By Dapo Akinrefon
THE war against corruption is supposed to be top of the ruling PDP’s agenda in running Nigeria’s affairs.
Indeed, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC was established by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to wage an all out war on corruption and corrupt people. The war was already in full swing when Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was forced out of office by the Yar’Adua administration.
His successor,President Goodluck Jonathan pledged,on assumption of office,to fight the scourge. “One of the cardinal commitments of this administration is our commitment to Good Governance, Accountability and Transparency. We shall continue to pursue these policy objectives with all the seriousness they deserve. In particular, the war against corruption will be prosecuted more robustly. We will therefore strengthen the capacity of the anti-corruption agencies and give them a free hand to prosecute the anti corruption war,”he said at his inauguration.
But massive doubts now hang all over that following the resistance put up by the party to moves by the EFCC to stop some party members under investigation by the commission from contesting in next year’s elections.
This came in a week Transparency International, TI, ranked Nigeria the 44th most corrupt country in the globe.
There must be rule of law — PDP
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Professor Rufai Alkali told Saturday Vanguard that the party was not standing in the way of the commission in fighting corruption but would insist on the rule of law.
He said: “if this party or the government is frustrating the EFCC or any anti-graft agency of government, why must it go all the way in establishing the agency in the first place, why should the government make the law in the first place? Is it not because of the commitment of the government to fight corruption in the first place that necessitated the need to set up this organization?”
The party’s pointsman, however, urged that there must be rule of law in the application of the law, noting that “this party insists that there must be rule of law so that we should not undermine the judicial process. For me, anybody who is accusing this government, accusing the PDP of undermining or frustrating the EFCC or any agency of government, I think that person is ignorant, that is the least I can say on that, thank you.”
“What is important is that even though the names are there on the advisory list, since we are not the court , it is not possible for us to pass judgement on whether somebody is guilty or not guilty.
That is why in the process of looking at all the issues involved, there must be proper consultations and discussions at every level so that everybody will be comfortable with whatever is the outcome.”
The innocent needs not be jittery, says EFCC
The agency in a statement in Abuja declared that “The Innocent Needs Not Be Jittery.”
Its words: “ For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC has repeatedly emphasized that it does not have the power to ban or disqualify any person from contesting for a public office and does not intend to embark on actions outside its responsibility.
The Commission under its present leadership has been working and remains fully committed to working strictly within the rule of law.
It is however surprising that the mere publication of a list of cases being prosecuted in courts by newspapers has generated so much reactions from those who are yet to discharge their burden of corruption charges as well as their fans and agents alike.
“The truth of the matter is that, those who have no quarrel with the lion have no need to fear its fatal claws! The innocent needs not be jittery. The EFCC is doing its job and should be appreciated for doing so creditably.
We do not have any control over what interests the media nor how they do their job neither do we determine who a political party fields for an election. It is left for any political party to determine the level of integrity of candidates it presents for an election.”
The commission argued that the list was neither a covert or overt strategy, intention, ploy nor agenda to arrogate to itself the power of a law court.
EFCC propounded that “it is patently assumptive and speculative of anyone or any group to accuse the Commission of using its power to stop aspirants. The Commission never states or pretends that it has any power to stop aspirants.
What the list simply represents is a public disclosure of the gamut of its prosecutorial efforts in the war against corrupt practices, an information that has since remained in the public domain for several months.”
Besides, it said contrary to claims by a few people, the commission does not seek to convict aspirants before being pronounced guilty by a law court. It wondered how a list that has been in the public sphere achieve the purpose of a conviction?
“What parallel or similar effects will a mere information on our cases in court has with a conviction? What pronouncement has been made on the list that can be equated with a conviction?”
PDP is making a mountain out of a mole hill — Lai Mohammed
The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in its own position on the EFCC advisory list maintained that the PDP is making a mountain out of a mole hill.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in an interview with Saturday Vanguard argued that since it was the ruling party (PDP) that approached the commission to advise it on ways it can stop corrupt politicians from being fielded on its platform, the PDP should not make it a national issue.
Mohammed said: “I think they just want to make a mountain out of mole hill. A couple of months ago, it was the PDP that approached EFCC and it was widely reported, for an advisory list. It is an advisory list, PDP is free to take or reject it, why are they now making a mountain out of a mole hill. If the PDP, in the first instance, approached EFCC for assistance and advice.”
“I see no big deal in that. For instance, a candidate who is supposed to stand for elections and is put on the ballot paper, by a particular party and it is found that such candidate is not eligible, the party might even suffer more than the candidate.”
While citing the bye elections at Ibeju Lekki, where the candidate of the ACN was prevented from contesting the election over alleged irregularities, he urged that there is need for each political party to have an internal mechanism which assists in preventing corrupt members from being fielded.
He urged “the elections to the House of Representatives in Ibeju Lekki was nullified on the grounds that our candidate did not possess the necessary qualifications and when a rerun was ordered, we were excluded form the rerun.”
“I think people should stop making a mountain out of a mole hill. If the PDP approached EFCC, and EFCC then says based on your request, this is our advice to you, there is no big deal in it. That does not mean a political party should not have its own in house cleaning.
Every political party must have its own in house cleaning. At times, when a candidate has a right to contest, because of his antecedent, he might be a bad material for the party,” he opined.
While the debate raged,the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister,Mr.Mohammed Adoke wrote a letter to the EFCC that it lacks power to stop anyone from contesting on the strength of his investigation by the commission.