By Tony Alile
When, in 2015, news filtered in about the misuse of money meant for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency, many people waited with bated breath to find out who the culprits would turn out to be.
In a matter of months, the can of worms was let open and the names of some of the most influential and prominent people in the government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan started popping out, with Col. Sambo Dasuki and the smooth-talking Deziani Alison-Madueke being the notable ones.
The tentacles spread to Edo State and landed on the waiting laps of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in the 2016 governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), at the time, went on overdrive picking up prominent people and arraigning them in the courts over their alleged connivance in cornering public funds for the alleged prosecution of the re-election bid of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
With the passing of time, the trials have lingered and while Sambo Dasuki has only recently been granted bail after being held for about four years, Alison-Madueke has remained abroad, with the many others who allegedly benefitted from the largesse fighting to clear their names at one court or the other across the country. Some staffers of the Independent Nigeria Electoral Commission (INEC) in Adamawa State are doing time in prison for colluding with agents linked with Diezani to influence the outcome of the elections.
Ize-Iyamu had walked free ever since the case began until he and four others were arraigned in May 2018. They are now set for re-arraignment before Hon. Justice G. M. Umar on Thursday, February 13, 2020, over a N700 million election-related fraud case preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The case file is at Court 1, Federal High Court Benin City.
Ize-Iyamu and the four other accused persons were earlier arraigned in 2018 before Hon. Justice P. I. Ajoku. However, due to the transfer of the Judge, the trial could not go on.
The EFCC had filed charges against the accused persons bordering on illegal receipt of public funds for the purpose of the 2015 general election, contrary to the provisions of the EFCC Act and the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Other accused persons in the case are the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, a former deputy governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Tony Azegbemi; and one Efe Anthony.
The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring among themselves to commit the offence in March, 2015, alleging that they took possession and control of the funds without any contract award.
The EFCC also said the defendants allegedly made huge cash payments of various amounts to several people without going through a financial institution.
With such a weighty case bordering on corruption hanging like an albatross around Ize-Iyamu’s neck, rumours are rift that he just recently decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to pick up the ticket for the governorship ticket for the party with the prodding of the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s defense for the sums traced to his account was that the monies were funds donated for the campaign of the presidential elections which were later disbursed for the prosecution of the elections. He claims that the charges by the EFCC were trumped up, but we do not need him to tell us this on social media – as he has been doing on Whatsapp and other public communication platforms; he can as well tender his defense in the court of law.
Much as he claims these as the explanation of the funds traced to him, he should let the facts save him in the courts. But the weightier issue is the fact that he is preoccupying himself with a governorship ambition when he has not cleared his name of these allegations. In a society obsessed with waging war against malfeasance and fraud and under a President who prides himself with an unrelenting fight against corruption, it is curious that Ize-Iyamu is joining the president’s party to seek a ticket to contest an election.
There are a couple of things that Nigerians can tolerate at this present juncture of its democratic development, but having someone who is neck-deep in a corruption case slugging it out for a ticket for electoral office makes mockery of the President’s fight against corruption.
It bears repeating that Ize-Iyamu needs to clear his name. It is only rational to go to court, present his case before the judge and trash out the issues. After then, can he now come forward to seek the people’s mandate.
However, one thing that has become apparent in recent times, is that President Muhammadu Buhari has proven to run a government where people are made to pay for their crimes. The case of three governors who have been convicted for crimes they committed when they were entrusted with the people’s patrimony is still fresh in our memories.
The EFCC should maintain their high standard that has put them at the vanguard of the president’s anti-graft war for years now. The conviction of these former governors goes to show that though the wheel of justice is slow and patient, it would surely ride its course. It is also a sign for those seeking to confuse party alliance with rewriting their names that it is not business as usual.
For Ize-Iyamu, although he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, many think that his could be the case of one accused of corruption joining the ruling party for cover.