THE Federal Government has been advised to put mechanism in place to ensure the extradition of high profile looters who fled the country to avoid trial in the ongoing war against corruption in the country.
Giving the advice while speaking with SATURDAY SUN, renowned lawyer and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay said no individual, no matter how highly placed should be allowed to escape with public loot.
“Once a prima facie has been established against these people, that means they have case to answer, and they should be brought to justice accordingly. No matter where they have become fugitives with stolen public money, they must be brought back to Nigeria to face trial,” he declared in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS.
On the cases of high profile people who have fled the country in order to escape investigation and trial for allegedly looting public funds, what is your advice, or what has been the advice of the anti-corruption committee you headed to the Federal Government, should these people be extradited or how can their cases be handled?
My belief and that of the other committee members is that these people have cases to answer, and they should not be allowed to escape justice. The Federal Government should start the process of extraditing them from the countries where they are taking refuge with public loot. There should be no hiding place for these people because they have committed economic crime against the people.
People like Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, and former Attorney- General of the Federation, Bellob Adoke have cases to answer. Forget all these acts of playing to the gallery by Obanikoro, if he is truly innocent of charges against him, let him come back to Nigeria from the United States where he is hiding to sort himself out.
Nigeria is Obanikoro’s country, and he was a minister, and high commissioner, why is he suddenly afraid to come back home with his two sons who have been indicted with him on corruption charges?
If Obanikoro doesn’t have any skeleton in his cupboard, let him be courageous to come home. However, my own committee can only advise the Federal Government on the issue, and we have made our position known, and our position is that these refugee looters should be brought back to Nigeria. The Federal Government should seek their extradition from wherever they are hiding. They have cases to answer, and they should come home to answer charges against them.
However, it is the responsibility of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to seek the extradition of these people and I believe steps are being taken in that regard.
For the extradition to be possible, Nigeria must put together all evidences of fraud it has against these people which our own Minister of Justice will then hand over to his counterpart in the countries where these looters are taking shelters and the ministers in those countries will hand over these evidences to the courts which will then order their extradition. The whole process doesn’t last more than six months.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Malami is very competent, and I believe that he is on top of the situation. How can we allow somebody like Obanikoro to go away with looted public funds? It has been proved beyond doubts and even with all evidences that billions of naira were delivered through him by planes to Fayose and other people in Ekiti State in 2014 — that money must be recovered.
But Govrnor Fayose is claiming innocence.He is saying that he is being persecuted for criticising Buhari’s government …?
Cuts in … Persecuting who? Buhari persecuting Fayose, or Fayose is an alleged looter? Fayose won’t be allowed to go free. He should not deceive Nigerians.
The question Nigerians should ask him is this are the fraud charges against Fayose true or not? Instead of bringing Buhari into it, he should go and clear himself of all these grievous allegations. The public money involved is too much, but Fayose will be made to return Nigeria’s stolen wealth which he illegally acquired. He may have immunity today, but definitely, there is no hiding place for him. He and his cronies are going to face justice.
Why drag Buhari’s name into his problems? Is he the only one that has been criticizing Buhari? There are several other critics of Buhari, but have they been touched? They have been left alone because they have not committed crime or fraud. But there is no escape route for a looter who wants to use propaganda to cover his sins. Anti-graft agencies are doing their work, and there are more discoveries of fraud we have against Fayose, certainly he will be exposed. Fayose is distracting Nigerians. Nigerians should not be fooled by Fayose’s antics. He should go and clear his name rather than beating about the bush.
The issue of 1.5 million dollars Dubai properties reportedly owned by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai has generated public uproar with opinions divided as to whether he should still keep his job or whether President Muhammadu Buhari should fire him, what’s your take on the issue?
I think we should approach the issue with caution. Although I don’t have full facts of the case, but so far, no anti-corruption his hand into public funds and I think the Army authorities have also exonerated him. But the assurance I want to give Niagency has found Buratai to have dipped gerians is that no individual, no matter how highly placed will be shielded from prosecution if such officer or individual is found to be corrupt.
The fact that Buratai has a house in Dubai doesn’t mean that he is automatically corrupt. Diligent investigations have to be carried out, otherwise, you will be tarnishing his name and reputation. A case has to be established first before you can declare somebody as being corrupt. We should be fair to people.
The proposed immunity for principal officers of the National Assembly is another issue that has been generating national debate, where do you stand on this issue?
This is another case of abuse of office by those who were elected as our leaders. If you are not planning to commit crime, why are you seeking immunity? This clearly shows that our lawmakers are self-serving. It means they want to commit crime, and then cover their tracks.
These people we call lawmakers should not provoke Nigerians into anger. I foresee a situation whereby one day, disenchanted Nigerians will invade the hallowed chambers and chase them away. What have these people been doing, Senators and Representatives? Nothing.
You see them at work only when they want to approve an increase in salaries and emoluments for themselves. These people are self-centred, they are just protecting their own interests and not that of Nigerians.
There is a limit to human endurance – these senators and reps are very greedy. Very very greedy and they are trying the patience of Nigerians – they lack sense of decency. Once in a while when they regain their senses, they should remember that Nigerians elected them to serve the nation and not their own individual interests.
Some Nigerians have been appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to slow down a bit, and that he is biting more than he can chew fighting many battles at the same time?
I don’t agree with those saying so. Buhari has time to work and attend to the needs of Nigerians. He is not distracted. He has delegated responsibilities, and those individuals and institutions in charge of various assigned tasks are up and doing.
The anti-graft agencies are working. Other agencies are also working and Mr President is also doing his own work. How can anybody now say that the President is biting more than he can chew?
Should looters of public funds recently recovered be named, because some are of the view that naming them will shame them, and not naming them, is creating doubts in the minds of Nigerians about the total sum recovered, what is your reaction to this?
It is not wise to reveal the identity of the looters who are voluntarily returning stolen money. These are people who on their own volition are returning stolen public money. They were not arrested by EFCC and ICPC, but on their own, voluntarily, they are returning the money. More of them are still there waiting to come out and surrender their loot, but if you start mentioning their names, they may be discouraged from making further returns. They need to be encouraged to surrender more loot. If you mention their names, they will no longer cooperate. They may decide to hide and keep more loot than the one they returned.