FG plans to spend N1.2 billion this year on anti-corruption war. What is your take on it?
I am not really bothered about the amount to be spent on fighting corruption, what I am bothered about is the methodology. They have been on this war for over one and a half years now. By the time you hear that one person was arrested, newspapers, radio and television will report it for about two weeks, or maybe for maximum of a month, then the whole thing will just disappear. The next thing you will hear is that the case is before the court, and thereafter you won’t hear anything again about the matter. Nothing happens again except for a few cases like that of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi , Col. Dasuki and one or two others. It is as good as not making any progress. I think the question we should ask is that ‘is the government really fighting corruption or it is just reacting to some issues?’ If we are fighting corruption, is it that we want the money to be refunded and after those who stole the money return them, we should just let them go scot free? One thing I discovered in this matter is this: whenever you are arraigned before the court, and you plea for bail and you meet the bail condition and you are set free, the case is as good as closed.
You then hear that some people are talking of negotiation, to take a particular amount of money from someone who stole the money. For instance, from all I have read, let say somebody stole over N4billion and once he is able to pay N500million, the case is closed and nobody hears about them again. And that can even encourage corruption. And now the person can continue to steal, believing that if he steals enough, at the end of the day he will be asked to pay, maybe between 10 or 15percent and maximum of 25percent of the amount stolen. And after paying the money, the person is as good as being freed. That is the picture that is being painted with this anti corruption war.
It is becoming obvious that no conscious efforts are being made to make prosecution of those caught a priority. I think the federal government should amend the procedure of prosecution of these corrupt practices and make it special case. Just like you have limitation of how and when the election petition should end. The law can be amended to hasten prosecution of those who are said to have stolen some money.
One thing that really bothers me is how clever some people think they are. There are a lot of accusations against some ministers and some people who are in government. And nothing is being done about them. This is an issue that an ordinary man or serious minded person should start asking questions about. I mean, how serious, the government’s fight against corruption is.
Again, are all the areas covered? Or are we now saying that corruption started in Nigeria only some six or seven years ago? Are we now saying that there has been no corruption before the commencement of civil rule in 1999? Why is it that this anti-corruption crusade was not extended to the era of the military?
Are you saying that President Buhari should extend the corruption fight to the regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Babangida and other military rulers?
Well, everybody will be eager to see how the military ruled at that time. A lot of revelations that will come out during such probe will amaze a lot of people if government extends its anti-corruption crusade to that era. We should not give an impression to the world that only politicians and leaders who are democratically elected are corrupt or that stole. And they should not limit the probe to only one regime. There were civilian administrations and military regimes. If we say we want to fight corruption we should look into every government that had existed in this country. Nobody should be prosecuted just for the purpose of prosecution. And it should not be limited to stealing money alone. How do you convince Nigerians that the military men were not corrupt? Are they not Nigerians? I am not saying go and probe Abdulsalami Abubakar, Olusegun Obasanjo or Babangida. But probe the military regimes and let us see how they ruled Nigeria. If they are free of corruption we can then learn from them and see how our civilian administration can learn from their corrupt-free regimes. That is what I am saying. We should make up our minds, whether all we want is to take whatever money we can recover from these people and profess that we are fighting corruption and let them go without learning lesson or to recover the money stolen from these people and then probe them.
Do you think Buhari can win the corruption war, with the method he is using now?
It is not when you prosecute alone that you are fighting corruption. The methodology is also important. There must be a comprehensive way of fighting corruption.
In Ondo primary election there was allegation of vote buying. What does this say about the APC-led government’s fight against corruption?
Well, I am not a member of the APC and wouldn’t know what their internal problem was, but all that manifested to us is that they have a divided house. But again, even the PDP which was more united in Ondo state, we also had confusion in our own house. We only had 24hours to campaign for the election. However, I don’t think there is any election that can be conducted in this country without voters collecting money. Our people are so poor. And they always look up to elections to get whatever they can get during election; as their own share of the ‘national cake.’ They believe that it is their rightful share to take money from these politicians who they believe are corrupt. The argument is neither here nor there. In both Ondo and Edo states election, it was the party that had more money that won. But, specifically in Ondo state, the position of PDP was hot, it was so tensed that we did not know who our candidate would be until it was 24 hours to the election.
What is your take on the Senate’s decision to reject Magu’s nomination as substantive EFCC chairman?
The issue is this, the refusal by the Senate to confirm the EFCC boss’ nomination as the chairman of the anti-graft agency is a purely security and administrative matter. Even though those who are saying ‘no’ to him and those who are saying ‘yes’, have their different political motives, which bothers on corruption and cover up of corruption. So, whatever motive that was behind not clearing him, like I said earlier on, is corruption or fight against corruption. But I think the President could not have done more than to present him to the Senate. And there is no law that even compels the Senate to give reason why they did not clear him. But in this case they have given a reason to say that the DSS report has made them not to clear him. Any other reason that anybody is giving, either by comment or whatever they are saying, are mere insinuation. As far as the matter is concerned, the President has recommended him and the Senate did say they could not clear him based on the report of the DSS. And in any case the President did not stop at that, he also asked the Attorney General to constitute an enquiry into whatever the DSS is saying about Magu. And I think all these things are still normal because the President has the right and authority under the law, if he wishes to re-present him. So, I did not see it as an issue. But, like I said earlier on, it is a manifestation of corruption that is the way I see it.