Birds of a feather, that aptly captures their story, given how it has played out thus far. This is in view of the turn of events as they seem after the suspension of some persons accused of alleged corruption in recent times and their reactions to their alleged crimes.
One of such was the suspension of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf by the minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole over alleged misconduct via a letter dated July 6, 2017.
Prof. Usman was suspended to pave way for an investigation, following petitions written against him, one of which was the alleged procurement of N58 million SUV without due process.
But the suspension order was not without resistance as Prof. Usman took up the gauntlet against the minister, declaring his action null and void.
He even took the battle to the public domain, making public documents written by the office of the minister allegedly requesting for funds from the NHIS for official trips. Not satisfied, he declared that the minister whose ministry oversees the affairs of the NHIS lacked the power to suspend him from office and that he could only be suspended by the president who was on medical vacation abroad at the time.
Said he “Though the NHIS Act empowers the minister to give directive of a general nature to the governing council of the scheme and could exercise presidential mandate in the absence of the council, such powers did not include discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the scheme from office”.
In view of the ding dong that followed, the then acting president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who had been vested with full presidential powers stepped in and Prof. Usman eventually bit the dust.
Before that, a section of Nigerians had risen in defence of the suspended NHIS Chief, portraying his travail as an injustice against the north, ostensibly to whip up tribal sentiments. This however fell flat in view of overwhelming evidence which eventually stunned the suspended NHIS Chief’s backers.
Then enter the deafening story of the reinstatement of the former chairman of the presidential Taskforce on pension reforms, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina into the civil service.
Maina who had been declared wanted over an alleged mega scam was not only reinstated, he was elevated to the position of an acting director in the ministry of interior after a major anti-graft case involving multi billion naira pension case and which is yet to settle.
Unlike Prof. Yusuf, Maina has since approached the court to challenge some of the actions taken against him by government. But like several others, he has also been talking, ostensibly to whip up emotions and sentiments too.
For instance, in one of his interviews with Daily Sun, he said “…during the last administration I had a running battle with the pension looters. Now, this is a person who was given the leadership of a committee that was charged with the responsibility of restructuring the pension office in Nigeria. We started with the office of the Head of Service, Special Office. Now, in my team, I had the EFCC, 47 staff of the EFCC working with me. I had 37 staff of the ICPC in that committee. Even though they had senior representations on the committee like Deputy Directors, they also had other auxiliary staff working in the committee in all the other sections. So, was NIA, DSS…I can even give you their names.
“First of all from the EFCC we had Ibrahim Adoke; we also had Col. Sule and then later, I think the last person was Mohammed Wakili who was working hand in hand with Ibrahim Lamurde. Now, from the ICPC we had G.T Idris who was on the board and we had Hassan Saliu and also from the DSS, we had Miss Odoemena and Mr. Uhuru. And then from NIA, we had the present DG, Mohammed Dauda who was a member. We also had Babagana Kaigama who has been the Director of Finance of the PTAD which is a transformation of PRTT and we had a representation from the Attorney-General’s office, Mr. Kasumu. We had representations from the Auditor-General’s office, from the Police and all the security agencies. But the next thing I had was Maina, Maina, Maina…. “
Also, the recent case of the suspension of the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Munir Gwarzo and two others is no different.
The Finance ministry in a statement signed by Patricia Deworishe, Deputy Director, Press, announced that the officials were suspended based on corruption allegation against them.
The SEC DG is said to be under investigation by the EFCC and ICPC for allegedly pocketing N104.85 million as severance package while still in service.
He was also accused of being entangled in a conflict of interest as a Director in Medusa Investment Limited, a company he allegedly used to funnel millions in contracts while still in office in violation of extant rules.
After the statement announcing the suspension of the trio, different meanings have been read into the development, chief of which is the on-going probe of top indigenous oil and gas company, Oando Plc by SEC.
Gwarzo was said to have alleged that his suspension was largely because of his refusal to stop the forensic audit of the company.
But finance minister, KemiAdeosun denied the allegation through a press statement signed by her spokesman, Oluyinka Akintunde, insisting that decision to suspend Gwarzo was in order.
“The Original decision taken by SEC on October 20, 2017 to suspend the shares of Oando Plc and conduct a forensic audit was approved and endorsed by the federal ministry of Finance. The SEC team led by Mr. Munir Presented adequate evidence to the minister and her team, that Oando Plc had a clear case to answer with regard to infractions of the ISA.
“No contrary evidence has been presented and thus, the investigative work on Oando and all other on-going investigations being undertaken by SEC in the discharge of its statutory functions have continued. Indeed, our information is that the forensic auditors have resumed at Oando.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there was no directive whatsoever to discontinue investigation into Oando and this was reiterated to the current leadership at the formal handover meeting. The fact that the investigation has continued further corroborates that this is the minister’s position.
“The federal ministry of Finance would like to place on record that Gwarzo’s suspension is in line with Public Service Rules (PSRs), to allow for an unhindered investigation of serious allegations of financial impropriety against him. Some of the allegations with documented evidence include the awards of contracts to companies related to him and members of his family” Adeosun stated.
Political observers may not agree to Gwarzo’s suspension but they readily agree that the matter be probed.
Going by these issues, which curiously took place one after the other, they might have indirectly opened another vista in the anti-corruption fight in the country- that the entire accused persons are innocent as they have not been found guilty according to the law is not in doubt.
However, more worrisome is that sentiments is now been used as a weapon of defence by the accused, without providing credible evidence to the contrary.
Observers wonder why blackmail has also come handy when some of the accused could have approached the courts for justice. For instance, it is still a matter of curiosity that all the accused persons have not approach the court like former Health minister, Prof. Adenike Grange who fought a legal battle to redeem her image after a case of graft was brought against her.
In these cases, the scenario is more than confusing as the accused persons have also not demonstrated their innocence thus far.
It was therefore little wonder that many Nigerians including Banji Alabi, Lagos-based lawyer who reviewed the reactions of Gwarzo and co gave them thumbs down over their defence.
“Side talk and other gimmicks that we have so far heard from the suspended officials have no place in law. As far as the law is concerned, they have to prove their innocence to clear their names” he said.
Alabi’s views were shared by a former lecturer, Tony Chukwuma who asked Nigerians not to be swayed by the antics of the accused. Said he “personally, I think it is high time we begin to examine issues based on merit and not emotions.
“We have been deceived for too long. This is the only country where somebody will be accused of wrong doing and he will be busy looking for excuses. Have you seen Gwarzo denying Adeosun’s allegations?”
Going by the experience of about three years of the Buhari administration, observers believe sentiments and propaganda among others need to be done away with, and allow the judiciary to perform its duties for anti-corruption battle to succeed.