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Anti-graft war and APC as safe haven for allegedly corrupt persons

By  Eno-Abasi Sunday and Joseph Onyekwere
24 October 2021   |   4:19 am
How persons facing prosecution for alleged sleaze, pillaging of the country’s resources, or embezzlement of funds are granted red carpet receptions, or offered appointments once they switch allegiance to the ruling All Progressives Congress...

[FILES] APC Governorship campaign

• Buhari’s Association With Alleged Fraudsters Negates Pristine Image Of An Anti-corruption Crusader – Uwazurike
• The President Has Failed To Sanitise His Govt – Adebiyi
• Frolicking With Suspected Fraudulent Persons Erodes Public Trust In Graft War 

How persons facing prosecution for alleged sleaze, pillaging of the country’s resources, or embezzlement of funds are granted red carpet receptions, or offered appointments once they switch allegiance to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has made many to describe the much-talked-about anti-corruption war of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration as a ruse.
 
While many cringe at the president’s open association with these suspected corrupt persons, others describe it a blight on the much-vaunted anti-graft mantra. Besides allegedly losing its gravitas, they maintain that the ugly trend appears to be a manifestation of the party’s call on corrupt politicians to “come over and have your sins forgiven,” which was made by its immediate past chairman, Adam Aliu Oshiomhole. 
 
Indeed, it is not for lack of what to say that some concerned members of the public are alleging that the fight against corruption has lost steam, they are worried that such interface with persons facing corruption charges is eroding public trust in the war against corruption. 
  


During a 2019 electioneering in Edo State, Oshiomhole, a former governor of the state publicly declared that those who joined the ruling party would have their “sins” forgiven. He charged chieftains of the opposition parties, especially those from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to jump ship and defect to the APC at that time.
  
“I am told that there are a lot of very senior people from the PDP who have decided to join forces with President Buhari to take the broom to sweep away the PDP and to continue to ensure that the APC continues to preside all over Nigeria.
 
“We have quite several other leaders who have come. We have quite a number of others that have come… In fact, once you have joined APC, all your sins are forgiven,” the former labour leader said. 
  

Buahri

Before and after that infamous clarion call by Oshimhole, some allegedly corrupt politicians that are facing high-profile corruption charges in courts across the land had been switching camps to the APC, after which their prosecution is either stalled or face unexplainable adjournments that negate the anti-corruption posture of the administration.
  
For instance, since the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Obot Akpabio was accused of allegedly diverting over N100b of the state’s resources to private pockets between 2007 and 2015, not much has happened in the area of prosecution, even after the immediate past acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, confirmed to The Guardian that he was being investigated by the commission.
 
Akpabio, who is also the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, is also fingered in an N40b fraud in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which he supervises.
  

Another poster boy of the Buhari-led government, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, who left the PDP in acrimonious circumstances and ended up as one of the leading lights of the APC, lost an appeal over his indictment for corruption by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Rivers State Government to investigate the sale of state assets under his watch as governor, is still a key member of the Buhari-led administration. 

Days after she dumped the PDP for the APC on August 27, 2021, a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, was received by Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
  
Oduah, who was recently fingered by Pandora Papers for secretly purchasing four London property, hiding behind an anonymous company she tucked away offshore, is still being investigated by the EFCC for her alleged involvement in a N9.4b fraud, which also includes a phoney contract for the supply of security equipment to 22 airports across the country.
  
Within weeks of her presidential reception, Femi Fani-Kayode, who also served as aviation minister, also switched allegiance to the APC and equally earned a presidential welcome. 

Fani-Kayode is being prosecuted by the EFCC, alongside a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman, and one Danjuma Yusuf, a former chairman of Association of Local Governments in Nigeria (ALGON), and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited.
  
Two weeks ago, Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, slammed a N200, 000 fine on Fani-Kayode for failing to appear in court to take his plea on the alleged N4.6b fraud charge. 
  
The defendants’ prosecution commenced in 2016, before Justice Sule Muslim Hassan, who has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
  


The PDP, which described Fani-Kayode as a social media politician and “worthless catch for APC” shortly after his decampment, also called on Buhari to ensure his proper trial as well as that of all ex-members of the party who are facing corruption charges.  
  
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Diran Odeyemi, who made the party’s position known, warned the EFCC against discontinuing the cases against Fani-Kayode and others.

Odeyemi also said in the party’s records, Fani-Kayode was never a member of PDP, as he has not identified with PDP in his Ile-Ife hometown, or in Abuja where he resides.
 
“The opportunity is now there for President Muhammadu Buhari to show Nigerians that he is fighting corruption indeed,” a statement signed by Odeyemi read in parts. It added: “If for nothing else, now that Fani Kayode and all the other politicians that decamped from PDP into APC with running EFCC cases, we expect him to swing into action on their corruption cases and ensure a more thorough prosecution.
  
“With that done, he will be convincing Nigerians that those decampees were not pressured into joining APC to free them of EFCC cases. If truly he is fighting corruption, cases of someone like Fani-Kayode, alleged to have embezzled almost N2billion, meant for the construction of a runaway at Enugu Airport must now receive a speedy trial.”

THE constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence notwithstanding, a legal practitioner and elder statesman, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, is of the view that fraternising with persons facing trial, or those that the EFCC has refused to investigate is tantamount to running with the hare and hunting with the hound.
  
According to him: “The image of an incorruptible person is a 24 challenge. President Buhari wore that gab from his earlier foray as a military dictator. He was a no-nonsense anti-corruption crusader. This was one of the three cardinal pillars of his campaign in 2015. The other two were security and economy. The campaign was that PMB came to clean the Augean stable.

But alas, this image, like white clothes, must be maintained. So, the association with men and women that are facing trial, or those that the EFCC has bluntly refused to investigate and possibly prosecute, negates the pristine image of an anti-corruption crusader. It means that PMB runs with the hare and hunts with the hound.
  


“The president is in the last leg of his regime. It means that he is spent and his government is business as usual. It was a long time ago that people heard the Buhari-led government threatening to deal with corruption. The media adviser to the president recently declared that this government is not interested in naming the people identified as world-class sponsors of corruption and terrorism. The case of the top police chief wanted for trial in the US is also sticking out like a sore thumb, while lethargy has crept in and the impunity is stepping out from the shadows,” he said. 
  
Uwazurike continued: “The case of Akpabio is so glaring that a blind man can see it. I am not saying it is true that he is corrupt, but what Senator Shehu Sani said is apt now….. ‘some people are sprayed with insecticide while others get air freshener.’ To hear of, or see a person facing trial by this administration standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. President is mindboggling. The fight against corruption is a weapon aimed at opponents. To say otherwise is to engage in sycophancy. The mantra today is, ‘see no evil, hear no evil.’

AN Abuja-based lawyer, Joseph Ekwe, in his submission alleged that “corruption has killed the nation to the point that those who came with the mantra of fighting corruption are now more endemic in it than their predecessors. The truth is that the British left a legacy of corruption in Nigeria. And before you kill corruption in Nigeria, you have to undo some of what the British did in the country. 
  

Buni. Photo/FACEBOOK/Maistrategy/Godowoli

“Immediately Britain left the shores of Nigeria, some parts of the country became afraid and started all sorts of shenanigans by every means possible to take over political power in Nigeria. Corruption is a seed sown by the British government. Corruption started from a preference for mediocrity over and above merits; inflation of population figures for resource control and then graduated to election malpractice and money laundering by individuals. The military saw this and pretended to come and save the country, but did not save the country at last.
 

“Those who have benefited reasonably from free and fair elections have shown the country how to conduct unfair and highly discredited elections. There are so many variants of corruption in this country ranging from stealing money meant for the extremely ravaged, poverty-stricken and politically victimised sections of the country. Are nepotism and sectionalism not abound in this country? How about lopsidedness, waste and inefficiency in the area of security, economy, and education etc? Is it the appointment of people that are already known by the electorate as suspected fraudsters into juicy public offices, while perceived enemies of the government are hounded? Ekwe concluded. 

BUT for human rights activist, Toluwani Adebiyi, there is no way that a leader can have only saints in his cabinet since not all of Jesus Christ’s disciples were saints. But a leader can sanitise his cabinet. Unfortunately, that is what Buhari has failed to do. Besides, the government’s selective probe is the reason that no right-thinking individual has faith, or regard for his “fight against corruption,” or even for his government at large. The president should wake up and take charge. This is the bitter truth, everyone accused of corruption in his government should be flushed out, and the dragnet should be extended everywhere, and not mostly in the direction of opposition parties. 
  
“We voted for him and even defended his government at the inception of the administration because of his perceived integrity and discipline. Some of us defended the Buhari-led administration in ways that we cannot do again because many trusted him so much, and we were happy to have, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, a leader that is known for integrity and discipline. Though we know that a single good individual does not make a good government, only an institution of good people does. Chief Obafemi Awolowo had an institution of good, truly committed individuals around him, and he stood out. Unfortunately, President Buhari has lost ground with people and is now surrounded mostly by people who are not telling him the truth because of their gains. All these combined have not only rubbed negatively on the war against corruption, but against the president himself; against his government, and the entire nation.
  
He continued: “As of today, there is no more interest, no more enthusiasm, and no more respect for his fight against corruption because it is so selective in nature…By and large, the fight against corruption has lost its integrity, strength, colour, direction, right and purpose, and this is quite unfortunate.”   
  


IN the view of the Programme Officer, Human Rights Law Services (HURILAWS), Collins Okeke, the open association with alleged corrupt people, or those facing corruption charges, “to a large extent” rubs off negatively on President Buhari’s war against corruption
  
According to him, “Without prejudice to the constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence, when the president is fighting corruption, but he is always seen with persons facing corruption charges, it erodes public trust in the war against corruption. 
 
“The fact that some are increasingly getting disinterested in this administration’s fight against corruption may be the mixed messages coming from the government. In one breath, they are threatening to deal decisively with any person accused of corruption. Meanwhile, they are welcoming the same accused persons into their political party. 
 
“In the case of Akpabio and Amaechi, both ministers have a presumption of innocence and are not legally encumbered to be ministers of the Federal Republic, but the optics are not good when you consider that the current government got into power with the promise to fight corruption… So, I will rate Buhari’s fight against corruption average. His government can do better.”