By Odimegwu Onwumere
Many Human Rights advocates and analysts had admonished the need for the establishment of a special court, which would be sitting day-by-day, like the election petitions tribunal, for the speedy trial of anyone found unjustifiable of sordid details with money, while holding any public office. This gesture would assist the Federal Government’s options on judicial reforms that could fast-track the trial of alleged corrupt persons, because there are no strong indications that ex-governors and their like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had said it’s studying petitions against them really committed the ‘crime’ they are being hounded for years without allowing the innocent Nigerians a breathing.
It is because of the lack and provision of substantive evidence by the EFCC in the court that has led to many of these “corrupt persons” set free by the court. But the EFCC in its orchestrated efforts in misleading Nigerians to believe that it is working, would show some gragra,consequently creating a bad impression in the minds of the unsuspecting Nigerians to believing that “corrupt judges in the judiciary set corrupt politicians free in court”; but this is not true, because the judges know the law and they carry out their court dealings based on the provision of the law and evidence.
What the Federal Government is perhaps oblivious of is that the image of Nigeria and Nigerians are incessantly battered outside the shores of this country by the EFCC. The information given as news that about 77 high-profile cases, including those of 14 ex-governors and two ministers, are pending in various courts in the last four years, should buttress the fact that the EFCC was not for the good name of Nigeria. This is shameful and is giving Nigeria a very bad name and poor image before the comity of nations. It is therefore pertinent that the Federal Government must know that the EFCC has so far given the international community the impression that Nigerians are corrupt (whereas it is not true) without anything to demonstrate for its always harangue of corruption among Nigerians. This also abuses the esteemed office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. The Minister’s office was supposed to beproposing a reaching judicial reforms on how to pummel incivility in the country, and not the eye service job the jaundiced EFCC is doing just to score cheap publicity by playing the script of its institutors against some persons perceived to be in the Black Book of these persons who feel that they are demi-gods that must be worshipped.
While the presidency may be developing an impressive plan to fight corruption, it should understand that the EFCC has gored many oxen it had no confirmation to do so before goring them. One man the EFCC has molested so much in this country is the ex-Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, whom the EFCC is per minute increasing the money said he ‘misappropriated’ while in office. The EFCC had said in 2007 that Kalu mismanaged N3B. Later Nigerians heard reports from the same EFCC that he mismanaged N5B. But in all of that did reports not show that the “mismanaged money” was N2.8B, which was Security Vote, any governor of a state was supposed to hold and spend on the destination the money was meant to be conveyed to? Is the EFCC saying that if no person is molested and abused in Nigeria, at least, it must be Kalu? For what! Is this not the man who provided good drugs in good health facilities the Abia Government that he once led built, good roads, education, portable water? Just name them. So, it is expedient that the EFCC is also brought to book and be prosecuted or audited for molesting Nigerians and wearing on them the label of corruption it had no prove for. The EFCC was just acting on hear-say through petitions of those who perhaps are enemies of the people they petitioned the EFCC to arrest and prosecute, not that the EFCC was real to the issues of corruption detractors have wore on those they are detracting.
While the Federal Government maybe giving directive to the appropriate ministries and commissions in the Executive arm to speak with the judiciary on how to hit hard on corruption, it is therefore essential that it also lengthens its hand on the EFCC and terminate its existence. It will be garbage in, garbage out on its fight against corruption if the EFCC is not sent to the archives where it truly belongs immediately, for posterity to judge. This will be the height of Reforms in Nigeria if achieved. After all, the trial of all the ex-governors and former Ministers and those already arraigned in court by the EFCC, has not brought any good name to the country, but bad name. The EFCC make them criminals before they are arraigned in any court of competent jurisdiction. Imagine the grimace that would be on people’s face if a country like the USA is brought to the public glare that the number of Nigerians the EFCC has been parading is paraded in the USA by a semblance commission like the EFCC over there. Does it mean that the USA has no such commission? But the USA prefers to respect the dignity of her citizens and the Constitution and not to make name in fighting corruption just as the EFCC is doing with the aid of the media thereby bringing the names of reputable Nigerians to the mud, and the name of Nigeria to the deeper mud.
Seeking for judicial reforms that will ensure quick dispensation of justice is fine, but not when the names of the alleged persons on the EFCC’s pseudo list are transported to the ‘new’ era for trial. Cases that only exist because of certain petitions without concrete prove by the EFCC should be struck out ones and for all. Also, there shouldn’t be any committee to look into the performance and truthfulness of judges in the past. Let there be Reforms in its entirety if the government wants to reform because mirroring backward will not produce any progressive potent result but retrogression and impotent backwardness. It is an opinion that amnesty should be the term used in discharging and acquitting the names of those present on the EFCC’s list. This does not mean to support corruption, but it is better it is done that way for a proper fight against corruption to germinate on a fertile land free from any artificial application.
The EFCC should be pruned of the abuse of power it has been exhibiting where it does the work of police and many times wants Nigerians to see it as the judiciary. It is not only the ex-governors, ministers and other that worth questioning and arrest, the EFCC also deserves the same fate because it has lived its expiry date. There is every need that the EFCC and its insincere-long-list of corrupt persons, especially those of political class, be dismissed.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org