Two Years After, Buhari Fails To Plug Leaky Holes In Public Purse
How PMB Can Stop Raid On National Cashbox
Those who know former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in person say she is a tough lady to follow. But not a few Nigerians are now finding it tougher to follow the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as it updates the country on humongous cash in various currencies, choice properties in upscale areas of some states and Abuja as well as expensive jewelleries allegedly being recovered from the former petroleum minister.
According to a recent article written by EFCC officials and published on the anti-graft agency’s website, “N47.2 Billion and $487.5 Million in cash and properties have so far been traced to the former minister.”
The article and others on the EFCC website listed the properties which the anti-corruption agency allegedly traced to Alison-Madueke to include 21 mixed housing units located at No. 7 Thurnburn Street and No. 5 Raymond Street, Yaba, Lagos; and 16 units of four bedrooms terrace houses located at Heritage Court Estate, Plot 2C, Omerelu Street, Diobu Government Residential Area, Phase 1 Extension, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State;
Others are 13 housing units of three bedrooms terrace houses with one- room maid’s quarters en suite per unit, located at Mabushi Gardens Estate, Plot 1205 Cadastral Zone B06 Mabushi, Abuja; 6 flats of 3 bedrooms and one boys quarters each, lawn tennis court, gym, matured garden and its appurtenances located at Plot 808 (135) Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; and 15-storey building, which comprises 18 flats and six penthouses at Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, valued at $37.5m or N11.75 billion.
“A search of one of Alison-Madueke’s palatial residences in Abuja, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, turned up boxes of gold, silver and diamond jewellery, worth several million pounds sterling,” the EFCC claimed.
While many Nigerians who are sticklers for the rule of law insists on caution against “rushing to judgment over this Diezani issue because this woman has not been convicted yet of any crime”, others are flabbergasted by the sheer “magnitude of the allegations against Diezani and the audacity she needs to have to commit these crimes.”
“Honesty, it is surreal to me even though I’m used to seeing both high volume of cash and figures on my job. I find it hard to wrap my head around these things we hear being traced to Diezani,” a banker who does not want his name in print told The Dream Daily newspaper.
A random poll conducted by The Dream Daily in Abuja also appeared to support a recent clamour led by maverick musician, Mr. Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy, for Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s extradiction from Britain to face trial in Nigeria “over these alleged crimes against our common wealth.”
While the EFCC is reportedly working with the British authorities to extradite the former petroleum minister to Nigeria to stand trial, curiously the anti-graft agency recently successfully opposed Alison-Madueke’s bid seeking to be joined as a defendant in the trial of one of her alleged associates, Mr. Jide Omokore, for alleged $1.6bn oil scam.
In dismissing Alison-Madueke’s bid, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court Abuja also struck out the eighth count in which her name was listed.
Counsel to Alison-Madueke, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, had on September 18 filed the application, based on the fact that her name was listed in the eighth count, and sought for amendment of the charge, to include her as the seventh defendant, “in order to give her the opportunity to defend herself”.
Interestingly, in the dismissed application, Alison-Madueke had also requested that the court direct the Attorney-General of theFederation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, to facilitate her appearance in court on the next adjourned date in October 2017.
But according to a statement by the EFCC, Counsel for the anti-graft agency, M.S. Abubakar, “in an 18-paragraph counter-affidavit, vehemently opposed the application,” arguing that, “the applicant realized she was being investigated, and she absconded abroad and sometimes in March this year operatives were in London, but her lawyers refused to allow the operatives interview her”.
Abubakar contended that Alison-Madueke’s “application is a plot by the applicant to enable her escape prosecution in London, also to enable her come to Nigeria and scuttle the on-going case which has already gotten to an advanced stage.”
After hearing arguments, Justice Dimgba, declined to grant the application, which a young lawyer who pleaded anonymity on account of his junior position in the legal profession found “curious.” “I find the dismissal of that application very curious. It would have given us a golden opportunity to know whether Diezani was only bluffing by saying she wants to come home and attend her trial.”
He continued: “To say the truth, I don’t know what to believe anymore in this Diezani saga, I mean why would EFCC argue against an application by Diezani to be joined in a corruption case involving her alleged accomplices in a case that is probably the biggest corrupt case this country has ever witnessed? The woman even said the court should order the AGF to facilitate her appearance in court on the next adjourned date. Compare that with the EFCC’s claim that they are working to extradite her from Britain. The woman wants to come home, wants to be brought home by the AGF, the EFCC said they are working for her extradition, yet the EFCC itself opposed her application that would compel the AGF to bring her home. These don’t add up for me and I’m wondering what is going on here? I mean this is a good opportunity to hear from the horse’s mouth how much did Diezani steal from us as alleged by the EFCC? We need to know and I think she is in the best position to tell us.”
Has Buhari done enough to prevent corruption?
While many ordinary Nigerians who spoke with The Dream Daily commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his anti-corruption fight, a number of them scored the President low on “setting up a systemic mechanism to prevent anybody from ‘doing a Diezani’ in the future.” Nigerians also appeared distrustful of claims by government spokesperson that corruption has been decimated under the current administration.
Speaking to this in an interview, a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, said: “I have not seen any measure or policy put in place or any mechanism put in place by the government of the day to re-orientate Nigerians on corrupt practices. Under Buhari’s military government, we had the War Against Indiscipline. Under (Gen. Sani) Abacha, we had War on Corruption. Is there any mechanism put in place by the government of the day either via public information system on corrupt practices? Is there any genuine crusade to address corruption? Have the members of the National Assembly stopped their attitude of ‘contractocracy’? Has padding of the budget reduced? Have they addressed that?
“If they are fighting corruption, based on the various revelations, even from the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, are their no allegations of corrupt practices against them? What are they doing about that? When you look at it all over, you see that the essence of the anti-corruption posture of this government is to decimate the opposition and give an impression that people of the (former President Goodluck) Jonathan administration are corrupt people. It is a policy of extinction from the political space and you have to justify it.”
On the surfeit of allegations against Alison-Madueke, Prof. Suleiman: “I cannot speak for Diezani. You must know that Jonathan inherited her from (Olusegun) Obasanjo and (Umaru) Yar’Adua’s governments. She has not spoken on most of these allegations. She has not appeared before any court of law to defend herself, so it would be unfair on my own side to speak on whether she is guilty or not.
“Yes, the revelation is shocking and worrisome, but it will be unfair for me as an intellectual and a Muslim to now pass blame on whether she is right or wrong. One thing you must know is that Diezani was never a poor person before she came to government. She worked with Shell Petroleum. She was in money before she came on board as a minister to the best of my knowledge. So, to just make a sweeping condemnation, believing that everything forfeited or identified as Diezani’s property or assets are ill-gotten, I do not think that is fair enough. But the revelations are worrisome, mind-boggling. It took a lot of people by surprise, including me but again, we should still give her the benefit of the doubt.”
Also, an office worker in Abuja, Timi James said: “They (government) are just lying to us. Corruption is still everywhere in this country. Go to government office, police station, VIO, Road Safety, everywhere, judges, corruption is still going on. If you say there is not corruption, what of the (former Secretary to the Government of the Federation) SGF case? Even (National Bureau of Statistics) NBS said so in the news”.
How President Buhari Reduce Corruption In Government
Respondents to The Dream Daily straw poll were confident that “corruption can be reduced to bearable level in the country.” However, they appeared to differ on how a graft-free society can be achieved. While some were of the view that President Buhari’s apparent resolve to prosecute as many past corrupt government officials as possible would serve as good deterrence, others canvassed “proactive measures that will make corruption virtually impossible.”
Seyi Ogunlana, an Information communication technology (ICT) expert said: “I believe the best and cost-effective way to reduce corruption in the country is to deploy ICT. Look at what the (bank verification number) BVN and (treasury single account) TSA, which are all powered by ICT, have revealed. We need ICT to make government more transparent, which will make corruption very difficult. I’m not saying corruption will disappear just like that with ICT but it will make things easy for government to trace through digital footprint. If you steal in government now it is difficult to do so through the banks. If you transfer money now, you can’t erase the digital trail. You will be caught easily with just some clicks of the mouse. If we run an ICT-driven government, corruption will reduce in the country.”