The question of massive corruption has plagued successive governments in Nigeria.
However, the coming in of the present government has not changed the scenario as massive corruption and pillaging of coffers remains an embarrassment. Okosun Dennis had an exclusive chat with a Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Barr. Giwa Amu , who lambasted the President of slow attitude to responding to corruption issues involving his aides and lieutenants. He also punched the NASS alleging that they are “head and neck” deep in corruption. Excerpts:
We have an APC government claiming to fight corruption. Over two years down the line, are you convinced that corruption is actually being fought?
I believe that corruption is being fought but not sufficiently. I also believe that when you talk about the fight against corruption; it must be tough and holistic. But in this case, it is regrettable to say that the fight is not holistic. There is a fight going on, but it is not complete in itself and it tends to suggest that the fight is not met to be holistic and it is very sad. I believe having handed over the Vice Presidential Committee report to the President on Babachir Lawal, the President Buhari ought to have acted on it the next day not even a week after. Why set up the committee if you know you are going to delay implementing its reports? The Committee was not just made up of two people; you have the Vice President whom he trusted so well and relayed on his judgment. I don’t think the president is reading anything in that report; he has nothing to read in it and he cannot dispute figures there too. He cannot dispute the procedure adopted because he set up the committee. In fact, if he wants to tell Nigerians that he is actually fighting corruption, he should hand over that report to EFCC for immediate investigation and prosecution. Sacking Babachir is not enough.
When you say this government is fighting corruption but not to the extent that people expect, what are the indexes to show that this government has fought corruption within the last two years?
The truth of the matter is that politicians are the most slimy, dangerous rattle snakes you can find. The confusion here is that if you are going to fight corruption, make it holistic. If it is not going to be holistic, don’t use it as a weapon to hit up the polity; to make everybody focus on the purported anti-corruption drive when there are some people who have executive immunity. I support Muhammadu Buhari in every way. But his fight against corruption is polluted.
A serving Senator Hamman Isah Misau was arraigned by the Federal Government last Thursday for making “injurious falsehood” against the Inspector General of Police and the Nigerian Police Force. How do you validate FG’s decision without setting up a proper investigative panel?
The Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris is becoming a judge in his case. He is the prosecutor, a persecutor, a witness and they shouldn’t permit that. In fact, I have never seen a thing like that before. For a government that is claiming to be fighting corruption, the first thing is that the allegation against the Senator of forgery must be established. First, whether the allegations of the senator are false before you can succeed in the court against him. Most prosecution fail not because you have no fantastic defence lawyers. But when you have a weak case, prosecution is bound to fail. That is why when they say some lawyers are liars, I laugh. When you have a very weak case, prosecution, is bound to fail. Prosecution is not a game of “hide and seek.” It’s a case of rules predicated upon rules which must be complied with.
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There was an established allegation and the AGF didn’t deem it fit to institute an investigative panel against the senator.Why would the justice department concede to prefer these charges against Senator Misau. Isn’t that putting the judiciary on trial?
Not the judiciary. It has been canvassed in many quarters that the office of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation should be separated. The Minister for Justice is a politician. The arraignment of the senator is acting politically to save face. He is not acting judiciously or judicially. First, have you asked that how come that most of the cases prosecuted against corrupt people failed? It is because they have political undertone. There is no doubt that these persons charged to court commit fraud related matters – massive fraud – but when you go about it with vengeance, it becloud sense of reasoning. In Senator Misau case for example, what are the basis for arraigning a man like that when there is no prima facie case against him? Before you go about arraigning him, you would have satisfied yourself prima facie not beyond reasonable doubt. Yet, these offences were committed because he was alleged that he did some forgery. It turned out that the police service commission came and cleared him and the case of forgery is dropped. You alleged against him – false allegation – but the IGP himself and the police have not investigated to find out if they actually collected that money. So, you now shift the “Burden of Proof” to Misau and establish; which is not so in criminal matters. It is you that have alleged that must proof beyond reasonable doubt. Now, we are faced with Senator Misau coming forward to present evidence that can embarrass you.
Do you agree with those saying that some politicians are manipulating Buhari to do certain things we are seeing now?
For me personally, when I want to engage a man, I start from his background – where he comes from; the nature of his people; their reaction to things; their religious belief and their everyday conduct when it comes to particular matters. The president is a person that comes from a place that taciturnity is golden. They don’t act before they think; austere and moderate people but when they act, it is often with decisiveness and that is why people that do not know him call him a dictator because his decision are often irreversible. As for the politicians manipulating him you, you can’t do that to a man like Buhari. This is a man who contested the election three times and lost. He should know what he is getting into. He told the wife, you are not a politician, I am the politician. He knows that even as we speak, there are elements of stealing going on in this country, of course he knows. However, the nature of his own people; they watch but when they spring, they do that viciously. They get their target and annihilate the target. All these games the politicians around him are playing, let us give the president the benefit of the doubt, these are people who contested, campaigned with him. If I were in his position, because of the goodwill we once shared, I will accommodate a kind of silence but will act decisively. For example, if the minister of works is alleged to have stolen N25 billion now, Buhari will not waste time to deal with him because this is his own government. It is different from saying why he was not president the minister of works stole N70 billion in Lagos state as governor. But if you go to him today and say your minister for Finance embezzled some money, I am sure the man would act decisively.
Are you worried with EFCC making so many arrests and not very much prosecution and conviction we have seen?
I am very much disturbed. Unfortunately, the EFCC didn’t start such with this government. So, nobody would accuse Buhari as the person who instigated EFCC. Right from the time of Nuhu Ribadu through to Larmode and Farida Waziri, the agency has tolled the same way. However, Farida Waziri was the most civil of all the trend of events in EFCC. However, I don’t understand why you break into somebody’s house; pick him up and ask him to write a statement. I don’t know why they use detection as a tool to make him make confessional statement. One would assume that you would have completed your investigation. Just like the metropolitan police will do, they confront you with facts: Did you sign this or that? By the time you see all the facts, you will have no choice than to see, yes. They will then ask: explain what happened to us. That is the type of tactics I expect the EFCC to adopt. Why do you close two streets, went with hammer to knock down doors because you want to arrest a suspect? I was in a bank one day when EFCC came over a matter. It was like warfare. Policemen were marching upstairs with EFCC officials. Over what? Somebody has deposited about N100 million and the bank came down because of that? They were seizing computers and everything! At the end of the day, they arrested the account officer and manager of the bank and took them away but were released that same day. The funniest thing was that the owner of the money secured a loan and was about to set up a farm in the West. Is that why you people stormed the bank?
Is National Assembly not culpable in all of these, because nothing is coming from them?
The National Assembly (NASS) is a pinnacle of corruption, a citadel of fraud, an amalgamation of criminals. We don’t have a NASS. Your National Assembly is interfering with the activities of the Executives; instructing banks, your ministers to comply with certain things out of their jurisdiction. What is the business of NASS with Mrs Jonathan wife’s account? Is that woman the only account that has been frozen in this country? Is NASS a judicial body that is empowered to instruct that an account should be opened? Can you imagine that the NASS again cancelled the contract of Intel because of Atiku Abubakar. Is it part of their duties? The presidency has failed to realise that it has its own power against the NASS. NASS is not a money-generating arm of government but relied on budget from the Executive, yet they are highly paid. There are ways to check the NASS which the presidency is not aware of or his advisers have not done. Instead, they placate the NASS. Look at Donald Trump in US telling the Congress, if you don’t want to do this, I will use my Executive power. Nobody can look at him in the eyes. Right now, he is even fighting his own party because he knows that they are the establishment and want to cripple his government. The NASS lack the moral, spiritual or social powers to exist as a National Assembly.