By Chukwudi Nweje – Assistant Features Editor
The stage may be gradually setting for what may turn to be a mother of all legal battles. Two anti-graft outfits, one a government agency and the other, a group of civil society, community-based and other non-governmental organizations may lock horns soon over the former’s unwillingness or refusal to prosecute perceived acts of corruption.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), a group of civil society, community-based and other non-governmental organizations with the objective of fighting corruption and corrupt persons by any means possible at all levels in Nigeria has said it is considering dragging Nigeria’s anti corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC), to court and obtaining an order of mandamus to compel the agency to investigate and prosecute former President Olusegun Obasanjo for alleged acts of corruption.
CACOL said it has written several petitions to the EFCC since when former President Obasanjo left office in May 2007 requesting the commission to in line with its establishing act investigate the former President whose lifestyle and extent of the properties, it says are not justified by his source of income. Although the group has written several petitions and follow ups, it said the EFCC has not acted on any of its letters to its office.
CACOL has however written the EFCC chairman again renewing its call for the investigation of the former President. The letter dated January 26, 2014 and routed thru the Lagos Zonal office was received and acknowledged by the Head of Operations and stamp-dated February 26, 2014.
In the letter entitled ‘Re: Petition For The Probe Of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President And Commander-In-Chief Of Armed Forces Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria: Further Reminder And Further Allegations’, which was rooted thro the Lagos Zonal office of EFCC, Debo Adeniran, the group’s Executive Chairman prayed the anti corruption agency that Section 7 (1) (a) and (b) of the EFCC Establishment Act vested the power in your Commission to, “cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organisation has committed an offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes or cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income. We are therefore requesting that the EFCC cause an investigation of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on the said allegations in line with the power vested in the Commission.”
He added: “CACOL strongly demands that the EFCC take appropriate legal action against the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, if it were to be found, as we certainly know, that the wealth of the former President were acquired through foul, deceitful and immoral means, and if his management of the affairs of the Nigerian state, both administrative and financial, left room to suspect financial recklessness, aiding and abetting of corruption and by any other foul means that diminish the conduct of the former President as a honest, transparent and accountable person as the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are hopeful that this petition would be given the priority attention it deserves as it has the potentialities of salvaging our dear country from the perpetual socio-moral, economic and political servitude that various corrupt leaders have over the years plunged her.”
The letter said in part: “It would be recalled that Chief Obasanjo became the President of Nigeria in May 29, 1999 some few months after he was released from prison by the military ruler, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar. For the three years that Chief Obasanjo was in prison, his Ota farm, which was his economic mainstay was in shambles, having lost the freedom to look after and ensure sustainability of his financial income… As a review, in our petition and reminders to your Commission, we asked you to probe some of the known assets of the former President believed to have been acquired with the proceeds of corrupt practices while in office as the Nigerian President.
Specifically, CACOL asked the EFCC to investigate sources of the funds the former President used to establish: the N6.5 million presidential library; the Bells University of Technology in Badagry, Lagos State, the cost of which CACOL estimated at conservatively N40 billion; the 200 million units of shares he bought in Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (TRANSCORP); and the resuscitation and expansion of Obasanjo farms in Ota, Ogun State and in various parts of Nigeria into multi-billion naira establishment, all within the spate of eight years he served as Nigeria president. The group said it wanted the EFCC to launch investigations into these various business concerns as well as their propriety or otherwise.
Adeniran also raised objections to what he called “the utter neglect or slow pace at which the commission” is attending to the petition it also wrote against the Lagos State Government. Another letter to the EFCC entitled ‘Further reminder on Allegations of Corruption Against Lagos State Government: EFCC Should Investigate’ dated 25 February, 2014 read in part “The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) hereby writes to remind you of the above titled petition nwhich was submitted through your Lagos office on February 4, 2010. It is worthy to note that our coalition was invited by your commission to adopt the said petition and discuss further on the allegation on 25 February, 2010 through a letter dated 17 February, 2010 after which a reminder dated 9 September, 2013 was sent to your Abuja office.
“This present reminder is done with a view to complaining to you that we are not satisfied with the utter neglect or slow pace at which your commission is attending to the said petition. We are especially unhappy with the EFCC that apart from assuring us that investigation was ongoing on our petition, up till date, the commission has not briefed on what it has come up with so far. It is against this backdrop that we write to ask you to expedite action on the request made that the allegations raised in our petition are diligently investigated, its report made public and whoever is indicted be prosecuted and punished appropriately…”
Adeniran said that having written several petitions none of which were acted on, that CACOL “may be forced to go to go to court and obtain an order of mandamus compelling the EFCC to make a pronouncement on the matter.”