Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arraigned some former governors, including Otunba Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, for allegedly misappropriating public funds while in office.
This was not the first time the anti-graft agency will arraign public officers on allegations of corruption. However one’s concern is whether the EFCC has enough evidence or it has concluded investigations to nail Daniel. This is premised on the drama that played out at Abeokuta High Court, venue of the trial, during the last sitting on November 28, 2011.
On that day, the lead counsel to Daniel, Professor Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, told newsmen: “The delay in the on-going trial of the former governor of Ogun State was because the EFCC was not ready with its case.” He told the trial judge, Justice Olarenwaju Mabekoja, that the EFCC was still fishing for evidence against his client. He disclosed that, as at Friday, November 25, 2011, the EFCC was still interrogating those it intended to use as witnesses in the case.
Osipitan went on: “We’ve just been served with the amended charges this morning. The charges and the proof of evidence are in two volumes and run into 1,068 pages. We believe that the EFCC is yet to complete its work; its investigation is still work in progress.
They are still shopping for witnesses. They are not ready, they are still interrogating, and they should have completed interrogation before proceeding to arraignment not the other way round. We are ready but the EFCC has shifted the goal posts again and they are likely to shift it again since they are still fishing for evidence.”
No doubt that the EFCC is buying time by this action, having slammed fresh 27 charges against the former Ogun governor. It, nevertheless, is instructive that some of the contractors to the Ogun State government during the Daniel’s era are still in the EFCC custody, which the anti-graft agency is hoping to extract oral evidence from them to nail Daniel.
Some of these contractors have alleged that the EFCC wants to get evidence from them under duress, claiming that they were being compelled to lie against the former governor. All the antics of the EFCC, invariably, are the reasons the trial has not started.
The questions agitating one’s mind, therefore, on this case are numerous. One, is the EFCC biased or hostile against the person of Daniel?; two, who are those putting the EFCC under intense pressure to arraign the former governor over allegations of graft, when the commission has not even concluded investigations?; three, what and whose interest are those behind his arraignment serving?; and four, are there clear, unambigous and proven evidence of graft against Daniel?.
There is the need for the EFCC to convince us it is sincere, unbiased and not hostile in the Daniel case. It needs to prove its case beyond doubt, instead of buying time like the anti-graft agency is presently doing.
It has been in the public domain, that for years, those close to the ‘always smiling’ former governor of Ogun State, have consistently talked about a plot to take out the two-time governor from the political calculations in Yoruba land allegedly by a coalition of forces that are uncomfortable with his rising profile.
The main objectives of the plot, from investigations, was to send him to political oblivion and thereby make him irrelevant politically. They want to damage Daniel sufficiently in the eye of the public so that his soaring image as one of the newbreed leaders in Yoruba land will plummet. They than decided to move against him by engineering petitions of graft to be written against him.
Their calculation is that even if the former governor survives the contrived allegations of graft, his standing in the society would have been negatively affected and he would not be able to stand for any major elective office neither would he stand a good chance to be appointed into one. That was why, on a regular basis, during his eight years tenure, simulated crises involving the former governor and some individuals are pushed into the public domain.
The ultimate objective, is to make Daniel and, ofcourse, the OGD brand “unsellable” in the emerging power configuration in Yorubaland. Little wonder, this is a “deadly political game,” which reaches a crescendo and sort of the beginning of final onslaught against the son of Methodist clergy, who has impact positively and touched many lives in his sojourn through life.
As the Daniel trial commences January 19, and 20, 2012, the EFCC should shun any form of bias, hostility and miscarriage of justice against the former governor of Ogun State. With the recent appointment of Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde as the acting chairman of the commission, the Nigerian public wants to see a brand new EFCC that will abhor any form of dancing to paymasters who are bent on using the commission as a means of settling political scores.
Laja Thomas is resident in Lagos.