Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
A group, Patriots for Peace and Social Development (PAPS), has issued the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a one-week ultimatum to arrest and prosecute the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Yari, over allegations of misappropriation and misapplication of over N900 billion belonging to the state government.
Threatening the anti-corruption agency with an order of mandamus, the group alleged in a reminder dated July 8 sent to the acting Chairman of the Commission, Mohammed Umar, by PAPS Chairman Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi, that Yari acted above the law and was untouchable under the administration of embattled EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
According to the reminder letter to the Acting EFCC Chairman made available to newsmen in Abuja, Shinkafi noted:
‘I hereby wish to forward a reminder to the Commission on the series of petitions submitted, stamped and duly acknowledged by your the Commission over acts of financial fraud, illegal withdrawals of funds, cheating, criminal breach of trust, official abuse of office, diversion and siphoning of public funds belonging to Zamfara State by the immediate past Governor Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari, top government functionaries, private companies and individuals, after waiting for investigations and possible prosecution for over one year from the most respected anti-graft Commission. My petitions appeared to have been dumped and swept under the carpet.
‘I hereby implore the Commission to exercise its statutory powers under the EFCC Establishment Act 2002 to investigate, prosecute and penalize Economic and Financial crimes committed against the people of Zamfara State by the former governor and his cronies as well as enforcing the provision of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes.
‘The allegations and the most annoying part is that the EFCC is refusing to take action on the series of the petition I submitted because it was written against a close confidant and political associate of Presidency and also a member of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC).
‘He is bragging that he is untouchable, that nothing will happen to my petitions and that then Acting Chairman of the Commission, cannot even invite him, let alone arresting and prosecuting him in court, whereas many former governors had been invited, arrested and prosecuted.
‘The EFCC acknowledged the receipt of my series of petitions against Yari, individuals, contractors, private companies and top government functionaries. We had expected that the EFCC should have invited him for questioning like they have been doing to other former Governors who are members of the opposition parties.
‘I have concluded that I will give the Commission this week and if nothing is done on this my reminder, I will be left with no option than to file an action at Federal High Court to seek an order of Mandamus to compel the EFCC to properly fulfil their statutory official duties or to correct any abuse of discretion as provided by the EFCC Establishment Act 2002.
‘The Commission should let the Nigerian people know how far they have gone in respect to the petitions. Our leaders are supposed to be transparent and accountable to us. They are supposed to render accounts of their stewardship to the people who elected them while in office or after the expiration of their tenure.
‘If Mr A is arrested for stealing Maggi in the market, Mr B should be equally be arrested for stealing state funds. The decision of EFCC not to primarily invite Yari and his co-travellers for questioning is justifying the view of several Nigerians that the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari administration is one-sided, given that most of those arrested so far are members of the opposition party. But several APC members accused of corruptions are still walking the streets freely, an indication that Nigeria still has a long way to go in the fight against corruption.
‘You cannot build institution like this when you only arrest members of opposition parties accused of corruption and ignore those accused of the same things who are in the ruling party and allegedly close to Mr President. If Abdulaziz Yari was in the opposition party, the EFCC would have invited him since he left office. If it was the opposition, the EFCC would have made so much noise in the media with invitation, arrest and possible prosecution. Sometimes, I wonder if this is really a fight against corruption because there are lots of economic vampires around Mr President against whom petitions are gathering dust at the EFCC corporate headquarters,’ Shinkafi noted in the reminder letter.