By Jide Ajani, Umoru Henry, Olasunkanmi Akoni and Ben Agande
There appears to be no backing down by President Muhammadu Buhari on his resolve to make anti-corruption and accountability the fulcrum of his administration as he issued fresh orders to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to account for funds that were stolen but recovered by the Commission.
In fact, the President also instructed the EFCC not to be distracted by negative comments from some quarters on its operations, especially as they affect some of those who have been named in the now infamous $2.1b arms scandal.
This is coming at a time when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – which has had a few of its leaders arrested and detained in Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade – and the All Progressives Congress, APC, which is the ruling party, are trading words on the propriety or otherwise of the approach of the EFCC executing the anti-graft war.
Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has declared that the war against corruption in Nigeria would be a very hard one to wage.
Buhari’s fresh orders to EFCC
Sunday Vanguard was reliably informed by Aso Rock Presidential Villa sources that the recent visits of the Chairman, EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, to the seat of power, where he was said to have had audience with Buhari, may be a pointer to the seeming micro-management of the anti-corruption drive.
Although the source did not make full disclosures about what transpired at the private meeting between the President and Magu, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that far from the allegation of tele- guiding the EFCC, “Mr. President wanted a very clear picture regarding accountability and the exact amount of funds already recovered from some of those who were said to be making refunds to the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
It was learnt that Buhari’s express orders to the EFCC boss was to the effect that the funds already recovered must be accounted for.
Whereas this was not an indictment on the current leadership of the EFCC, Sunday Vanguard gathered that some of the issues that were already subjects of controversy even before Magu took over as the Commission’s boss needed to be sorted out.
Specifically, the activities of the EFCC regarding recovery of looted funds under Ibrahim Lamorde, the immediate past EFCC boss, were brought into sharp focus.
Buhari has vowed that all stolen funds would be recovered.
The present wave of arrests and interrogation is not unconnected with this drive.
Indeed, Sunday Vanguard sources made it clear that since the EFCC, under Lamorde, made some recoveries and seizures from some looters (which included properties), there was need to account for “everything that went down”.
In fact, whereas Lamorde is out of the country, there are suggestions that he may “be made to come back to the country to properly account for recoveries and sale of properties that may have happened under his tenure”.
Corruption fight will be tough – Soyinka
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soynka, yesterday, expressed confidence in the ongoing war against corruption by the Buhari administration, even as he said “the fight is going to be a hard one.”
Soyinka made the remarks when the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, paid him a courtesy visit in his office at Freedom Park, Lagos Island.
According to the literary icon, the practice of abandoning the fight against corruption half way, “will not happen this time.”
Soyinka went on: “We have never had a situation where we were faced not just by emergency but critical emergency with our children being kidnapped under our noses and we were helpless, soldiers were being sent to the war front to defend our essence and we were not backing them up.
“The fight against corruption in Nigeria is going to be a hard one. There is no question whatsoever that we are not where we were before this administration entered. But we all have to be very careful and I have used this expression again and again that corruption fights back and the ardent fighters are those who are already within the cesspool of corruption and you can see that in the recent episode which I am not going to talk about, I am going to await a certain letter which I am told to expect and I hope that the letter writer brings it to my Egba hideout and I will educate him.
“Let’s watch the fight against corruption. It is on two levels: one directly against corruption and counter attacks which we are. There is no retreat no matter the libel or libelous garbage from any part of this country.”
He described the alleged dinner expenses spent by the past Rivers State Government, led by Hon. Rotimi Amaechi to honour him on his birthday, as “insulting, disrespectful and highest desperation” for anyone to try to rubbish his image on the pages of newspapers.
On the repositioning of the National Theatre, Soyinka said, from the economic point of view, the solution might be found in a public private partnership (PPP) initiative.
Earlier, the Minister of Information and Culture said he was in Soyinka’s office to tap from his fountain of knowledge about the nation’s arts and culture.
Mohammed said, “We have seen the huge potentials of our artists and there is need to give them enabling environment to practice their profession, to express themselves”.
PDP condemns detention without trial
Criticizing the continued incarceration of its spokesperson, Chief Olisa Metuh, by the EFCC without charging him to court, the PDP, yesterday, said the action clearly showed the dictatorial character of the Buhari government.
According to the opposition party, the detention was a clear breach of Metuh’s constitutionally guaranteed liberty and fundamental rights. It added that the action was an indication that the administration has not hidden its disdain for rule of law and an appetite to gag the opposition.
In a statement by the PDP National Legal Adviser, Barr. Victor Kwon, the party noted that Nigeria was fast becoming a police state with government’s inherent constitutional violations and infringement on rights of citizens, warning that if not checked, it would pose grave danger to national stability and survival of democracy.
“Relying on a purported ‘holding charge’, said to have been derived from a magistrate, to detain Chief Metuh beyond the statutory period allowed by the law is in total violation of the Constitution and extant corresponding rulings by several trial and appellate courts in the country,” Kwon stated.
“We draw the attention of all Nigerians and the international community to this illegal clamp-down on the opposition spokesman by the EFCC, using a purported holding charge said to have been derived from a magistrate court.
“Holding charge, which implies ‘arrest before investigation’ instead of ‘investigation before arrest’, is clearly an aberration and abuse of judicial process which has since been declared by several courts as illegal, null and void, and of no effect as it is totally in contradiction with section 35 (1), (4), (5a) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The PDP is particularly worried that Chief Metuh, since his arrest on Tuesday, is being inhumanly kept in an underground cell where he is daily threatened by officials, who, we gathered, have been mounting pressure on him to accept guilt of fictitious figures and implicate PDP leaders.
“We invite the world to note that President Buhari’s election promise of fighting corruption has now been turned into a man-hunt of PDP leaders, while known corrupt APC leaders are being shielded by the system and rewarded with ministerial positions and other government appointments.”
PDP’s claims false – APC
In apparent response to the PDP’s claims, the ruling APC, yesterday, accused the opposition party of plotting blackmail against the EFCC and other agencies in the fight against corruption.
A statement by the National Secretary of the APC, Mai Mala Buni, predicated the blackmail on the separate press statements issued on Friday by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose, among others, alleging plans by the APC and the Buhari administration to silence the opposition through a selective anti-corruption fight.
The statement also urged the anti-graft agencies not to relent on their determination to investigate and bring all looters of the national treasury to justice.
It dismissed the PDP’s opinion that Buhari was selective in the anti-corruption war just as it described as untrue the insinuation that APC had resolved to turn Nigeria into a one-party state.
“In three orchestrated press statements issued on Friday, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose, among others, alleged plans by the APC and President Buhari’s administration to silence the opposition through a selective anti-corruption fight. Also, the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, on Friday, accused the APC of attempting to turn the country into a one-party state”, the ruling party stated.
“The APC urges the anti-corruption agencies not to be distracted by these syndicated and coordinated attacks and continue to employ all legal and legitimate avenues to bring to book all looters of our common wealth.
“It is clear that the PDP is out of sync and out of step with the generality of Nigerians on the clamour to bring to book all looters of public funds. The days of impunity are over. The PDP and treasury thieves must pay for the recklessness and shocking mis-management of public funds perpetuated under the defunct 16-year PDP rule. It is however reassuring that in spite of desperate and shameless attempts by the PDP and it’s agents to discredit President Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts, the war against corruption is being won.
“The PDP camp in baseless allegations accuses the president of a selective anti-corruption fight while members of the APC ‘with serious corruption allegations go about their businesses’. The PDP camp in continuation of its laughable conspiracy theories also speaks of ‘a calculated attempt to decimate and silence the opposition’ through the anti-corruption fight and an attempt to turn the country to a one-party state.
“The position of the APC has not changed. For the umpteenth time, if the PDP has any proof of corruption against any APC member as alleged, we advise that they approach any of the anti-graft agencies constitutionally mandated to handle such cases.
‘Disobeying court order is highest form of corruption’
In a related development, an Abuja based legal practitioner, Godwin Ogboji, yesterday, berated the Buhari administration over alleged persistent disregard for court orders, noting that “disobeying court orders is the highest form of corruption”.
Ogboji said the principles of the separation of power envisages that the “legislature is to make law, the executive to implement while the judiciary interprets.”
“It is not in the place of any other branch of government, apart from the judiciary, to interpret and apply the law as any such attempt will be an aberration and an affront to the principle of the rule of law”, he told Sunday Vanguard in an interview.
“Considering this elementary principle of law, it is thus unfortunate that the President, the face of the executive, acting through the Department of State Services, DSS, is consciously disobeying court orders, as typified in the case of Kanu and Dasuki, who were all granted bail by competent and superior courts. This is an affront on the Constitution.
“Where the executive, which prosecutes, is dissatisfied with any court ruling, instead of disobeying the court order, it has the right of appeal to complain and, if the complaint is justifiable, surely it will get relief. Disobedience of court order is the highest form of corruption”. .