The main, if not the only, reason these Nigerians have become eminent is because they are standing trial or are to stand trial for looting public treasury.
Those who may be brought to book under President Muhammadu Buhari’s new Executive Order 6 have been loosely and most undeservingly dignified by the media as “eminent” Nigerians. They must be eminent indeed. Otherwise, how eminent?
They have been “eminently” existing for some 11 years only in public disgust of the reputation of these fellows as suspects and, indeed, accused in the looting of public treasury, who abused their public office as elected presidents, state governors, federal ministers, members of national or state houses of assembly as well as high-ranking civil servants. Notably, thousands held these offices and only suspected financial criminals among them were sanctioned or arraigned before courts of law. Otherwise, nobody reckoned with them any further, especially as their criminal trial and recovery of their proceeds of corruption were deliberately stalled by gangster advocates and a complicit judiciary tagging along.
The result? Frustration and anger of observing Nigerians, victims of looted public treasuries all over the country. And the cheek of it? The criminal suspects, in furtherance of their rashness to befog Nigerians that the looted funds were theirs (the looters) for good, started streaming back into the political arena, bidding to contest elections as elected presidents, members of national and state houses of assembly as well as state governors if only for second term, egged on by their sympathisers with the blackmail that government’s war on corruption was more of the victimisation of looters of public funds or at least one-sided.
And we must face the facts. Much as being political opponents would be no defense for looters of public funds, aspects of the allegation of looters that war on corruption is one-sided could not be entirely dismissed. There was government’s silly involvement in the handling of the attempted reinstatement (into the federal civil service) of fugitive (from law) Maina of pension fund notoriety, hurriedly covered up with the handing over of ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal to the EFCC. The financial crime fighting agency embellished the cover-up by bragging to (in effect, deceiving) Nigerians that it had set up a crack team to investigate Babachir Lawal, a man already investigated by State Security Service and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Nothing has been reported back to Nigerians since then.
Amidst such tension-soaked criticism of the government, Executive Order 6 emerged to block, as much as possible, loopholes exploited by public office-holding financial criminals and lawyers turning looting of public treasury into the fastest-moving growth industry. Yet, Executive Order 6 is being criticised and opposed by the same gang berating government for doing nothing to fight corruption.
On the contrary, Executive Order 6 is the most desirable law, if only because it renders every accused equal before the law, making them available all the time for trial by courts and halting abuse of court processes by supposed lawyers frustrating trials with indefinite adjournments. Just two examples. While other accused have been enjoying themselves gallivanting all over the world, Olisa Metuh, former national publicity secretary of the PDP, was refused each time he applied to travel abroad, even when he claimed the purpose of his journey was for medical treatment. He was still refused the trip when he appealed to a higher court. Is Olisa Metuh any less Nigerian facing trial to be barred from travelling abroad? Could his refusal be because he is not prominent or of high profile?
What is to be said of Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan? For three years, he has been refused bail by the government and also barred by the courts from travelling abroad even for medical treatment. These were as the so-called eminent Nigerians recently curtailed by Executive Order 6 had not only been on bail within weeks of being arraigned for trial but also allowed to travel abroad. What is so special about these “high profile” Nigerians enjoying preferential treatment not extended to Olisa Metuh and Sambo Dasuki by Nigerian authorities – judiciary and executive?
As a people, Nigerians are notorious for acquiescing in double standard, such that even now with a proclamation rendering every accused or suspect equal before the law, we don’t appreciate the value. Or we allow grandstanders to lose us our rights. Executive Order 6 is, therefore, a long-desired leveller. The travel ban inflicted on Olisa Metuh and Sambo Dasuki for the past three years is what the “eminent” Nigerians are just tasting.
From all indications, the main, if not the only, reason these Nigerians have become eminent is because they are standing trial or are to stand trial for looting public treasury. How many of them? One thousand, at the most. But we can overestimate them at 50,000.
Are those all? Among the lot of us over 100 million? In fairness, even only one Nigerian must obtain justice under the law. Why, therefore, must the scores of millions cheated of their commonwealth by those entrusted with our trust not obtain justice by disgorging eminent Nigerians of their loot, if such is part of proceeds of corruption? The more reason we must embrace Executive Order 6.
Of course, even in its present form, Executive Order 6 can be maliciously invoked on innocent Nigerians, especially for hostile political purposes. Such Nigerians should entertain no fear since theirs will be the easiest of trials if ever it gets to that stage. They will have no asset of N50 million worth to be targeted or temporarily confiscated by government. Worse still, the onus will be on Federal Government to source such asset (if existing at all) to proceeds of corruption or looting of public funds. Innocent Nigerians must, therefore, relax.
Incidentally, Nigerians must shine their eyes lest they are misled on the deliberate purpose of Executive Order 6. The gravamen of the new proclamation was spelt out by the government in its statement. It is not as if the law courts will lose their statutory right of adjudicating in matters of criminal prosecution. In fact, law courts remain the final arbiter in such matters. Meanwhile, government will seize such suspected proceeds of corruption or looting of public reassure PENDING (note, pending) the final ruling of courts (up to Supreme Court) in all cases. Government will also bar suspects from travelling abroad by seizing their passports, just as Olisa Metuh and Sambo Dasuki were banned.
Third, government’s decision to confiscate, temporally, suspected proceeds of corruption (huge bank deposits or property), as explained, is aimed at stopping criminal suspects from disposing such assets like property or laundering deposits in the accounts of willing accomplices, thereby frustrating effort of recovering looted public funds.
These are not in any way outrageous or unconstitutional measures. Which section of our constitution gives any Nigerian the right to jump bail and abscond abroad either before or after being tried for stealing public fund? It must also be noted that both Olisa Metuh and Sambo Dasuki are mere victims of the bad faith and criminal tendency of either those who jumped bail and escaped abroad or those who escaped abroad to avoid arrest and prosecution for looting public funds.
Arising from our notorious national amnesia, Nigerians seem to have forgotten everything about the fuel subsidy scandal in which over N2 trillion disappeared without (as he confessed) the knowledge o f former President Goodluck Jonathan or the authority of ex-finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, without the appropriation of National Assembly or the involvement of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Among the lot arrested or arraigned in court, only about two or three were convicted. How much was ever recovered? Most of those granted bail during the trial, especially on ground of travelling abroad for medical treatment, absconded permanently with their loot. Others disposed their loot and property all over Europe and United States.
Such criminal activities can, henceforth, not be possible with the proclamation of Executive Order No. 6. The new law will also accelerate trials in courts and deprive lawyers of delay tactics with which prosecution of criminal cases of looters are frustrated over long period of years.
There is also the wrong notion that Executive Order 6 is necessarily aimed at politicians or political opponents in particular. Ordinarily, Nigerian criminals have rubbished the country’s image by defrauding foreigners, through internet, of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Under Executive Order 6, Nigerian criminals defrauding foreigners of one hundred and forty thousand dollars will be easily disgorged of the loot, pending judgement of the court of law. In fact, there had been cases of convicts serving jail sentences in prison, and still pursuing their criminal activities on the internet by defrauding foreigners of millions of dollars. Only, one million dollars of such proceeds of crime will amount to three hundred and sixty million naira. What other law than Executive Order 6 is needed to discourage such Nigerian criminals?
There has also been the baseless and mischievous blackmail that Executive Order 6 will not only result in capital flight but also discourage foreign investment in Nigeria. So, these critics now inadvertently admit inflow of foreign investment in Nigeria? Or who are the foreign investors being alleged to turn away from Nigeria? The reality, if anything, is that Executive Order 6 will henceforth solidify the confidence of foreign investors in the safety and sec unity of their venture. With Executive Order 6, foreign investors will no longer be defrauded by their Nigerian partners or employees.
A Lagos-based, well-educated business guru of South-West origin aimed at developing his area back home by investing hundred of millions of naira in founding a university. A son of the soil academic invited and employed as the vice-chancellor soon defrauded the benefactor philanthropist of hundreds
of millions of naira. For over two years, prosecution of the case has made little or no progress.
Meanwhile, the academic accused is travelling round the world enjoying his loot. With Executive Order 6, the culprit could not have dared his crime. In addition, pending the final determination of the case in law court, government would have confiscated the loot of the accused and, in any case, by now the court would have delivered judgement. How many Nigerians are aware of the crime of even an academic, one of the hypocritical pontificators on issues of morals in Nigeria?
Executive Order 6 is, therefore, in Nigeria’s national interest not only to deal with elite criminals in Nigeria but to also repair the country’s image abroad.
On Monday morning, following the proclamation of Executive Order 6, listeners to Rainbow Radio on 94.1 fm Station, somewhere in Ogun State, were requested, in the phone-in segment of the daily Yoruba review of newspaper headlines, to give their views on the new Executive Order. More than 80 percent of responders not only approved, but also called for full implementation of the law.