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2011:Shut the door on corrupt persons

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When President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as the Acting President, he promised to intensify the war on corruption. On his inauguration as the President of Nigeria after the demise of his predecessor, Alhaji Umaru Yar’ Adua, he reiterated this pledge.

The nation immediately began seeing signs that cases of corruption pending against some powerful individuals, which had been placed in the cooler by the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Mike Aondoakaa, were quickly revived. A case in point was that of Chief James Ibori.

Another pointer was the insistence of President Jonathan that the Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Vincent Ogbulafor, must resign his appointment due to his current trial by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) over fraudulent acts Ogbulafor and others allegedly committed some time in the dim past.

The former chairman initially enjoyed the support of some important people in his party, particularly governors elected on the party’s platform, but due to the insistence of President Jonathan, the PDP’s leader, that he could not “deal with” the matter of Ogbulafor sitting in his exalted office and going to court to defend himself against corruption charges, Ogbulafor had to bow out.

Similarly, former Governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, who was until recently the Secretary of the PDP Board of Trustees (BOT) had to resign his appointment as a result, among other things, of his graft case being pursued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in court. We also hear that “cold cases” such as the Halliburton and Siemens scams involving former heads of state and other highly placed individuals will be reopened.

These were some of the cases that the tenure of Aondoakaa under the Umaru Yar’ Adua presidency swept under the carpet. In the case of the Halliburton scandal, the nation was treated to another round of deception when, three weeks to his retirement in June 2009, former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, was made the chairman of a panel to investigate the case and expose all he knew about it for government action. It turned out that the Okiro panel was merely set up to pour cold water on the matter and go home.

This was this kind of handling important corruption cases (some of them involving international collaborators who have already been punished in their respective countries) that has made corruption so endemic and deeply rooted that the nation cannot grow. We are waiting to see how far that Jonathan can go in this noble endeavour of bringing these cases and others to their logical conclusion, especially bearing in mind that some of the people mentioned as culprits include those who are former presidents openly backing Jonathan.

We want to suggest that for the war on corruption to be truly effective, the Jonathan regime must ensure that in the impending 2011 general elections, no one convicted or currently on trial or against whom any of our law enforcement or anti-corruption agencies has established a prima facie evidence in court should be cleared to stand election at any level.

Certainly, nobody having any corruption charges pending against this person or an indictment pronounced against him in the past should be allowed to run for president, governor or membership of the federal or state houses of assembly. Anybody who has such a case must first of all go and vacate it or clear himself in court before applying to the INEC for inclusion as a candidate for an election.

This is the only way of ensuring that from next year on, people who have soiled their names and fingers are kept away from accessing political office with their ill-gotten wealth. It will also create the deterrence factor.

Let us use the Ogbulafor example as the new national model in conducting public office and fighting corruption. In this connection, we urge President Jonathan to veto the proposed Bill by the National Assembly which plans to okay persons indicted for corruption for election.

He should return the Bill to the Assembly, and Nigerians will pour into the streets to prevent the legislative approval of alleged thieves being allowed to maintain control over the leadership of this country.

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