Random thoughts on the anti-corruption campaign

By the way, what is the outcome of the EFCC investigation into the fuel subsidy scam? Were we not led to believe that those implicated in the scam (mostly sons/daughters of PDP chieftains) would soon face the music? Forgive me for asking if the music has stopped playing or the dancers have been granted permission to disperse. Corruption cases to have a habit of getting cold in Nigeria. They get cold because the public is either easily distracted or too forgetful.

I have no doubt in my mind that the Buhari Administration is determined to sanitize the body-politic and redeem our image as a nation. My only worry is that the forces opposed to change are too entrenched and too adamant to be treated with kid gloves. Unless the Government moves fast to clear the obstacles in its path, the success of the anti-corruption drive cannot be guaranteed.

This brings me to two puzzles that I have been wrestling with over the past few weeks. Watching how individuals indicted of serious ethical violations have been mocking the rest of us, I kept asking the following questions: One, when will the Government get to the stage at which a Loots Recovery Tribunal, or a body appropriately designated, would be constituted? Two, since the Legislature has other things on its mind right now, when will the Executive (meaning the President and his team) draft a Bill compelling a serving public official being investigated for serious ethical violations to step aside pending the conclusion of investigations?

I still have no mathematically precise and universally acclaimed answers to the two puzzling questions. I shall nonetheless avail the readers of this post my own take on the two topics.

The rationale for the establishment of a Loots Recovery Tribunal may be difficult to defend, more so, as we have a plethora of institutions probing/investigating/examining allegations of corruption. There are, for instance, the EFCC, the ICPC, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and the like. While these agencies are capable of performing their statutory functions, one is yet to see them collectively or individually bring high-profile corruption cases to meaningful closure. We hear of “invitations” sent to accused persons, of the “investigations” being vigorously carried out by the agents of the watchdog bodies, and of corruption cases piling up and getting cold in the law courts. That is about all. We have not heard of a crooked official answering serious questions about present or past misdeeds. We have not seen a high and mighty personality brought low in handcuffs. And we have not been brought to the realization that honesty pays. These are among the reasons I have for proposing that a Loots Recovery Tribunal be established. I am not talking about a Tribunal with a narrow mandate. I am talking about one that is empowered to ask a broad range of questions on the stewardship of public institutions. Please, feel free to disagree with me.

If you disagree with the proposal for the establishment of a Loots Recovery Tribunal (or a body similarly or suitably named), how about the need for a BILL TO SAFEGUARD THE IMAGE, INTEGRITY AND CREDIBILITY OF STATE INSTITUTIONS? Don’t you think that this is precisely the Bill that Nigeria needs, but which our Senate deliberately sidesteps in favour of the notorious Social Media Bill? The Senate cannot safeguard the image of the state and its institutions (much less of the officials) by gagging social media commentators. The only meaningful way to achieve this objective is to separate a discredited official from the State–at least, until such an official is cleared of wrongdoing and made whole again. It is only logical that a rotten apple will sooner than later contaminate the fresh ones, unless quickly removed from the bunch.
Don’t get me wrong. The proposed Image and Credibility Bill is not meant to be applied anyhow, or thrown at any official ALLEGED to have committed acts of misconduct. To fall under the provisions of the Bill, an official must face charges that are capable of, and are being, duly investigated. It will not be enough to submit petitions or affidavits alleging wrongdoing on the part of an official. However, when the facts supporting such petitions and affidavits can be investigated (by the police, the ICPC, the EFCC, the CCB, etc.), the official needs to step aside to allow independent, unfettered, investigation. This is the practice in many countries. It is the practice a technical team which I led recommended to the Government of Namibia. It is the practice that the Government incorporated in the Ministerial Performance Agreements recently signed by the country’s President and his Ministers.
But this is Nigeria we are now talking about. The practice may be different. If you think that the difference (or should I say that anomaly) should stay, here is your opportunity to say so. If, however, you agree with the broad thrusts of my argument, leave no stone unturned to get the proposals across to the decision-makers. Now over to you, my esteemed compatriots.

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