By Josef Omorotionmwan
IS it still necessary to continue to remind ourselves that in politics what people intend is often different from what they bring about? In trying to evaluate political action, therefore, one ought to consider likely, even if unintended, consequences.
Many people have said many things on our current war against corruption. For sure, the current Administration in Nigeria came to power on the wave of popular acclaim to wage a vigorous war on the looters of our treasury and to prosecute such looters with the required intensity.
Close to three years down the line, it will be unfair to conclude that the administration is not serious with the anti-graft war. All we can safely say at this point is that the near-total lack of prosecution and conviction of the looters is worrisome.
Essentially, we believe that if a course of action is perceived to be so wrong; so unethical; and so ill-advised as to worth the type of opprobrium that President Muhammadu Buhari saw in the corruption saga, it would be equally wrong and undermining of faith in the entire system to be fighting the war as to give the public the impression that all is well.
We have observed elsewhere that when pilling the blind man’s yam, you must not stop whistling – if only as a sign that you are not pilling the yam into your own mouth. As promised right from inception, we expected to see a more vigorous prosecution of the looters; and in line with the philosophy of the blind man’s yam, we expected to see a more transparent record as a proof that the Federal Government is not recovering and spending the loots to the total exclusion of the States, particularly those States affected by the recoveries. This is where the Federal Government is at war with itself. The sooner the Federal Government settles the issue here, the better for everyone.
Again, we have maintained that when people no longer know what to do, they are wont to start doing everything. This is where the loss of one genuine purpose would lead to the pursuit of a dozen pseudo purposes.
So soon, there are attempts to permanently destroy the war against corruption. Suddenly, Hon. Linus Okorie (PDP/Ebonyi State) wants the National Assembly, NASS, to legalise stealing, congratulate the big thieves; and encourage them to invest the proceeds of their thievery into productive ventures. Currently trending in the NASS is Okorie’s “Bill for an Act to Establish a Scheme To Harness Untaxed Money For Investment Purposes And To Assure Any Declarant Regarding Inquires And Proceedings Under Nigerian Laws And For Other Matters Concerned therewith”.
Hon. Okorie simplifies it further, “The Bill seeks to allow all Nigerians and residents who have any money or assets outside the system or have acquired such money or asset illegally (looted or any variant of the cliché) to come forward within a set time frame to declare same, pay tax/surcharge and compulsorily invest the funds in any sector of the Nigerian economy; and be granted full amnesty from inquiry and prosecution”.
The Bill proposes that 25% of the funds shall be paid as tax, to be shared between the three tiers of government; 30% invested on Agriculture; and the balance shall be invested in any other sector of the economy.
The repugnant Bill has been presented to the House of Representatives. It had its first and second readings on 14 June 2017 and July 2017 respectively, and has been referred to the relevant Committee.
Okorie’s Bill is a total return to atavism. It is certainly the best example of a bad Bill – a Bill that seeks amnesty for treasury looters; and a Bill that will shield Nigerians who stole the country blind from any probe and prosecution!
The major religions of the world frown against stealing and by that, anyone that steals stands condemned. To that extent, Okorie’s Bill is against the Ordinance of God. When God issued his Commandments to His children, in the Book of Exodus 20:15, He was most unequivocal, “Thou shall not steal”. He did not intend that money laundering removes the thief from the category of a thief. The Bible only talks of Restitution, which is the basis of the loot recovery. God never intended that any loot should be returned to the looter.
The Okorie Bill must not be allowed to succeed. Otherwise, the law will amount to an obvious mockery of the entire efforts at fighting crime and criminality. The Bill is perhaps a foreshadowing of what we should expect in other crime areas. Once the obnoxious measure goes through, who says the Okories of this world will not quickly produce Bills to decriminalise kidnapping, armed robbery and other heinous crimes?
Essentially, the Okorie measure runs counter to the letter and spirit of our Constitution and other criminal laws of the land. Any wonder, then, that Okorie is not taking advantage of the ongoing constitutional amendments to abrogate the country’s existing Criminal and Penal Codes so as to have a smooth ride into the passage of his devious Bill?
Any measure that seeks to prevent us from holding those who plundered our treasury accountable for their misdeed is evil and must be consigned to the waste bin. Okorie should also have realised that his Bill conflicts with Nigeria’s obligation under the United Nations convention against corruption, which is intended to establish territorial criminal jurisdiction over acts of corruption and to prosecute offenders.
We endorse the position of the law. No one should be allowed to benefit from his crime. To that extent, the Okorie measure is totally unsavory and most unbecoming in a country whose growth and development have been stunted by the activities of the mindless looters of our common patrimony, which has led to mass poverty in the land. Henceforth, the anti-graft war shall be prosecuted with added impetus and greater transparency. Anything that stands in its way must go. Let the NASS do the needful by throwing out that offensive Bill!