayed in the course of investigating the duo.
Since the DSS did not furnish Nigerians with the details of the offences committed by the two persons, it was unnecessary that it should traumatise the nation with the razzmatazz involved in their investigations.
The Nigerian constitution deems any accused person innocent until tried by a competent court and found guilty. Anti-corruption or security agencies rather nibble away at their credibility by harassing, detaining and meting out other forms of indignity to citizens in a bid to show that they are working. Obviously, the anti-corruption campaign of Buhari may lead to the investigation and arrest of more people.
Thus, the least the DSS and other agencies can do to support the president in this regard is to be seen to be doing a thorough job. And this should be strictly in consonance with the laws of the country and with a view to successfully prosecuting culprits.
This would enhance the credibility of the anti-corruption campaign and save the administration from the charge of simply embarking on a campaign of vendetta against its enemies.
Nigerians would be more interested in the convictions of corrupt persons than agencies just parading and disparaging individuals before their investigations and prosecutions are concluded.
After all, Nigerians have become used to the charade of government agencies accusing persons of mismanaging billions of public funds but after the initial public outrage has fizzled out, the suspects are never effectively prosecuted, nor is any ever sent to jail.
Nigerians want an effective prosecution of all cases of corruption and other excesses to serve as a deterrent to others. This would entail a much more thorough investigation that would furnish the prosecution with unassailable incriminating evidence. Not the made-for-media dramas currently starring the nation’s security agencies.