BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was on the offensive last week and penultimate week arraigning former governors it accused of embezzling their states’ funds while in power.
Former governors who waded through the anti-graft agency’s familiar stream of arrest, questioning, brief detention (in EFCC’s custody or prison), arraignment in court, bail and obvious ‘freedom’ this time are immediate past Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; his Oyo State colleague, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala; Alhaji Akwe Doma (Nasarawa) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe). Their arraignment brings to 18 the number of ex-governors the EFCC has taken to court over alleged graft since 2006.
Collectively, the foursome were alleged to have stolen N153 billion – Daniel (N58 billion), Doma (N15 billion), Alao-Akala (25 billion) and Goje (N52 billion). As expected, they have been charged to court and granted bail.
Before the ex-governors were arrested and charged to court, EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, told reporters that the anti-graft agency had not let off the 2007-2011 set of corrupt governors as alleged in some quarters.
“Nothing has been swept under the carpet. It’s like they say, once beaten twice shy. We are still working. We want to do a proper job of investigation before we arrest and prosecute,” she said.
The EFCC had, few months before the May 29 end of tenure of some governors, sent operatives after some of them. The states visited were Ogun, Abia, Imo, Nasarawa, Oyo, Gombe, Zamfara, and Kano.
While immediate past governor of Imo State, Ikedia Ohakim, relinquished power three days before May 29 and hurriedly left the country, Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State jetted out of the country on the eve of the inauguration of his successor, fueling speculations that they were running away from EFCC operatives.
But Daniel returned to the country three weeks after, saying he had only gone for a “deserved rest.”
But many observers took Waziri’s statement lightly. Some critics alleged that she had put the anti-graft crusade in reserve gear since taking over from Malam Nuhu Ribadu. Others said ex-governors being prosecuted were “being persecuted for political reasons” on account of their face-offs with political godfathers in their respective states.
Thus, when the EFCC went after some ex-governor penultimate week as Waziri promised, some eminent Nigerians elected to adopt the ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. Their reason: Little or nothing had been gained from past arraignments; no case had been successfully concluded. After the initial razzmatazz, affected governors always walked home “free to enjoy their loot.” Some corruption cases have been pending in court for about five years.
No anti-graft campaign now — Musa
Second Republic Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said what was happening now was not anti-corruption war but political manipulation and deception. “There is anti-corruption campaign now. The Anti-corruption campaign is dead. What is happening now is political manipulation and deception for the purpose of destroying all credible evidence that can lead to successful conviction.”
Nigerians need decisive outcomes – Braithwaite
Another Second Republic political actor and veteran presidential candidate, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite said what the citizenry yearned for now was decisive outcomes and not a plethora of arrests. “They have made arrests but it is the outcome that is important. So far, the outcome of high profile arrests has been disappointing. Until we see convictions that will send signals, until they (EFCC) secure convictions that can serve as deterrence to corruption, we cannot say we are fighting corruption,” he said.
It may be another ritual – Anya
Pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and erudite scholar, Professor Anya O. Anya shared Braithwaite’s feelings, noting that little or nothing had come out of previous high profile arrests and arraignment of allegedly corrupt public office holders.
“We need to wait and see what happens, after all people had been arrested in the past. We did not hear anything about former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole after his arrest, arraignment and bail. So, let’s wait and see whether or not it is the usual game,” he said.
EFCC recovers N4.3 bn out of N322.75 bn embezzled
A peep into EFCC’s activities especially its offensive against former governors lends credence to the views of the eminent citizens. Of the 18 ex-governors arraigned so far and the N322.75 billion they were alleged to have stolen, only N4.3 billion has been recovered and none of the cases has been concluded except that of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, which yielded N4.3 billion and which has been re-opened.
Given this scenario, it is to be seen whether or not EFCC’s latest offensive would yield the desired result or pan out as another jamboree or flash in the pan.