The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has finally decided that it is high time to take the bull by the horns and commence investigation into the petitions leveled against ex governor Abdulaziz Yari looting of funds which amounts to over N251billion .
While we applaud the anti graft agency for their decision, would it not have been way more efficient if this mishap was handled earlier perhaps even while he was in office, after all a nick in time saves nine. Unfortunately the immunity clause in the constitution has made presidents, vice president, governors and deputy governors untouchable and this has caused quite a number of issues to eat deeply into our root before being addressed.
The section 308 (2) of the 1999 constitution reads “the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to civil proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party”,
This section above is what has given these politicians the power while in office to go to some unacceptable length while in office and still remain totally untouchable, till they leave the protection of that office. It is high time this law is changed and each politician knows that if their caught, there will be no law to serve as a safe landing.
The united states should serve as a good example, and should be a blueprint that should be followed. There are no immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution for crimes committed either before or while in office. Mr. Spiro Agnew while a sitting VP under President Nixon was tried and convicted for tax evasion while in office.
Bill Clinton as a sitting president was hauled before a grand jury by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr for perjury (lying under oath) while in office as president. Elliot Spitzer as a sitting governor of New York was tried and convicted for illicit solicitation for sex”, he added.
The United States Presidents go into office knowing that they are being watched carefully and no law will protect them if they do wrong while in power, hence they carefully navigate their time in power, while putting in check any appetite to go against the law. In Nigeria, however, that is not the case.
Abdulaziz Yari has had various allegations brought against him, but during his tenure the anti graft agency hands were tied and nothing could be done because of this law that has held us bonds and may be the major reason why some governors are able to commit crimes while in office. If there was no immunity protecting these politicians, the fear of stealing and getting caught and what awaits them in the hands of the law will leave a trepidation in them that would make them consider the consequences of such actions.
Our dear President Mohammadu Buhari has made it his life’s work to fight against corruption which is a fantastic idea but imagine a Nigeria where there are hardly any corruption to fight, or perhaps the corruption rate drops that would definitely be a great achievement and the country would be made better for it. The best solution would be to hit the problems even before it arises, and this can be done by getting rid of the immunity clause.
Yari was alleged to have diverted N500million and $500,000 from the state coffers in 2017. The money, part of Paris Club refunds disbursed to states, was recovered from two firms, First Generation Mortgage Bank Limited, and Gosh Projects Limited, linked to Yari.
We also have the case of Ibikunle Amosun ex governor of Ogun state with his alleged misappropriation of N4billion Anchor Borrowers’ Fund given to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria, it was claimed that Amosun had deceived Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, when he came to the state for inspection and that he had also abandoned the project and diverted the funds for personal use.
There is also the case of Alao Akala who is the ex governor of Oyo state. Akala faced money laundering charges which began in 2011.
We also have Rasheed ladoja, who was also an ex governor of Oyo State and had allegedly looted some money while in office. Ladoja was arrested by the EFCC in 2018 over allegations of non-remittance of the proceeds of sale of government shares totaling N1.9 billion during his administration.
Rochas Okorocha was alleged to have moved over N1billion from the state government to aid the campaign activities of Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law. The anti graft agency had arrested Uzoho Casmir, the accountant general of Imo state for illegally assisting Okorocha to commit his crimes.
Ex governor of Kwara state Abdulfatah Ahmed was alleged to have successfully looted the sum of N1billion from the state coffers, a few days before presidential election.
Gbenga Daniel, the ex governor of Ogun State was alleged to have misappropriated funds amounting to over N200 million, criminal breach of trust and abuse of office.
Aliyu Akwe Doma, who was the Former of Governor of Nassarawa State, was alleged to have conspired alongside two others to fraudulently launder state funds to the tune of N8 billion.
There is also Attahiru Bafarawa was was a former governor of Sokoto State (1999 to 2007) and was alleged to have misappropriated and embezzled some funds belonging to Sokoto State Government.
The list of governors and other politicians in power who have misappropriated funds is totally endless and would go on forever. The EFCC could only begin to look into their alleged crimes after they left office, so many damages have already been done. Prosecuting these people after they leave office is almost like crying over split milk and even if they are successfully convicted what about the victims of these crimes, those who have been rid of what belong to them and the damages, pain and terror that these victims go through can be compared to no other.
Perhaps it might serve us well to recall Kadaria Ahmed a broadcast journalist and writer who had tagged Governor Yari the worst governor in the history of Nigeria. The pain and fathomless hatred in her voice while she spoke could be compared to nothing. She spoke of a time in the not so distance past when people were safe in Zamfara, when peace and prosperity blossomed. Now the EFCC has chosen to look into Yari crimes, What if there was no need for this and the immunity clause was removed and prosecution could happen while in office, would we then not be creating a better Nigeria, a real Nigeria worth fighting and living for. If this immunity clause is amended there will be sanity, transparency and accountability for politicians in office and this is how corruption can truly begin to die.