In the course of the past few weeks, our collective responsibility was again enraged and reduced to the popular Nollywood comic blockbuster, when we watched the political theatre laden with allegations of corruption that were premiered and clothed with the title “fight against corruption” and perhaps, corruption fighting back. Before delving into the farcical events, it is apposite to cast our despair minds back to the 29th of May 2015, when the newly elected President Buhari was sworn in as the 5th democratically elected president in Nigeria. His cardinal- cum foremost agenda was to tackle, frontally, the scourge of corruption. However, 5 years after, the ray of hope given by his emergence seems to be a pipe dream and the initial sanctimonious impression instilled in Nigerians by the Buhari led government as regard the fight against corruption is fast evanescing.
As a matter of fact, it is believed that the massive corruption allegations that characterised the former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration from 2010-2015 prompted then newly elected President Buhari to declare in his inaugural speech that “he belongs to nobody and he belongs to everybody”. Thus, the APC-led government seems hell-bent to eradicate rustic corruption, regardless of whose ox is gored. But 5 years down the lane, it is becoming glaring that the scourge called corruption is becoming permanently intractable and its damaging effect can never be compared with the deadly coronavirus pandemic. 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, caused by Malami has stirred the heart of every political observer and niggling divergent opinions, chiefly of which it’s a smoke screen battle that is meant to entrench the cliché “nobody” is above the law or that it is a clear cut indictment on the Buhari’s government. In between these polarised Nigerians is a school of thought. For example, a budding 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 cunny 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 could not be legally exonerated from all the accusations, Malami SAN seems to have exercised his constitutional power not in accordance with the dictate and spirit of the law. I was disappointedly discomforted when a special adviser to the president who works in the office of the Attorney General, Mr. Abiodun Aikomo, passionately defended the A.G’s prosecutorial power, wielded against Magu, under section 174 of 1999 CFRN.
Mr. Aikomu stoutly 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 power to prosecute, undertake, discontinue, take over any criminal matter before any court in Nigeria. Giving this terse defence, 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 response to the allegation of non corporation alleged by Prof. Itse Sagay SAN who is the chairman of the 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 martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly. The wordings of that section is explicitly clear that, with the exception of a court martial, 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 SAN could not have legally exercised his power to prosecute Magu under the section 174(1)(a) as claimed by Mr. Aikomo. With due respect, I am of the firm view that the Justice Salami (rtd)- 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, this is a mere fight of who gets what.
Aside the above, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s wealth and resources have been egregiously mismanaged by a small kleptocratic ruling elite, who have perpetrated and taken advantage of lack of key functional institutions to perpetrate every corrupt activity without fear of sanction, simply because there is not going to be any real sanction. The country has been abysmally reduced to the abyss of a banana republic where everybody does what he likes with impunity at the detriment of the masses. If not, what is the annoying theatrical farce going on in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC that has generated unprecedented opprobrium. It is nothing worth more than a caricature of a failed government. This is another example of pervasive corruption, in a society where all its appointees are incorrigibly corrupt.
The Senate had set up an Ad-hoc Committee probing the alleged financial misappropriation of about N40 billion by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC between January to March this year. Rather than a convincing account of stewardship of the NDDC, what we got was an embarrassing show of shame far absurd than a badly conjured Nollywood script. Despite accusations and counter accusations, there seems to be no iota of remorsefulness from any of these accused politicians, and it’s becoming a certainty that this can fade away just like every other corruption saga emanating from the political class in Nigeria.
The south-south region of Nigeria is the repository of the major source 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 4-min drive from Yenagoa, the capital city of Bayelsa state, the major road leading to it is made of wood planks, 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 an Eldorado. From Agudama Epie enroute Akenfa, Otiotio, Tombia, nowhere could be regarded as an integral part of the capital city of an oil-rich state. Sadly, all these towns are just a stone-throw away from the state government 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% derivative funds, bogus FAAC Allocation, 3% IOC budget, 50% Ecology Funds. The frank truth is, the rot in the Niger Delta Ministry is just a very minute index of the quantum of embezzlement that has permeated virtually every institution in Nigeria.
Before the Magu-Malami and NDDC saga, there had been an uproar and confrontation between the Minister of State for labour and employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo SAN and the NASS joint committee on labour over the Federal Government initiative to create 774,000 jobs for the teeming unemployed youths cutting across all the 774,000 local governments in Nigeria. Rather than creating jobs for the unemployed youths and get them engaged, the initiative was seen as an avenue to hijack and create jobs for whoever gets the control and spearheads the programme between NASS and the Minister. No doubt, Nigerians are aware that the face-off between the NASS and the Minister is not for the benefit of the subject; the roaming youths rather, either solely to enrich themselves by siphoning the enormous amount involved or to build their political hegemony, which is cynically inclined and merely for personal aggrandisement. They are all scrambling for the “succulent juice” from the job creation funds, which though is a charade like that of the Civil Defence job scandals during the Jonathan government.
Watching Magu’s alleged malfeasance, Malami’s “malicious” prosecution and Akpabio’s inveterate disposition, all APC government’s political appointees, it is doubly sure that corruption in Nigeria is a fait accompli, perpetrated by spins and spinners, dogged dogs who are incorrigibly corrupt. Worse still, this will surely die down just like every other malfeasance brought before the public glare in the past.
Balogun is a Lagos based legal practitioner and Human Rights Advocate.