By Ndubuisi Orji
Why did the federal government release the list of funds looted from the nation’s treasury without names of those who perpetrated the act? For obvious reasons, the above is one question that would continue to agitate the minds of Nigerians for a long time.
Before the controversial information was made public, Nigerians were expectantly waiting for the federal government to put names and faces to the recovered loot. For many, the publication of the loot without the names came as a shock.
Recently in London, President Buhari in an interview had vowed to reveal how much his government had so far recovered from individuals and firms accused of looting the nation’s treasury in his Democracy Day address to the nation. As expected, anxious Nigerians tuned to their television to get the promised expose by the President first hand but they were all disappointed as he neither disclosed those that have returned their loot nor what they returned.
The responsibility of disclosure was rather shifted to the Ministry of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who last Saturday said a total of N115.7bn were recovered from alleged looters in various currencies in the past one year.
The money, he said was recovered separately by the EFCC, the Department of State Security, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
But the non-inclusion of the names of those who allegedly refunded the money has raised a controversy over the issue, with a school of thought arguing that the development cast a big question mark on the sincerity of the government.
Critics say this contrary to much noise the government has made over the issue.
Publicity Secretary of Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said the non- disclosure of those who allegedly returned their loot by the government has made a joke of the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration.
He recalled that when former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, was arrested in London and some loot recovered from him, he faulted the figures declared, because it was made public.
Odumakin stated that in the present case, it would be difficult to know if any money was recovered at all, noting that the development “ subtracts from the integrity of the present administration.”
But according to the presidency, the names of treasury looters were not published along with the recoveries made in order not to jeopardize the operation.
But analysts insist that the development has thrown up another question -is the clampdown by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC), on chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who managed the party’s campaign funds in the last general election in good faith or a witch-hunt? For the PDP, it is politically motivated but the ruling party, APC thinks otherwise.
In the last couple of months, the media has been awash with the news of the arrest of one PDP chieftain after another, in connection to funds they received for the prosecution of the last general election.
It all started with the arrest of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki(retd) in relation to the alleged mismanagement of $2.1billon meant for the purchase of arms and ammunitions for the armed forces. Since then, it has been one sordid tale after another arms fund scandal popularly known as Dasukigate.
Recently, the search light has been beamed on the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke. She is being investigated by the EFCC for allegedly distributing $115 million to some PDP chiefs and top ranking electoral officers of the 2015 poll.
Almost on a daily basis, Nigerians are regaled with tales of how the former NSA allegedly disbursed defence funds to members of the former ruling party in the run-up to the 2015 presidential poll.
Recently, the former Director of Publicity in the PDP presidential campaign council, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was arrested by the EFCC for allegedly receiving 840million from the embattled NSA. Fani-Kayode’s arrest is just the latest in what the opposition party described as a witch hunt. The former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh has earlier been arrested by the EFCC for receiving N400milion. Metuh is presently standing trial before a federal High Court, Abuja.
Apart from the duo, other top notches of the party that have either been arrested or quizzed by the anti-graft agency, there is also the case of the former Minister of State, Senator Nenadi Usman. The former minister allegedly received N2.5 billion and had reportedly returned N140million after being quizzed by the EFCC.
Former Governors Peter Odili, Rashidi Ladoja, Attahiru Bafarawa, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi , Jim Nwobodo of Rivers, Oyo , Sokoto, Zamfara and old Anambra states respectively were also alleged to have been mobilized for the PDP campaign with funds from the embattled former NSA . Others named as beneficiaries of the slush fund are former chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih; ex-PDP National Chairman, Ahmadu Ali, former secretary of the Government of the Federation(SGF) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader, Chief Olu Falae amongst others.
When the inquest by the EFCC started last year, the PDP in a statement issued by Metuh had challenged President Muhammadu Buhari, to also probe how the presidential campaign of the All Progressives Congress(APC) on whose platform he contested and won the 2015 general election, was funded. The party noted that the probe will reveal how much states controlled by the ruling party contributed to President Buhari’s campaign fund in last year’s presidential poll.
“There are allegations that people were made ministers just to cover up the slush fund that they provided to finance the APC presidential campaign.
“In the light of the way and manner of this government’s selective prosecution of the war against corruption, the PDP challenges the government to set up a National Truth Commission, wherein politicians and other Nigerians will publicly discuss the true meaning of corrupt practices in our land.
“This commission will also provide a platform for a proper public inquisition into the mind-boggling wealth of some Nigerians in public office.”
Besides those who allegedly collected money from Dasuki, some others have equally been arrested for collecting money from former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Dieziani Allison-Madueke for the prosecution of the PDP campaign for the 2015 presidential election.
However, critics say that the searchlight should also be beamed on the source of the campaign funds of the APC, especially against the backdrop of several allegations that the campaign was funded by some state governors. Not a few believe that the inability of the EFCC to look towards the direction of the APC gives the impression that the fight is lopsided.
Recently, the UK mail, a London-based newspaper in a report entitled “Is Buhari Man also fantastically corrupt” had alluded to speculations in the country that former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, provided a heavy financial war chest for the prosecution of the APC presidential campaign.
“Separately, Amaechi is accused of diverting £140million of state funds into Buhari’s presidential campaign, with reports he paid for media consultants and private jets,” the newspaper had written.
National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Dr Fredrick Fasehun is one of those who believes that anti-corruption agencies are treating members of the ruling APC as sacred cows in the anti-corruption war.
Speaking at a press conference in Lagos recently, he said: “Everyone knows that corruption in Nigeria defies partisanship; yet the impression one gets is that APC is a safe haven for corrupt politicians. Everyone in APC is being sheltered from prosecution despite extant investigations indicting APC chieftains, some of whom are in the President’s cabinet.”
Fasehun, who is also the President and founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress(OPC), added that: “Mr. President is playing cowboy, riding his anti-corruption horse against one part of the field, showing interest in roping and silencing members of the opposition. But every democracy needs a strong opposition. President Buhari must give the opposition breathing space and allow opposition to flourish for the benefit of Nigeria’s democracy.”
Apparently reacting to criticism on alleged lopsidedness of the probe, President Muhammadu Buhari said the EFCC is also free to probe the presidential campaign fund of his party in the last election. Speaking with editors in Abuja last week, the President reportedly said he does not believe that anyone who is culpable should go scot-free.
However, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun believes that the call for the probe of his party’s presidential campaign fund was baseless.
Speaking in a programme: “The encounter with Constance Ikokwu” aired on WeFM 106.3, the APC national chairman said his party did not use public funds to prosecute his presidential election and there was no need for anyone to call for an inquest into its campaign fund. He explained that what the government was probing was not individual contribution to the campaign of the PDP, but the alleged use of public funds by the former ruling party to prosecute its 2015 presidential campaign.
The APC national chairman’s stance on the issue, notwithstanding, it is expected that the EFCC should equally probe the source of the campaign fund of the ruling party in the last election, as this would clear all doubts about the sincerity of the anti-graft agency.