By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA-Human Rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Barrister Femi Falana and anti-corruption crusader, Mr. Eze Nwagwu Thursday scored the Special Investigation Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Federal Government Properties, low in its discharge of the duties assigned to it by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The duo who spoke at the second forum anti-corruption situation room discourse organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) in partnership with the Yar’ Adua Foundation and the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) noted that the slow pace of recovery of properties from corrupt elements in the society was not only worrisome but surprising, considering the promise made to Nigerians by incumbent administration.
Falana who chaired the occasion said the fight against corruption must be carried out in such a way that the message would be taken to everywhere including the market place. While noting that corruption remains a global phenomenon, the legal luminary lamented the incessant growth of political corruption in the past couple of years.
“Between 2015 and now, the political system has become even more corrupt and political corruption is the father of all corruption,” he said even as he said the law establishing the panel is valid.
Falana also warned on the dangers of accepting without questioning the negative profiling of the Nigerian State by the international community, arguing that corruption is not restricted to a particular nation on earth.
“We must stop swallowing hook, line and sinker the propaganda of the West against Nigerians. We remember that David Cameron once described Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt nation but his family members were mentioned in the Panama papers.
“We need to encourage the panel to achieve its mandate and I don’t particularly see it as a duplication of the work by the Code of Conduct Bureau as the panel’s mandate covers both government officials and private citizens whose conducts constitutes economic adversity to the nation,” he said.
Similarly, Nwagwu bemoaned the lack of data on what the panel has been able to do since its establishment by the current administration. Reacting to a representative of the Chairman of the Presidential Panel, Okoi Obon-Obla, Dr. Paul Ifere who said the panel “has done quite a lot,” Nwagwu described his remark as a mere verbal tribute that does not satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians who are eager to know in concrete term what has been seized, when and how.
“We don’t have the number of properties that have been seized and the number of persons being investigated. This is not good enough. This panel should be able to do an audit of the lifestyles of political office holders to make its task easier,” he counselled, even as he made a veiled reference to a former President for establishing a Presidential Library while he was still in office, saying “money was raised publicly in the establishment of a Presidential Library and universities were built by leaders while they were still in office.”
An elated Falana who wore a broad smile when Nwagwu questioned the manner of the establishment of President Olusegun Obasanjo Library, interjected, assuring his colleague that justice on the matter would come at the right time.
“It is only in Nigeria that a serving President and Vice President built universities while still in office. At the appropriate time, those things would be forfeited to the Nigerian State,” Falana assured.