THE conviction of Chief Olabode George, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and five others, for corruption has deceptively revved hopes that government is serious with the fight against corruption.
Corruption is at such high levels that conviction of a couple of people would still not bring the message home that corruption is not only a crime but one that destroys the economy and society.Â Their crimes captured in 47 charges were committed while they served on the board of the Nigerian Ports Authority from 2001-2003.
The authorities then shielded them from prosecution by dragging investigations into their tenure. Investigations into the N84 billion fraud had to be repeated on the orders of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was reluctant to try Chief George.
More people like him are still outside the range of the law because they are in tandem with the authorities. It is therefore a bit heart warming that President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua has restated his determination to tackle corruption.
â€œThe level of corruption in our country today does not justify the sustenance of the immunity clause whatever its other merits, since there is the need everybody accountable for all their actions,â€ the President told Yoruba Council when it visited him on Tuesday.
More than words are required to fight corruption. The President is still under the illusion that immunity is the main obstacle to battling corruption. Most corrupt people do not have immunity. From Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, only 74 Nigerians have immunity from prosecution while in office.
The President, Vice President, 36 State Governors and 36 Deputy Governors make up this number. However, anyone who can peddle any level of influence loots the treasury, abuses office with impunity. Ministers, legislators, Commissioners, party chieftains, are in a legion of the mighty who live above the law. It is in this light that people see the jailing of Chief George as an aberration. More succinctly, Chief George is deemed to have fallen out of favour or is being punished in lieu of his principals who still operate above the law.
Complaints about corruption in the 774 local government councils across the country, for instance, have not enjoyed the attention of the anti-corruption agencies. In 10 years of civilian rule the trillions of Naira that went to this tier of government have been squandered between elected council officers and Governors.
The poor state of rural Nigeria is one of the best evidences that money statutorily allocated to this segment of the country does not get to the people. IfÂ ourÂ governmentsÂ wereÂ aÂ littleÂ moreÂ caring, Nig e r ia n sÂ Â Â w o u l dÂ Â h a ve been spared the pains the greed ofÂ t h o s eÂ Â w h oÂ have access to publc funds cause.
â€œWe continue to support the financial and moral independence of the anti-corruption agencies, as well as try to make corruption unattractive by ensuring that anyone found guilty is sanctioned according to the law,â€ the President said.
The challenge remains clearing the multi-faceted obstacles to prosecuting suspects. The President can be more helpful.