- Published on Sunday, 05 October 2014 18:17
- Written by SUNDAY ODIBASHI
Comrade Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), expresses concern that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and ICPC are the proper agencies to screen politicians on corruption for
clearance to contest elections. He says there is suspicion that the $9.3 million meant for arms but confiscated in South Africa had Presidential cover and may be for other purposes than Nigerians were being told. SUNDAY ODIBASHI met him in Lagos.
HOW would you reconcile the declaration by the Inspector-General of Police that the Police would stop politicians who have corruption records from contesting elections in 2015?
It wouldn’t have been the duty of the Police to screen politicians on corruption, it would a duty enabled by electoral laws. While the electoral law was in the making, we made a representation to the committee that when people have corruption cases that are glaringly so, not coloured in the political garb, that such people should not be allowed to contest election at any level until they have dislodged that baggage on them. We gave a caveat that there are some cases that are obviously motivated by the political interests of the opponents and if they sound like blackmail, such cases should be treated on their own merit. We further urged politicians that have corruption cases not to unnecessarily delay the adjudication in various courts so that the court would have dispensed with the cases before elections so that it will not be a matter of conjecture that those who are contesting elections are free of corruption accusations but that they are actually seen to be free of those corruption cases. We also suggested that for politicians to avoid issues of corruption stopping them from contesting elections, they should declare their assets, that the Code of Conduct Bureau should verify those assets and confirm that the assets so declared are truly belonging to the public officials or politicians. Everybody that wants to contest election should do same so that people would have seen what you claim you have and those who want to do independent investigation would have done that. So, if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cannot stop corrupt politicians, then, it is the duty of the anti-corruption agencies to do that. The duty of the Police is not to investigate corruption cases per se; they have the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) to investigate cases of fraud. We have dedicated agencies like EFCC and ICPC that should take up that duty. If the Police decide to do that, they may not be able to stand judicial test. Police are to receive complaints from members of the public on a crime that is about to be committed not necessarily monitoring politicians. Sometimes we become suspicious that when Police begin to look beyond their immediate brief, beyond the corruption that is ravaging the institution, itself, and talking about monitoring politicians, may be they are looking for a way of milking the same corrupt people to feather their own nest.
Many cases involving former governors and others are dragging in various courts, some are not even mentioned nowadays, who is to blame, the judiciary or quality of prosecution?
If any politician has a case in court, he tends to manipulate the process. Because politicians must have acquired enormous wealth while in office, they have all the money to engage the services of the best lawyers, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), and they will pay them handsomely well, unlike the anti-corruption agencies that are deliberately starved of funds and other enablements to operate. The politicians have penchant of delaying cases that the case may become fatigued by time so that once the suit comes in, the witnesses would be lethargic, the prosecutors would be lethargic, the evidence would be obliterated along the line. Some of the witnesses may even die, prosecutors may die. So, a lot of things come in between. That is why they delay for a long very time. They ask for frivolous injunctions for all sorts of reasons. Because of the problems in the judiciary, itself, that they are short of judges and most of the judges that are adjudicating, they don’t have the experience of prosecuting corruption cases. Like the Chief Justice of Nigeria said recently, many officials of the court are corrupt, that the judges may not be corrupt in themselves, but they are surrounded by lieutenants that are actually corrupt who will negotiate with litigants standing trials on criminal cases and take money from them ostensibly for the judge. The money may not get to the judge but the litigant may think that it is the judge that took the money and didn’t deliver. Litigants who know that at the end, they would not come out clean, would want to drag the case so that the case becomes delayed unto extinction such that justice delayed is justice denied. In most cases, it is the judicial staff that collected money from litigants and did not want the judges to know who sometimes find ways of hiding the case file so that they escape the scrutiny of judges and the case will keep dragging.
The EFCC, sometime, revealed that about N2 billion was found in different bank accounts of a judge; can such judge not compromise corruption cases?
There are occasions where judges are also in complicity in the dragging of corruption cases because they have obtained bribes from litigants. These litigants bribe them heavily to the extent that they know that if they did anything wrong, they won’t be able to pay back the bribe money they have taken. It is only on some occasions that court officials took the money on behalf of judges. The truth is that the judiciary has refused to sanitize itself. If the judiciary doesn’t sanitize itself, it will seize to remain the bastion of the masses because at the end, they won’t be able to deliver justice. They will deliver judgment but justice is what we require from the temple of justice that our courts are meant to be. Aloma Muktar, the CJN, started making efforts to sanitize the judiciary by actually showing some of the corrupt judges the way out of the Bench but that had to stop because the powerful and the mighty in the country are the only ones engaging the corrupt judges to adjudicate in their cases. They are the only ones who are capable of bribing the judges to the extent of swaying the trend of their judgments. There was a time Justice Kayode Eso Panel was set up to sanitize the judiciary, especially the Bench. About 47 judges were listed as being overtly corrupt, only about five were actually relieved of their appointments. So, that does not show enough commitment from the judiciary as an arm of government in sanitizing itself. Since the executive and the legislators are enjoying the rots in the judiciary because they are the ones everybody runs to in cases of corruption and other lopsided distribution of wealthy, they know that a corrupt judiciary will work for them. So, they don’t help matters rather they encourage the judiciary to continue to be as corrupt as the other two arms of government.
The issue goes beyond that, what we can talk about is the way forward. The way forward is the total overhaul of the system. Government is made up of three arms – the executive, legislature and judiciary – if the three of them are corrupt, it is only the people at the receiving end of the jeopardy that the pervasive corruption exist that will now take action. That action is in terms of jaw jaw and if that becomes impossibility, then it will take war.
What is the feasibility of the people leading the vanguard of systemic change when they have been emasculated with poverty imposed by the ruling elite?
It usually looks as if the people are compromised or are complacent. That is the way it looks everywhere that revolution has happened. Revolution is not something you pre-plan or you predetermine the direction it will take. It is usually spontaneous. The uprising of January 2012, for instance, it was not pre-planned to be that successful. That was also a kind of offshoot of what happened in 1989 – the SAP riot. Nigerians moved, it is only that they didn’t sustain it but a stage may come when you have the replica of Arab Spring when people are ready to lay down their lives for the sustenance of the lives of their progeny. The best time will eventually come when people see it completely naked that it is the system that needs to be changed before they can see a new lease of life. They will also rise against that system that made them suffer for so long and still making their lives miserable. Basically, it is not about what the people think, they can still because of the ravaging poverty accept Greek Gifts from some of the politicians because they needed to survive but it will get to a stage where they can know that that is not enough for them. So, they will rise against the tide.
Would you consider the National Honours Awards justifiable in relation to the recipients’ contributions to nation building?
Decent person want to be seen in the pact of moral gathering and, of course, not pathetically corrupt elements. The national award has been reduced to party award, at best, presidential awards. Most of the awards that are given is either to placate a political opposition or gratify those who have served the interest of the ruling power. Basically, it is not being conferred based on merit. They are so many Nigerians that merit the award who are not getting it. Many Nigerians have performed several outstanding feet that are not recognized. Many of those that are being conferred with the awards are those that have participated in one way or the other in destroying this country.
There are however, some recipients that merited the award. Someone like Pa Akinkunmi who designed Nigerian flag, those sports men and women that won international competitions eminently deserved the award.
There are no reasons why national award should be bestowed on serving governors who when you examine them have not justified the appropriation acts they sign yearly. You have not investigated them, you have not compared them if they declared their assets when they were coming in, they have not declared their assets at the end of tenures. You have not found what if the difference between the beginning and the end of their terms of office would be justifiable. These are states where no outstanding performances had been recorded. Some of the governors have several petitions hanging in various anti-corruption agencies, may be for over bloated contracts and so on. Why should a government deem it fit that those are the kind of people that it should confer award on.
It only shows that the award has been watered down to the level of patronage and may be bribery for some actions. So, it has lost its value. That is the reason people like Gbajabiamila, Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawhinmi, Chinua Achebe, had to reject it. So, those awards are not awards of excellence rather they are awards for patronage for helping to sustain the rot in the system.
What is your take on the Federal Government intervention on $9.3 million seized in South Africa?
That is a confirmation that the government is corruption compliance, protects corrupt elements by any means possible. They can go to any length to protect one of their own who engage in shady deals both within and outside the country.
When the aircraft was brought, Ayo Oritsejafor, CAN President, claimed that the aircraft was donated to further the gospel of Christ. People were castigated for asking where in the Bible did he see that kind of thing, that he would be flying all over the place. That is about accumulation of inordinate wealth which they repelled. Now, it was registered as a private aircraft. Within the aviation parlance, they believe that private aircraft is not supposed to be used for commercial purposes. Then, he leased it out, without commercial operational license, he didn’t have to do that. Then, he must have lied that he wanted to use it for the propagation of the gospel because hiring it out is not part of propagation of the gospel.
That the aircraft has to take off from the Presidential Wing shows that the crime has a presidential cover, meaning that the president and his aviation handlers are in complicity in the deal. That they have access to as much as $9.3 million raises more suspicions because this is a country that is operating cashless monetary policy. Somebody must answer where they procured the $9.3 million, is it from the Central Bank of Nigeria, Security Exchange Commission or international agencies or those operating black market.
Those in the Presidential Wing handling luggage did not discover that $9.3 million was moving out of the country, people were arrested in South Africa and the money ordered to be confiscated by the South African court. That will show the extent to which we can go in wasting national resources that we claim are inadequate.
The federal government sought for $1 billion loan while that is being processed, this illicit arms deal of $9.3 million lost to South Africa suddenly came up. Where did the money come from. The story does not sink well into some of us who believe even though they may procure the arms, they might be used for other purposes beside what they told us. They might be required for 2015 General Elections or maybe they simply wanted to launder the money to some other countries. It could the way Nigerian money is being laundered to foreign countries without knowing. The Government of South Africa must also investigate to ensure that its citizens are not in complicity in the $9.3 million illicit deal