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Revisit Okigbo Report, Gani charges EFCC

Posted by By MURPHY GANAGANA and UBONG UKPONG, Abuja on 2006/08/25 | Views: 602 |

Revisit Okigbo Report, Gani charges EFCC


Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to revisit the Okigbo Report on the 1991 Gulf War oil windfall to enable Nigerians know what happened to the $12 billion revenue earned by the country during the period.

•Falana tackles Obasanjo

Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to revisit the Okigbo Report on the 1991 Gulf War oil windfall to enable Nigerians know what happened to the $12 billion revenue earned by the country during the period.

He made the call Wednesday in Abuja, at the ongoing National Seminar on Economic Crimes which entered its second day. According to him, EFCC owes Nigerians a duty to prevent the emergence of a corrupt leadership in 2007, even as he pleaded for internal vigilance and external support to ensure that those who take power next year do not scrap the agency.

Chief Fawehinmi commended the EFCC's effort on the war on corruption, noting that its achievements in the past three years as evidenced by recorded arrests, prosecutions and convictions were unprecedented. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said that he had vowed never to accept a brief against the commission.

Mr Falana, Chairman, West African Bar Association who presented a paper on 'Executive Immunity and the Fight Against Corruption', echoed the vow. "We have lost millions in our association with Ribadu. We took separate decisions never to take up matters against EFCC", Falana said.

Falana further revealed that it was on account of the great respect they have for EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, that Professor Wole Soyinka flew in from California, United States, while Fawehinmi had to cut short his trip abroad for medical check up to be part of the seminar. He vowed that no amount of blackmail will stop progressive elements from assisting EFCC.

In his presentation, Falana observed that the immunity clause of the 1999 Constitution has been grossly abused and called on President Olusegun Obasanjo to move for the review of section 308 of the Constitution. According to him, the review is necessary as it was inequitable for the political executive to be shielded from civil and criminal prosecution while at the same time enjoying the power to sue others.

Notwithstanding the well-known limitations of section 308, Falana informed participants that Section 308(2) of the Constitution allows state governors, for instance, to be subjected to criminal and civil proceedings in a case where they are nominal parties. He commended the EFCC for adopting the strategy of prosecuting public officials who assist those that enjoy immunity to loot their state treasuries.
Falana challenged President Olusegun Obasanjo to publicly declare his assets, while calling for the confiscation of the presidential library at Abeokuta, Ogun State.

He expressed the hope that the Code of Conduct Bureau would become more proactive in dealing with issues of assets declaration by public officers. The WABA President reasoned that there was no need asking people to declare their assets if such information are not going to be made available to the public. "Any government that is prepared to combat the menace of corruption has to abolish the Official Secrets Act, enact the Freedom of Information Bill into law and compel public disclosure of all assets declaration forms in the custody of the Code of Conduct Bureau," he declared.

Dealing President Obasanjo’s fight against corruption a blow, Falana said: "Those who are leading the anti-corruption crusade must be above board like Caeser’s wife. It has to be understood by the government that corruption does not begin and end with offering or receiving bribe by public officers…If the Obasanjo regime wants to be taken seriously in the war against corruption, there has to be leadership by example".
While noting that President Obasanjo may have had the ICPC Act in mind when he cancelled the sale of government houses in Lagos to top government officials and relations of his late wife, Stella, Falana urged him to lead by example with regard to his property.

"The president should take similar action by allowing the Federal Government to confiscate the presidential library and the two private universities at Badagry and Yola without any further delay. If that is not done now, those projects are going to be taken over by the government at the appropriate time. After all, it was the same Obasanjo regime that confiscated the Abacha Foundation and the Women Centre established by the Abacha junta," he noted.

The lawyer lamented that the fight against official corruption has been hampered by the lack of political will on the part of the political class, and the concept of executive immunity in Nigeria has been grossly abused to the extent that it has made a mockery of accountability in government, even as there are adequate provisions in the constitution for the removal of public officers covered by the immunity clause once they are proved to have engaged in corruption.

Describing arguments against the removal of the immunity clause as untenable, Falana contended that since those covered by the immunity can institute libel suits or secure the enforcement of their fundamental rights, there can be no legal justification for preventing other persons from suing or maintaining civil proceedings against them while in office.

"The immunity conferred on the heads of government from responsibility for criminal offences including corruption committed by them while in office, has exposed the war against corruption to ridicule before the generality of Nigerians… In spite of the success recorded so far in the anti-corruption crusade, the Transparency International (TI), has repeatedly labelled Nigeria to be in the miasma of corrupt practices. No doubt, corruption has assumed a frightening level in the country", he stressed.

Falana said: "If the Obasanjo regime wants to be taken seriously in the war against corruption, there has to be leadership by example. In this regard, only Governor Umaru Yar’adua of Katsina State has complied with the law by making a formal proclamation of his assets".

He condemned the ownership of private universities by President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, describing it as the worst case of abuse of office ever committed by government officials in recent times, just as he regretted that when challenged at the Federal High Court, Obasanjo pleaded immunity as his defence, while one Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, a retired university lecturer, claimed ownership of the multi-million naira project.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, blamed the elite for the rising spate of financial crimes, who, he said, used the websites and credit cards to commit fraud.
Ehindero, who was represented by the DIG in charge of ‘A’ Department, Alhaji Bello Wurno Labaran, identified perpetrators of these crimes and money laundering as organized business groups with collaborators around the world.

Earlier, Mr. Jonathan Rusch, Special Counsel for Fraud Prevention in the U.S State Department averred that Nigeria should not be treated as a nation of criminals. He made the declaration while responding to questions after delivering a paper entitled, Money Laundering Schemes and the Emerging Trends of Identity Theft. He said organized criminal gangs existed in many nations of the world and that it was wrong to label all Nigerians as criminals. He noted the danger which identity fraud and money laundering posed to the world and called for a multilateral strategy to combat the problem.

In his contribution, EFCC Director of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde noted the increasing use of ATM in banking transactions in Nigeria and enjoined banks to brace up to the enormous challenges of a cashless economy.

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