This war against corruption

IN the course of the past few weeks, our collective responsibility was again enraged when we watched the theatre premiered clothed with the title, “fight” against corruption, and perhaps corruption fighting back. Before delving into the farcical events, it is apposite to cast our minds back to the 29th of May 2015, when the newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the fifth democratically elected president of Nigeria. His cardinal agenda was to tackle frontally, the scourge of corruption. However, five years after, the rays of hope given by his emergence seem are fading, and the initial sanctimonious impression instilled in Nigerians regarding the fight against corruption is fast evanescing. One is utterly bemused that Ibrahim Magu, who headed the anti corruption crusade, is enmeshed in alleged multiple financial misappropriations. To further give credence to the allegations, the law was set in motion against Magu by the Chief Law Officer of the country-the Attorney General, Malami SAN. As expected, this indictment has stirred the heart of every political observer.  The issue has polarised Nigerians. For example, a back page columnist, Farooq Kperogi, described the whole insipid corruption galore as nothing but “dog-eats-dog food fight involving two dogged scammers, performing as corny dramatis personae. No error would be committed when one concludes that the ongoing charade called legislative oversight is basically for personal interest.

Magu’s travail is a cascade of parody symbolising a case of the dog waging the tail. While Magu is yet to be legally exonerated from all the accusations, Malami seems to have exercised his constitutional power not in accordance with the dictate and spirit of the law. I was discomforted when a special adviser  to the president who works in the office of the Attorney General, Mr. Abiodun Aikomo, passionately defended the AG’s prosecutorial power wielded against Magu, under section 174 of 1999 CFRN. He averred on the popular Channels TV’s Politics Today that by virtue of section 174 (1) of the 1999 constitution, the Attorney General has enormous powers to prosecute, undertake, discontinue, take over any criminal matter before any court in Nigeria. I think some clarifications are imperative so as to save our bastardized democratic practice from further degeneration. However, while Mr Aikomo was making reference to the AGF’s power of nolle prosequi in responce to the allegation by Prof. Itse Sagay SAN who is the chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption), it can be gleaned that it is believed that Malami’s power of setting law in motion against Magu is derived from section 174 of the constitution. Section 174(1)(a) of the 1999 CFRN says that the AGF shall have power to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against persons before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court marshal, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly. The wordings of that section are explicitly clear that, with exception of a court marshal, the constitutional power of the AG to prosecute should be exercised before any court of law in Nigeria and not before a panel of inquiry.

Without conceding to the rightness or wrongness, guilt or innocence or malice or good faith behind the arrest, detention and suspension of the former acting chairman of EFCC, Malami could not have legally exercised his power to prosecute Magu under the section 174(1)(a). With due respect, I am of the firm view that the Justice Salami (Retd) led panel does not have jurisdiction to entertain such matter, where the AG of the Federation is leveraging on his constitutional powers under section 174(1) (a) of the 1999 CFRN. The whole charade called prosecution is no doubt not in public interest- as dictated by section 174(1)(c) of the constitution, hence, is a mere fight of who gets what and disintegration among politricians.  Aside the above misnomer, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s wealth and resources have been egregiously mismanaged by a small, kleptocratic ruling elite, who have taken advantage of the lack of key institutions, thus perpetrating every corrupt activity without fear of sanction, simply because there is not going to be any real sanction. The country has been reduced to a banana republic where everybody does what he likes with impunity at the detriment of the masses. Look at the farce going on in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC that has generated unprecedented opprobrium. It is nothing but the  caricature of a failed government. This is another example of a pervasive corruption, in a society where almost all appointees are incorrigibly corrupt.

The South-South region of Nigeria is the repository of major sources of Nigeria’s income. It could have been developed like every other resource-dominated area in the world. Ironically, this region is the most bankrupt in terms of physical infrastructure and development. Take for example, Famigbe town, which is just a four-minute drive from Yenagoa, the capital city of Bayelsa State, the major road leading to it is wooden-made, coupled with the absence of other social amenities. My first visit to Yenagoa erased the thought I had had of an oil rich state which I projected to be a city full of Eldorado. Agudama Epie enroute Akenfa, Otiotio, Tombia et al all defy the status of cities which could be regarded as an integral part of the capital city of an oil-rich state. Sadly, all these towns are just a stone’s throw to the state secretariat. The decay and deficit of infrastructural facility is a model of the six states comprising the south-south region. One then wonders in utter disappointment what has happened to the 13 per cent derivative funds, bogus FAAC Allocation, 3 per cent IOC budget, 50 per cent Ecology Funds. The frank truth is, the rots in the Niger Delta Ministry are just a modicum and very minute quantum of embezzlement that has permeated virtually every institution in Nigeria.

Again, there has been an uproar and confrontation between the Minister of state for labour and employment, Mr. Festus Kenyamo SAN and the NASS joint committee on labour on Federal Government initiative to create 774,000 jobs for the teaming unemployed youths across all the 774,000 local governments in Nigeria. Rather than creating jobs for the roaming unemployed youths and get them engaged, the initiative was seen as an avenue to hijack and create jobs for whoever gets the control and spearhead the program. Nigerians are aware that the face-off between the NASS and the minister is not for the benefit of the masses.

  • Balogun is a Lagos based legal practitioner



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