Report, recently, said that commending the Federal Government for its efforts in the fight against corruption in the country, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, called on the FG to grant amnesty to public office holders accused of looting the nation’s treasury, adding that the approach would go a long way in the recovery of funds if it is implemented.
The governor reportedly made the call in Abakaliki when he declared open the anti-corruption, ethics and integrity training organised by Anti Corruption Academy of Nigeria for local government officials in Ebonyi.
The governor’s concern leading to the call for pardon for the looters must have been informed by the number of unresolved corruption cases and blamed the development on “wrong approach” by various anti-graft agencies.
According to him, “Ebonyi is determined to inaugurate an anti-corruption office because corruption remains the bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment. The federal government should, however, be commended for its visible efforts in the fight against corruption in the country.”
The governor charged the anti-graft agencies to be resolute and firm in the discharge of their duties and resist political manipulation. He said granting amnesty to individuals facing corruption charges would enable the government to recover stolen funds. He added that the fear of the anti-corruption agencies had sent several treasury looters into hiding their loot, adding that “We have so much of the looted funds either trapped in foreign banks, buried at cemeteries or underground and destroyed by termites.”
He advised the federal government to negotiate with suspects to enable them to surrender at least 70 percent of the looted funds or invest the entire loot in the country.
While the call and the approach suggested by the governor are quite clear and commendable, the fact must be spelt out in determining at what point a serving or former public office holder undergoing corruption charges be considered for amnesty.
This is important because, a looter who still boasts around, having looted enough from the treasury in the past, using the stolen money to allegedly influence judges, lawyers to tilt judgment to his favour and influence editorial decisions of media organizations in what has generally now become known as creation of proliferated fake news, publishing untrue stories about government and anybody known to be involved in the anti-corruption war twisting every fact in misleading the public thereby inciting the public against the government, that class of looters is not ripe for amnesty consideration. Before anything at all, he must face his or her trials and get convicted.
Why we must all give the Ebonyi governor a rising ovation for his thoughtful approach to getting to the root of the fight against the endemic scourge that corruption has become in our country, it must however be noted that any attempt to grant pardon to looter at this time will be a total mess up for all the process.
You pity only the offender who agrees that he has committed an offence and is now remorseful ready to embrace the change that you bring, preach and all of that. How do you grant a looter who, despite his open financial crimes at huge proportion against the nation, still make bold to say that your effort to stop the scourge is in itself the reason for the hardship that was apparently caused by his own corrupt actions of the past and present and is now working hard with others in his group of corrupt people or politicians to wrestle powers to return the country to corruption and impunity era?
This is a vital issue that must be considered and my observation as well as advice as a patriotic member of the Nigerian society is simple: corruption cases are unresolved not because the handlers of the wars are unserious or not taking the right approach. They are unresolved because, it is either the elements involved in the prosecution as enforcers, lawyers, judges and journalists have soiled their hands and are short of the confidence to do what is right.
First, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) must come to term with reality that some senior members of its ranks make their living from using technicalities to get corrupt people off the hook of justice and the Bar must, as professional member of the Nigerian society, device a means of stopping that.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) must expedite actions on its resolve to ensure cooperation with the Executive to get rid of corruption in the country or reduce it to barest minimum by actualizing its disciplinary actions against corruption judges. It should by now be clear to judges that the onus of proof is better placed on the shoulders of the accused to prove beyond reasonable doubts how he made the suspiciously huge amount of money that has been found on him than for the accuser, the prosecutorial agency to be asked to prove why it thinks the money found on him is through corrupt means. This is the way to go if wicked looters of the Nigeria’s treasury must not be made to go scot free.
In a nutshell, a civil servant that pays a tithe of N65 million as 10 percent of a given amount of earning to his church or pastor must be able to prove how he got the money. An office clerk who rides an G-Wagon Mercedes Benz, of any model, must be able to prove how he made the money to acquire it. This is how to go not to grant him pardon on claim that that the government will be able to get him disclose. A thief will always hide information unless the enforcers get serious at making him cooperate with the ambit of the law.
The NJC, as further effort, should by now make happen the long-dragged creation of Special Courts for trial of corruption cases.
So also the media should begin to purge themselves of the “stomach journalism” elements among their fold. In doing this, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has a role to play and the Newspapers Publishers Association of Nigeria (NPAN) has a role to play. Although there is no law yet making any media practitioner susceptible to professional disciplinary measures of any regulatory body other than the broadcasting media, the NUJ should be able to device a means of getting journalists into their senses in ensuring that the abuses of the ethics that make the profession noble stop.
Also the Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ) should created a means, by way of short course, which harmonizes all journalists not having passed through training to come and do so with intent to bringing all media practitioners under the singular watch of the NIJ such that any journalist, henceforth accused of breaching the ethics of the profession, if guilty after an instituted probe by the NIJ in collaboration with NUJ, should have whatever certificate to practice issued to him by the NIJ withdrawn and himself or herself banned from practice and his or her name so published. This way, there will be sanity in the journalism profession.
Some may argue by asking, is that how it is done in order society? If the sanity in journalism starts from Nigeria, what makes it impossible? This is the way to go with issue of ridding Nigerian Nation of corruption. Then comes the anti-corruption agencies themselves. Those elements within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who released premature information about cases still under investigation to the Press therefore making it look like the EFCC is doing media trial and thus jeopadising the integrity of the greatly doing-well agency, must be easily tracked down and adequately sanctioned.
This is my own patriotic idea about successful way of tackling the challenges and factors militating against the War Against Corruption (WAC) in Nigeria. I hope the submission will find a place in the minds of those in charge of state management who, it is hoped, will then make their deductions and additions and arrive at logical conclusion for necessary implication.