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Return of stolen loot: Matters arising



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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari recently confirmed that those who looted the treasury were bringing back such loot under cover of darkness. In harmony with the clandestine policy of receiving stolen wealth from looters, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has publicly confirmed the position of the President that, indeed, monies stolen were being received. There is as yet no official denial as to this statement. Nothing as yet is lost in transition as both the President and the CBN are standing by their words that looted monies are steadily flowing into the coffers of the nation’s apex bank.
We live in interesting times. What President Muhammadu Buhari is today celebrating as triumph is being perceived otherwise by majority of Nigerians who are reading chicanery and humbug into the whole nocturnal and backhand repayment of our collective commonwealth. It is no longer a secret that people are becoming disenchanted with the way and manner the President is running governance. In hindsight, it seems that the gloss of his integrity, transparency and honesty are fading to reveal the real ugly side of his public policies.
Existential questions are being asked by concerned Nigerians and majority are wondering if really eradication or curtailment of corruption is still the manifest goal of this administration or not?  What is galvanising such avalanche of doubt is the obvious dissonance between what President Buhari projected and his actions to date. The very litmus test of his transparency is in the return of the looted funds. Not a few Nigerians see the President as sliding towards failure because the whole repayment exercise is shrouded in high secrecy. The introduction of secrecy in the government’s receipt of stolen wealth and the refusal to name, shame and prosecute those who defrauded Nigeria, run counter to all the philosophies of integrity, transparency and honesty we have come to associate our President with.
What really is happening to open governance and President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to go after corrupt people and prosecute those who stole? This matter, simple as it seems, has thrown up something far more profound and if urgent remedies are not forthcoming, this administration would lose universal goodwill that ushered it in as a credible alternative to the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. What Nigerians voted for – integrity, fight against corruption, transparency and honesty – are receding too fast, too soon, than they bargained for.
What is most worrisome is the seeming abdication of transparency in the pursuit of those who stole public money. The policy of slow and steady adopted by President Buhari should be gone with the appointment of Ministers to run government along with him.  Where we have a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, why would President Buhari give any room for the nation to second guess his moves?
The President once made a public brag that he had a list of the names to be persecuted for embezzlement and corruption. Has this important list taken on wings and flown away? Is the President now tempering his public brag with the reality of governing a complex nation like Nigeria? Is President Muhammadu Buhari undermining his canon of integrity by shielding patently unpatriotic sacred cows that are too big to be named, shamed and prosecuted?
The President has to be reminded that hiding the names of looters and developing cold feet towards naming, shaming and prosecuting the guilty will not sit well with Nigerians because they have mortgaged their votes on this agenda and anything short of demonstrating total transparency would amount to betrayal of trust.
Lastly, we agree with the President that in a democracy, careful, clinical and patient collection of facts are necessary to successfully prosecute anybody found guilty of looting public treasuries and that the suspects are presumed innocent until convicted by the law. President Muhammadu Buhari once said: “On corruption; yes, they are still innocent but we are collecting documents and some of them have started voluntarily returning something. But we want all. When we get those documents we will formally charge them to court and then we will tell Nigerians to know those who abused trust when they were entrusted with public funds. So, the day of reckoning is gradually approaching.”
Now, if some looters are voluntarily returning their loot, Nigerians want to know, not only these people, if the claim is true, but the amounts returned in each case. Exposing such people will only be punitive it will also serve as a deterrent to other Nigerians. The nation cannot wait to see justice take its course on those who abuse official privileges.

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