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Wednesday, 27 November 2013


It is no longer in doubt that Nigerian politicians have near-infinite capacity for mischief. But what is new is the limit to which some politicians can push their luck through the erection of certain contraptions decorated as anti-graft institutions to curry favour from the rest of the largely gullible public and by so doing carefully hide their misdeeds and escape the long arm of the law when they are long gone from the corridors of power.

In playing these games of hide-and-seek, Nigerian political office holders have clearly discovered that the best way to succeed in hiding their misdeeds and heist of public fund is to cultivate friendship with leaders of religious institutions and also compromise high profile law enforcement operatives to look the other way while they escape with their loots. Collectively, Nigeria has lost over $400 billion USD to political corruption since crude oil was discovered in commercial quantities over four decades now.

Those among the political office holders at the state level like governors who have lost favour with the powers -that -be at the national level are actively busy with their State House of Assembly to introduce certain bills that may undermine the authority of some national anti-graft institutions that directly take operational orders from the presidency.

Since the two federal anti-graft institutions were established, some state governors whose activities have attracted the investigative attention of these anti-graft bodies have used several confrontational measures to slow down the efficiency and effectiveness of these bodies namely-the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and allied offences Commission (ICPC).

When Mr. Nuhu Ribadu was chairman of EFCC he told the National Assembly then that over 15 governors were under the investigation of the anti-graft commission but since these governors lost their constitutional immunity from criminal prosecution, they have individually deployed the huge financial muscles and resources they acquired illicitly while in office to hire senior lawyers and also financially induce some judges to undermine the speedy prosecution of these cases.

During the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo who created these anti-graft bodies, they came under considerable criticism for allowing themselves to be deployed as attack dogs against political opponents of the then President.  
The pattern of criticism against the anti-graft bodies is yet to abate even under the current dispensation to an extent that the Imo State political administration has not only accused the anti-graft bodies of witch hunt but the state house of Assembly has proceeded to initiate a bill to establish a miniature type of anti-graft commission.

The resolve of the Imo State House of Assembly to establishment its own type of EFCC was activated recently following persistent arrest of key political officials in the current Imo state government including the Finance Commissioner and the speaker of the state legislature under whose watch the drama of establishing a miniature EFCC is playing out.

Since two years that the current Imo State government came on board under Governor Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha, there have been several cases of contractors running away with huge financial resources meant for projects that they failed to execute.

The inability of the Imo state government to arrest and retrieve these huge state fund stolen by contractors in connivance with state officials has created considerable worry in the minds of people who have filed petitions with the Federal anti-graft agencies praying them to recover these public money stolen-under the watch of the current Imo state administration.

The current Imo state government belongs to the opposition All Progressive Congress different from the national ruling party-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Rather than work actively with the national anti-graft bodies to recover stolen Imo state fund, the current political administration accused the national ruling PDP of deployment of the anti-graft bodies to go after the Imo State officials because of their political orientation. To add insult to injury, the Imo state House of Assembly has commenced the drama of creating a state controlled Economic and Financial Crime Commission in clear contravention of the popular legal maxim that a man cannot be a judge and prosecutor in his own case (Nemo Judex, non Causa Sua).

While the political officials still go about with the drama and foolery of setting up Imo State EFCC which must not see the light of the day, the Imo state government must provide clear answers to the questions that have arisen from the disappearances of huge public fund into private pockets of failed contractors with the criminal connivance of some Imo state government officials who still draw huge salaries and wages from Imo state treasury.

Recently, the EFCC arrested and released the Imo state Accountant General Mr. George Ezenna Eche and the Commissioner for Finance – Mr. Chike Okafor.
The two   officials were arrested relating to petitions sent to the commission alleging that a construction company JPROS International Limited was paid over N1 billion for a construction contract.

The company was alleged to have been paid the full cost of the contract even though work had not commenced on the project.

The contract led to the impeachment of the former deputy governor in the state, Jude Agbaso, according to news report.  Newspaper report say this is the second time the anti-corruption agency has carried out the detention of the two officials over allegations of fraud and abuse of office. The duo were arrested in January and granted bail but were never charged with a crime, thus making tongues to wag regarding the professional efficiency and effectiveness of this anti-graft agency.

Confirming their arrest and interrogation, spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren said their detention was part of the ongoing investigation of the N458 million scandals that led to the impeachment of the former deputy governor.

Conversely, report says the EFCC quizzed Hon. Simon Iwunze, Chairman of the Imo State House of Assembly Ad-hoc Committee that investigated Agbaso. He was quizzed and released on administrative bail. Imo state government has alleged political witch hunt for the embarrassing arrest of her officials.

A source from the Imo State Government who spoke to newsmen said the continued arrest and interrogation of senior officials of the Imo State cabinet and members of the state assembly were orchestrated attempts to incriminate the governor, and thus prepare grounds for his impeachment.

“What is happening is not new to us. It is part of the tactics to incriminate the governor and prepare grounds for his impeachment. We know those behind it".

Citing unspecified Imo state source, a newspaper reporter claimed the official told him that the attack by EFCC has intensified following the comment by the Speaker of Imo state House of Assembly, Benjamin Uwajumogu, that some politicians offered N3 billion to him to facilitate the impeachment of the governor, which he rejected.

Confirming the threats of impeachment, the deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere told newsmen in Abuja that what was happening was purely politics. These top ranking Imo state officials should provide clear and concise response to the query regarding the whereabouts of the state fund that disappeared into private pockets.

As a citizen of Imo State, I am not worried about the politics surrounding the arrest of these state officials but my fundamental worry is to see that all funds stolen from the Imo State treasury under the current and all previous administrations are returned and deployed to provide infrastructure and social services to both Imo rural and urban poor.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must also come clean and operate in line with the law setting it up just as it is unjust for officials of the anti-graft agencies to let themselves be deployed as foot soldiers of the PDP led federal administration to go after Imo state officials just for the fact that they belong to different political platform different from President Goodluck Jonathan.

Constitutional backing for the establishment of the anti-graft bodies is anchored on section 15(5) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which obliges the Nigerian government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.

Under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (establishment) Act of 2004, the key functions of the anti-graft body are found under part II, section 6.

The Federal EFCC is obliged by law in application all across the federation to carry out the functions of; investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam...; the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority and among others the adoption of measures to identify, trace freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crime related offences or the proprieties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.

The second anti-graft body is clothed exclusively with the functions of fighting all traces of bribery and corruption under the corrupt practices and other related offences Act of year 2000 [ICPC].

From the above, it can be seen that Nigeria has more than enough bodies to tackle corruption and economic crimes of all facets in all segments of the Nigerian society and so any attempt by any state government to duplicate the functions of these federal anti-graft agencies must be resisted by the people.

This is because economic crimes and corruption at the local and state government levels affects the lives of over 60 percent of the entire populations of Nigeria and so only independent anti-graft bodes can galvanize the credibility and wherewithal to confront these hydra-headed monsters.

What should be upper most in the minds of state government officials and members of the general public is to mount pressure on the National Assembly to amend the extant enabling Acts that set up these two federal anti-graft bodies so as to confer enhanced financial and operational independence and remove them from the suffocating political control of the presidency. Imo state government should partner credible civil society groups to undertake tremendous advocacy in that regard rather than waste money chasing shadows in the guise of setting up Imo state EFCC.

The argument for desiring to set up Imo State‘s miniature economic and financial crimes commission is not grounded in law and so must be discontinued except the current crop of politicians in Imo State derive joy in ridiculing and exposing the good people of Imo State to opprobrium.

The 26 member Imo State House of Assembly who are dramatizing the ongoing joke of establishing miniature EFCC should stop disgracing Imo state and face other challenging functions of making good laws for the betterment of Imo State and should play their Constitutional roles in providing effective checks and balances so Imo State executive Council members and agencies are compelled to effectively deliver services to the good people of Imo State that is why they were elected.



Friday, 22 November 2013


Everyone has an innate fault line-no doubt. One of mine is that I have an incurable penchant for engaging in intellectual conversations with female lawyers who bagged upper levels and/or distinction in their qualifying examinations in the Nigerian Law School. This is because the Nigerian law school even with recent infiltration of examination cheats among the lecturers, is still one of the best in terms of academic standards and excellence.
November 21st 2013 was one of those days I sat with a female lawyer friend and our topic of discussion was on the move by the federal House of Representatives to legislate into law the ownership of foreign or offshore bank accounts by political office holders such as the President, vice president, governors and their deputies, national and sub-national legislators.
Lady J as I chose to call her for the purposes of this public debate expressed consternation that the political elite are on a journey to demolish all the legal frameworks that seek to check capital flight by public office holders such as the law banning ownership of foreign accounts.
She said that she has always suspected political elite of a grand conspiracy to gradually denigerianize Nigeria so much so that only the extremely poor and economic wretched of the earth would end up becoming truly Nigerians since they cannot afford what it takes to acquire foreign citizenship and or set up investments in Europe or the United States to enable them escape the uncertain future that befalls corporate Nigeria.          
Lady J used example of the fad among political elite to acquire foreign passports for themselves and their children as one of the many underground schemes to denigerianize Nigeria even as she said that the Icing in the cake is the current move to legalize ownership of foreign accounts.
She is of the considered view that the current set of national legislators of all political affiliations are on a collective journey to weaken the operational capacity of the near-moribund Code of Conduct Bureau and the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Speaking on the mandate and powers of the code of conduct Bureau and its Tribunal, my mutual friend stated that the current move to amend the Act to enable political class own and operate foreign accounts is the final nail in the coffin of these two institutions that over the years have stood by while political office holders embark on coordinated looting spree.
The Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Chapter 58 LFN 1990 gave the Bureau the mandate to establish and maintain a high standard of public morality in the conduct of government business and to ensure that the actions and behavior of public officers conform to the highest standards of public morality and accountability, so says official records.

To implement the above mandate, section 3, part of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended has provided an enabling legal environment for the bureau to; receive declarations by public officers under paragraph 12 of part 1 of the fifth schedule to the constitution.
By law the code of conduct bureau is to examine the declaration in accordance with the requirements of the code of conduct or any law; retain custody of such declaration and make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe.
The Code of conduct Bureau by the enabling Act is to work vigorously towards ensuring compliance with and where appropriate, enforce the provisions of the code of conduct or any law relating thereto; receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of the provision of the code of conduct or any law in relation there to, investigate complaints and, where appropriate, refer such matters to the code of conduct tribunal.
The Conduct Bureau by law is independent to such an extent that the law allows it to appoint, promote, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over staff of the code of conduct bureau in accordance with the provisions of an act of the National Assembly enacted in that behalf and carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by the National Assembly.

Specifically, Code 3 is on the Prohibition of foreign accounts even as the President, Vice President, Governor, Deputy Governor, Ministers of the Government of the Federation and Commissioners of the Governments of the States, members of the National Assembly and the House of Assembly of the States, and such other public officers or persons as the National Assembly may by law prescribe shall not maintain or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria.
The above sacred functions meant to preserve and conserve public fund for Nigerians in Nigeria, is what the members of the National Assembly are plotting to undermine through the passage of the legislation to allow the members of the political class to own and operate foreign bank accounts.
Lady J further expressed her legal view to my admiration that for over fourteen years that the 1999 constitution has being in existence as Nigeria’s Supreme body of laws, there are evidence to show that substantial chunk of public fund disappear into private accounts of top political office holders even as the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Tribunal stand by and watch.
In 2003, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced two anti-graft agencies to stem the tide of monumental heist of public fund but this evil scheme of outright theft of public fund has not stopped. My friend then wondered how the current move to liberalize foreign accounts’ ownership will empower the anti-graft institutions to stop the high volume of capital flight into foreign jurisdictions of Nigeria’s public fund.
Determined to push through this agendum of authorizing further grand stealing of public fund and create safe havens for these stolen public fund, the members of the Federal House of Representatives are standing logic on its head.
The underlying reason for banning foreign accounts ownership by political office holders is to check the proliferation of corrupt practices by these set of public office holders but now the Federal House is on a predetermined suicidal mission to wreck the economy of Nigeria by passing this bill authorizing ownership of foreign bank accounts.
The bill before the House of Representatives seeking to allow public office holders to operate foreign bank accounts passed second reading.
It also makes provision for the details of the assets declared by public officers to be assessed by members of the public. This angle of the amendment is a subterfuge targeted at tying a wool of confusion around the eyes of Nigerians to make them believe that there is national benefit in this move when in actual fact the members of the political class are aware that most Nigerians are too poor and weak and are therefore preoccupied with matters of bread and butter than to worry themselves trying to monitor how politicians operate foreign bank accounts.
 Emmanuel Jime (PDP, Benue), who sponsored the amendment for an “Act to amend the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act Cap 15” definitely stood logic on its head when he argued that the bill aims to make accessible assets and liabilities declared by public office holders, thereby making Nigerians to hold public office holders accountable.
 Jime said when passed into law, the bill will establish legal framework which has been missing in the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act and offer procedure for records of assets and liabilities declaration for public office holders to become more public and accessible to all members of the Nigerian public. This is a grand subterfuge.
Also, another part of the consolidated bill as sponsored by Rep Bamidele Faparusi (APC, Ekiti) seeks to provide leave for the bureau necessary for a public officer to maintain or operate a bank account outside Nigeria.
Rep Faparusi told the House that section 7 of the Act prohibited public officers in Nigeria from operating foreign accounts, but “the obvious impracticability of the law only help in breaching the law”. This is totally illogical and fallacious because it is inconceivable to convince us that making a law to own ownership of foreign account will promote transparency and accountability when in actual fact these legislators know the precarious economic condition of millions of Nigerians who are in not in any position to access the true picture of the foreign accounts to be maintained by their representatives in government when these same sets of politicians have failed to provide good governance locally.
The lawmaker not done by his illogical submission proceeded to argue further that by passing the bill, it would make the leave of the Bureau necessary for a public officer to maintain or operate a foreign bank account. He said the closure of public servant’s foreign account was a disservice to such an officer.
A few good voice of conscience came up during the debate because while contributing to the debate, Deputy House Leader Rep Leo Ogor cautioned the law-makers of the possibility of breeding corruption by the amendment, as it tries to curb the menace and urged the law-makers to strive and operate domicile accounts in the country.
Also, Rep A’isha Dahiru Binani (PDP, Adamawa) said there have been series of initiatives ever since the introduction of Code of Conduct Bureau back in 1979 by different leaders, but the “monster has refused to be defeated”, saying the legislators have to demonstrate the will of crushing corruption in the country. Good reasoning from Aisha Binani.
Nigerians who live abroad have also began criticizing this move as anti-Nigeria since according to them; there is no single foreign public office holder that maintains bank account in Nigeria. How many American congressmen own accounts in any of our Nigerian Banks?
The timing of this move is also suspect given that this is almost five months since public universities have been shut down due to strike action by the academic staff union of universities demanding enhanced pay package.
While the public schools are shut down, children of political elite are all schooling abroad. What this new sinister move to empower political elites to operate foreign accounts aims to achieve is to give the corrupt political office holders the official seal of approval to keep stealing public fund since they can now have safe havens to store those treasures for themselves and their children.
It is difficult to expect the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the independent corrupt practices and allied offences commission to have the capacity and professional skills to competently monitor how these foreign accounts are maintained given that both institutions including the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal are grossly understaffed and indeed have credibility problem to contend with.
I agree with the conclusion drawn by my friend that the move to create the legal framework for foreign bank accounts ownership will further compound Nigeria’s problem of capital flight and money laundering among political office holders.
Nigeria is said to harbor over 100 million extremely poor families, why are the legislators making law to take our money abroad rather than create enabling environment to attract genuine foreign investors and end the vicious circle of poverty?
My appeal to speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is that he should not allow the hawks in the House drag him into the misfortune of participating in the grand conspiracy to empty Nigeria’s public treasury into private accounts of privileged political office holders. This bill to amend the relevant sections of Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal should be consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs even as the legislators should focus more on effectively checking to make sure that relevant government agencies charged with delivering good governance and efficient social services to poor Nigerians are supervised to carry out these mandates and duties.

* Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF Nigeria;   


Thursday, 21 November 2013


A democracy inclined non-governmental body-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and its parent body-ASSOCIATION OF AFRICAN WRITERS ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS (AFRIRIGHTS) have jointly thrown their weight behind the decision of Nigeria’s Attorney General and minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) not to bring charges against Nigeria’s frontline telecommunication services company MTN over alleged perversion of course of Justice as demanded by the erstwhile Osun State governor Brigadier General Olagunsoye Oyinlola (rtd).

Besides, the groups passed a vote of confidence on the professional competence, patriotic commitment and zeal of the federal Attorney General and minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) and urged President Goodluck Jonathan not to accede to the campaign of calumny being waged by a group to discredit the nation’s chief law officer for standing by the constitutional provision and principle of rule of law and refusing to pander to the whims and caprices of political forces loyal to the deposed Osun state governor.  

The groups also challenged those claiming conflict of interest against the federal Attorney General in consistently maintaining his principled stand against the huge mountain of political pressure not to prosecute MTN Ltd over alleged forgery and perversion of the course of justice to display to discerning Nigerians any valid, credible, verifiable and irrefutable claims to show that Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke is a shareholder in MTN Ltd.

In a statement endorsed jointly by the national Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and national media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, and made available to journalists in reaction to a publication accusing the Federal Attorney General of alleged conflict of interests and refusal to act on police investigation report concerning a case of conspiracy, forgery and perversion of the course of Justice involving MTN Nigeria Communications limited, the groups said the Nigerian Constitution empowers the nation’s law officer to exercise discretional powers in deciding the merit or otherwise of instituting any legal proceedings against any person or companies.

Citing section 174(1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) which provides thus; “The Attorney General of the federation shall have power to (a) institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any office created by or under any act of the National Assembly”, the groups backed the Justice minister for not filing any legal proceedings against MTN because according to them, the nation’s Chief law officer was not in breach of the constitution.

HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and ASSOCIATION OF AFRICAN WRITERS ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS also stated that from investigation they jointly carried out and information sourced from competent and independent sources both within government and private quarters, the call for the sack of the Justice Minister was politically motivated and a methodically choreographed witch hunt against the person and office of the current holder of the federal Attorney General for failing to abuse his power to prosecute the telecommunications firm just so as to satisfy the yearning of a political god father who lost out in the Osun State political scheme. The groups also stated that the decision reached by the Federal Attorney General on the MTN matter must have been reached altruistically and in compliance with extant legal provisions on administration of call logs by telecom companies in Nigeria even as it challenged the justice minister's accuser to show cause why their allegation is not to be dismissed as mere political tissues of concocted fabrications just so as to undermine the authority and person of the Nigerian minister of justice. The group also urged the Federal Attorney General to consider heading to court to preserve his good name should his accuser continues to 'pollute' public space with half-truths and innuendoes targeted against his integrity and professional competence. 

According to the Rights groups, “We as pro-transparency groups are aware that the current holder of the office of federal Attorney General Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) has done nothing wrong in his legal decision not to unduly persecute one of Nigeria’s most prosperous private telecom companies (MTN) in the political litigation which saw the exit through the court of Appeal's verdict of the then Osun State governor-General Olagunsoye Oyinlola. The claim that Adoke (SAN) is in breach of the law and guilty of conflict of interest is a redherring since there are no documentary evidence to show that he (Adoke) holds MTN shares”.

“We hold the office of the Federal Attorney General in high esteem and as pro-transparency crusaders we will not hesitate to campaign for removal of any holder of this sacred office who compromises the sanctity of this office but we will only engage in this sort of advocacy only if there are convincing body of evidence to validate our resolve. But in this instance of the decision not to prosecute MTN Nigeria communications limited for alleged failing to furnish the National Judicial Council (NJC) complete call log of the retired president of the court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, we hold the fact to be self evident that the federal Attorney General did what is in the best public interest in exercising the powers to prosecute or not conferred on him by the highest laws of the land. In his determination to so do we are aware that the federal attorney general satisfy his good conscience that MTN Nigerian Communications Limited is not in breach of any administrative statute guarding disclosure of call logs of her customers. We hereby challenge those accusing him of being in conflict of interest to go beyond mere conjectures and hearsays which are at best illogical and fallacious but to publicly tender documentary evidence to validate their allegations”.
“We have forensically searched for evidence to show that Mr. Bello Mohammed Adoke (SAN) is in conflict of interest by not filing criminal proceeding against MTN Nigeria Communications limited in the said allegations of forgery and perversion of Justice and at best what we could see so far in the public domain by his accusers are only wild, unsubstantiated, politically -coated and collapsible bundle of allegations against a professional Nigerian who in his capacity as Nigeria’s Attorney General has offered the best legal advice  to Mr. President in these circumstances to preserve public good and avoid wrong use of his power to witch hunt a foreign investor who has immensely contributed to the economic well being of Nigerians.”                         
HURIWA and AfriRights have also canvassed support for any genuine national effort to rid Nigeria of all traces of corruption but warned against false alarm and blackmail meant to score cheap political goals.

Specifically, a Lagos-based civil society group had on Wednesday November 20th 2013 alleged that: “The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is an interested party in this matter, owing to his shareholding in the telecoms outfit, and is, therefore, doing all in his power to ensure that MTN and its officials do not face justice for manipulating the call data records of chieftains of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, the party’s legal representatives and Justice Ayo Salami which were forwarded to the National Security Adviser and the State Security Services, at the instance of the National Judicial Council.”