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Education ministry and N 55m scam

Posted by The Champion on 2005/08/23 | Views: 391 |

Education ministry and N 55m scam

ON the night of Tuesday, March 22, 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo in a solemn and sobering national broadcast sacked the then Minister for Education, Professor Fabian Osuji.

ON the night of Tuesday, March 22, 2005, President Olusegun Obasanjo in a solemn and sobering national broadcast sacked the then Minister for Education, Professor Fabian Osuji.

According to the President, Osuji was indicted in a N55 million bribery scandal involving the then Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, five other senators and a member of the House of Representatives.

Relying on an inconclusive investigation by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), the President convicted Osuji, Wabara and others in the public court.

In addition to the afore-listed persons, other public officers directly or remotely linked to the bribery scam were the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola, the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mr. P. S. Audu, five directors in the ministry and the then vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Professor Jude Njoku who was alleged to have bribed some members of the House of Representatives with the sum of N10 million to increase his university’s vote in the 2004 Appropriation Bill.

In his broadcast, the President said that the permanent secretary and the five directors that facilitated the bribe including Okebukola would be handed over to the relevant authorities for necessary sanction. The permanent secretary and the five directors, according to the President, would be handed over to the Federal Civil Service Commission for necessary disciplinary action.

Almost five months after the sack of both Osuji and Njoku were publicly celebrated, the cases of other suspects in the bribery scam are yet to be taken to the Federal Civil Service Commission or known to be conclusively disposed of. We had on several occasions in the past hailed and endorsed the anti-corruption campaign of President Olusegun Obasanjo. But we had also cautioned on the need to be above board in the fight against corruption.

This, we had argued, is the only way to earn public confidence and engender integrity in the fight. One way of doing this is to ensure openness from the investigation stage to prosecution of suspects.

This, however, does not appear to be the case in the N55 million bribery saga. After the blizzard of publicity and hype that attended the resignation of Wabara as Senate president and the sacking of both Osuji and Njoku, a veil of curious secrecy has shrouded what was hitherto an open issue for public viewing on national television.

Even more curious is the fact that apart from Wabara, Osuji and Njoku who lost their previous positions before ever being pronounced guilty by a court of law, some others equally alleged to be involved in the saga have continued to be in office as the legal battle to convict or acquit them rages.

We find it rather disturbing that after the elaborate and loud pronouncements by the Federal Government on what it intended to do to the civil servants, nothing concrete has happened five months after.

Our fears and anxiety are further amplified by reports of spirited efforts of agents of government to shield some of the civil servants and punish the others. This should not be. If anything, any such move is a bad advertisement for the government and the ministry. Insistence on sacrificing some civil servants while shielding others more directly involved in the matter manifests the old corrupt habits that have been the bane of our society.

To stem such devious move, we urge the Federal Government to, without delay, carry out inquest to establish the degree of culpability of these officials. But before such probe, all the persons directly linked to the scam should be made to ‘step aside’ from their duty posts in order not to give room for obstruction of justice.

It smacks of injustice and arbitrariness on the part of government to have dismissed some public servants while allowing the others to continue on their jobs or to be reassigned to other duties when all of them were indicted over the same offence. Also worrisome is the sudden relapse to secrecy and silence by government on an issue it gave so much publicity when some of the suspects were either dismissed from service or were made to resign.

Much as we salute the courage of this government to fight the monster of corruption, we, however, caution that such fight must be shorn of sleight of hand, selective application of the rules and any form of preferential treatment.

This is the only way to confer integrity and transparency on the anti-corruption crusade.

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