January 15, 2009

Why EFCC, ICPC should probe Obasanjo – Oshiomhole

Edo State Governor, Mr Adams Oshiomhole

The Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, on Wednesday said that recent disclosures about the award of oil blocks and the $16bn allegedly spent on the power sector between 1999 and 2007 were enough grounds for the investigation former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Oshiomhole, who also alleged that corruption thrived more in the Presidency during Obasanjo’s eight-year in office than in state Government Houses, said the fact that the former President was not under probe indicated that he still enjoyed immunity.

He spoke at the 6th Annual Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja where a former Secretary of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and an erswhile Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Masari, called for electoral process that would guarantee the rights of voters.

The governor, in a veiled call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission to go after Obasanjo, said there was “abundant evidence that some of our rulers ‘ate‘ while in office.”

Oshiomhole, whose paper was titled ”Democracy: Restoring Faith in Politics,” said, ”With the disclosures about large-scale corruption under the last administration such as the $16bn power sector scandal and abuses in the allocation of oil blocks, the former President is still not being investigated to the best of our knowledge, which indicates that even out of office, the system still confers immunity on him.

“The real challenge, therefore, is to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies and encourage them to overcome their apparent self-imposed restraint and official control.”

He lamented the “blatant nature” of corruption and its celebration in Nigeria, saying it was responsible for the erosion of public confidence in politics, democracy and governance.

Oshiomhole said, ”For instance, in a well-publicised confrontation with the late Chief Bola Ige, Chief S.M. Afolabi had said, and I quote, ‘Look at somebody we have called to come and eat, and he is busy abusing the party that rescued him.’

”There is abundant evidence that some of our rulers actually ‘ate‘ while in office at all levels.

“For instance, how else can we explain the transformation of a near-bankrupt proprietor (Obasanjo) of an insolvent farm into the proud owner of a private university and a large expanse of farmlands in all the geo-political zones of the country.

” The same man owns land and real estates in choice locations, other lucrative investments by proxy and a sprawling library complete with a five-star hotel openly funded by agencies of the government and beneficiaries of contracts, waivers, joint venture agreements and other forms of patronage.”

According to Oshiomhole, the damage that corruption has done to the country was responsible for the renewed debate for the removal of immunity clause from the 1999 Constitution.

He, however, argued that the fight against corruption was beyond removing the immunity clause.

The governor said, ”But the most compelling argument, which I am persuaded to adopt in toto, is that a hostile Federal Government, using federal law enforcement agencies, could abuse the removal of the immunity clause by harassing governors who are opposed to him whether they are in opposition parties or, indeed, his own party.

”Many Nigerians, including governors, may be comfortable with the removal of the immunity clause with a more civil, tolerant and broad-minded leader.”

Oshiomhole also said the last administration focused on governors in the fight against corruption whereas the Presidency had a lot to account for.

He said, ”To cap it all, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC chairman had disclosed, although without providing the evidence, that 24 serving governors had amassed so much at the expense of the people, but could not be prosecuted because of their immunity.

“Yet, Transparency International in a report towards the end of the tenure of the last administration had disclosed that 60 per cent of the corruption in the Nigerian system was domiciled in the Presidency.

”Therefore, if some of the governors were the proverbial 40 thieves, many will readily argue, based on the Transparency International report and other disclosures of corrupt enrichment, that the former President could be regarded as the Ali Baba, who had, skillfully managed to re-direct the focus from himself.”

He submitted that Nigerians would continue to lose faith in the polity because of the gap between what is promised by the rulers and the reality on the ground.

”In contrast to the abject living conditions of the people is the manifest offensive opulence of their rulers, which arises largely from the huge costs expended on office holders at the expense of the people,” he added.

Anyaoku, who was the chairman of the occasion, said that Nigerians could only have faith in the electoral process if there was a guarantee that their votes were important.

He implored politicians to avoid the winner-takes-all syndrome and the government to be transparent in conducting its affairs.

In his presentation, Masari recommended stiff penalties for those who engage in electoral malpractices.

According to him, when those involved in electoral malpractices go unpunished, the cycle of electoral fraud would remain with Nigeria for a long time.

He said, ”The 2007 elections left a terrible taste in the mouth of all Nigerians of conscience and the performance of Independent National Electoral Commission could be classified as the worst since 1923 when we started conducting election in this country following the provisions of the Clifford Constitution of 1922.”

Dignitaries at the occasion included Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; his counterpart in Gombe State , Alhaji Danjuma Goje; and Etsu of Lapai, Alhaji Umaru Bago III.

No comments: