Before lawyers, the learned men as they call themselves, tear me apart, let me confess ab initio that I am not a lawyer and I have no intention to become one very soon or later. I say this because one does not learn left hand in old age. Moreover, one does not plant ‘mmimi’ tree (pepper fruit) in old age. I therefore crave their indulgence to dabble or zero into their domain.
My intervention is based on the fact that in this era of interdisciplinary studies, no knowledge is an island. It is further anchored on the fact that in a globalised world, all subjects are interrelated. I have heard so much about former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili’s ‘perpetual injunction’ that I decided to offer my own view on the matter. Please don’t bother to ask me the meaning of ‘perpetual injunction’.
I don’t think I have seen a ‘perpetual injunction’ before and I don’t think I will notice one if I see it. And don’t ask me the section of our statute books it can be found. Therefore, this matter of Odili’s ‘perpetual injunction’ has reached a nauseating level that it warrants intervention such as this from non-lawyers like me.
When it is thought that the matter between Odili and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is over; the more the matter keeps coming and going like Ogbanje or Abiku child. This matter has been in the news. It is still in the news. And there is even subtle attempt to keep it in front burner even when it does not merit such casting. I do not know why we dwell in the past and look backward instead of looking forward. Our government is guilty of this charge.
The handlers of the anti-graft agency have not hidden their conception that because Odili obtained a ‘perpetual injunction’ against it, that is why they have not been able to prosecute him over alleged misappropriation of N100 billion of Rivers State. Interestingly, Odili’s stewardship in Rivers State has been documented into a book entitled Conscience of History—My Story.
Odili’s autobiography contains the details of the matter between Odili and EFCC which began in 2007 during Odili’s bid to vie for the Vice President. The matter continued after the political office bid failed or was made to fail by the powers that be. The prosecution of that matter and its conclusion, which favoured Odili, are contained in that book which was serialized in the Vanguard newspapers some years back. Despite these glaring facts, the EFCC and indeed the purveyors of the current government’s anti-corruption war have not stopped feasting on Odili’s so-called ‘perpetual injunction’ each time they felt that the war against corruption is waning.
They regale and luxuriate on it as if they have won a trophy worth celebrating. Odili’s ‘perpetual injunction,’ a figment of their imagination, has become a new sing-song of the anti-corruption war. They have sang this song to the extent that some people will now believe that Odili has a ‘perpetual injunction’ against prosecution over alleged financial graft whereas the status quo is the outcome of court case fully deliberated with legal representations from all the parties to the suit.
The misconception arising from this matter appears to be part of the political war against Odili by his perceived political enemies. They are still looking for Odili’s pound of flesh by all means. Their intention is to get at him by hook or crook. And they keep propping it up each time they see an opportunity to do so. They keep dusting the phrase and giving it new meanings as they please.
Their overall aim is to continue to say this always and over time, Nigerians will come to accept it as gospel truth. Mistaking a fully adjudicated and concluded matter for perpetual injunction baffles all logic and understanding. The status of the matter between Odili and EFCC should not breed the present misunderstanding. In fact, there is no need for it. It should also not generate the present hysteria or warrant what amounts to media trial of the matter.
Government’s anti-graft agencies, especially the EFCC seems to dwell much on media trial before getting to the details of the matter. What they need is diligent prosecution and not media trial. They really need to prove their case in court. The resort to blackmail will not prosecute the war for them. Name-calling will not do it either. The fight against corruption is good. It is indeed a welcome development.
But it must be waged justly. It must be transparent. It must be devoid of witch-hunt and victimization of perceived political enemies. It must not be selective. All corruption allegations must be properly investigated and prosecuted. The prosecution of the war against graft must be in accordance with the rule of law, decency and observance of basic human rights of those concerned. Over time, Nigerians have observed that the anti-graft war has been political, selective and vindictive. Such oddities did not start with the present political dispensation.
The EFCC under ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo era was accused of those ills. So far, the EFCC has not weaned itself of such overzealousness. We should stop personalizing the anti-graft war. Personalizing the war is why it is not succeeding and not the so-called Odili’s perpetual injunction as claimed by some EFCC officials. It is a war that must be prosecuted by state agencies like the EFCC.
The EFCC should not change its methodology simply because we have a new president. That is not how to run an anti-graft agency. Our anti-graft investigation should have been modeled in the fashion of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). For a meaningful anti-graft war, the agencies fighting it must be independent of whoever controls the levers of power. As the largest black nation in the world, we must do things the right way because other black people look up to us to show the way. We should stop disappointing them each time with our crude approach to politics and strong belief in afro-pessimism instead of afro-optimism. EFCC is trying, it can do better. We need a new approach to the prosecution of the anti-grant war.