Posted by By Ayo Odunlami on
We may not approve of the opprobrium that Bayelsa State Governor, Depreye Alamieyeseigha has caused the world’s largest black nation with his infamous bail jump in England penultimate Monday.
We may not approve of the opprobrium that Bayelsa State Governor, Depreye Alamieyeseigha has caused the world’s largest black nation with his infamous bail jump in England penultimate Monday. But we must resist being enlisted in the feverish grand design to exploit the gamut of a much touted anti corruption campaign to rein in a crippling civilian dictatorship of the worst form on Nigeria. We must be wary about dancing ourselves lame according to the odious tunes of the moment and avoid the path to insanity.
No doubt, the revelation by President Olusegun Obasanjo that no significant step has been taken to improve the lives of their people, in spite of the increase in states allocation by 500 per cent since 1999 must be chilling. Equally distressing is the N700 billion also allocated to the local governments in the first four years which flies in the face of the decrepit nature of socio infrastructure at the grassroots. It is not even farfetched that the country has seen a myriad of huge budget estimates without governance.
Perhaps more damning is the report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that Nigeria’s political rulers have stolen and mismanaged $400 billion in the last four decades. .This amount is said to equal to all western aid to Africa in four decades. The Telegraph of London says, “The looting of Africa’s most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid to the continent”. If this process of corruption is unchecked, the country may soon go to the dogs and acquire the status of a banana island.
The move to criminalize governors and local government chairmen over the country’s pitiable level of development may be some attempt to oversimplify the reasons why many Nigerian citizens still wallow below one dollar while life expectancy has dipped to 43 years despite the huge revenue from oil. Obasanjo himself cannot play God in this matter. His government budgeted N350 billion for roads, expended more than N300 billion for electricity and an equally staggering amount for poverty alleviation in the first four years. Yet our roads are filled with craters, our homes are perpetually dark alleys while poverty walks tall on the streets.
Besides the rabid implementation of a World Bank/IMF inspired economic programme has left the citizenry in dire straits, as the nation moves precariously to usher in less government and the smothering of social welfare policies. Many have been rendered jobless while the cost of education, health care, housing and so on has become prohibitive. Like someone noted, many literate parents may be compelled to rear illiterate children as the cost of education becomes unaffordable. This may be compounded by the government’s resolve to pay $12.4 billion to Paris Club in a spate of six months as part of the deal to get an $18 billion reprieve. Many economists say not even America will agree to pay such a whooping sum to creditors in six months.
However, the country in spite of its frenzy to fight corruption is being girded on a very dangerous path of civilian diktat through the veil provided by EFCC headed by tough talking cop, Nuhu Ribadu. The floating of this hydra headed monster which has virtually usurped the role of the Police, Customs, Immigrations, NAFDAC, NSO and is inching on the role of the courts in its anxiety to wage a phoney war on corruption appear deliberate.
In addition to the powers conferred on the commission by the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, the commission has been invested as the coordinating agencies for the enforcement of the provisions of (a) the Money Laundering Act 2004,2003 No 7, 1995 No 13; (b) the advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act 1995; (c) the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act, as amended; (d) the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 1991, as amended; (e) Miscellaneous Offences Act, and (f) any other law or regulation relating to economic and financial crimes, including the Criminal Code and Penal Code. This move to fortify the EFCC at the expense of other agencies looks contrived.
The EFCC obviously has shown some resolve to not only bark but bite. We have seen many arrests but very few convictions. Certainly we have seen a lot of motion without movement. Everything appears as a storm in a tea cup. The dramatization of the crimes involving the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun notwithstanding, the man got just six month jail term. What is worrying is that some states like Taraba where 10 legislators and sundry senior government officials including Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Hilkiah Bubajoda have been held for two months are virtually paralysed.
The arm twisting of the Bayelsa legislators to endorse an impeachment motion against Alamieyeseigha brings to the fore the fear that EFCC may have been conceived more as a guillotine to make opponents of a third term agenda recoil in their shell and buckle under. Lured to Lagos under the guise of complicity in the charge of fiddling with constituency project fund, the legislators became a tool to pull out someone’s chestnut from a raging flame as they were ambushed to endorse an impeachment notice against their governor. to detention.
After this circus show, a supposed press conference was organized by the Speaker Peremobowie Ebebi who talked tough. This is the height of abracadabra. Those who think we are on the verge of a fierce anti-corruption war must be a little circumspect. What we are against is certainly beyond an anti corruption war. The EFCC is being used as a tool to make people fall into the line of the third term train.
Short of declaring a state of emergency in Bayelsa state, armed soldiers and police are virtually everywhere as part of the permutation to remove a governor who shrugged off his bail conditions and returned surreptitiously into the country. It is certainly intriguing how Alamieyeseigha got crated back to Nigeria by those who concocted his escape. It is equally enigmatic that with the extensive security network and the ubiquitous cameras in London, the fairy tale of “Queen” Alamieyeseigha’s exploits may be taken with a pinch of salt.
What is most disgusting is the attempt to turn Nigeria’s constitution on its head as part of the attempt to make the Bayelsa governor swallow the humble pie. Yenagoa, the capital is almost in a state of siege with the government on its knees and the President barking orders that the governor should resign. The Accountant General who went to collect the states allocation in Abuja cannot be found while the allocation has been confiscated.
We are now on the dawn of a country without laws where the whim and caprices of the imperial president holds sway. This attempt to resort to jungle justice is likely to imperil our democracy. Even though the Taraba State Governor Jolly Nyame is merely a victim of media trial by the EFCC, both the legislative and executive arm of the government is almost paralysed with the officials being detained for close to two months without any case preferred against them in any court of law. Even the police are not expected to detain any citizen beyond 48 hours. We must be headed on the road to hara-kiri if we allow a government agency to act with so much impunity.
• Odunlami, a financial expert lives in Lagos.
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