It has now appeared President Muhammadu Buhari is neither softening on his anti-corruption stance nor is he allowing the tempo of its drive to revert to status quo ante. His response to two significant events related to his war against corruption, one of which manifested towards the end of the preceding year, has provided an ample testimony for that assumption at the beginning of his presidency when everyone was hoping that the all mighty corruption will suffer a resounding defeat.
In a deft move, or a masterstroke against corruption, on Tuesday, 19 April, President Buhari did the unexpected as he suspended the embattled Secretary to his Government, David Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, from office pending the conclusion of the job of a probe panel set up to look into the allegations of corruption against them.
In the course of conducting its oversight function on how funds made available to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. David Babachir Lawal were being managed, the Senate ad-hoc committee under Senator Shehu Sani, set up exclusively for that purpose, allegedly found that part of the funds, amounting to two-hundred million Naira, were embezzled and had consequently asked the President to remove and prosecute him. On the other hand, Oke is to explain how over $43million dollars which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC reportedly discovered at the residence of his wife in Ikoyi Lagos, belongs to his agency as he had shockingly contended.
These two events have raised lots of dust which provided lead to the probability of dealing, for the first time, with serving, highly placed officers accused of extraordinary degrees of misconduct that cannot be legally or morally justified. However, the expectations of the public were dashed when, in earlier instances, the SGF hanged on to his position, refusing to resign in the face of weighty allegations leveled against him which were subsequently trashed by the government.
Although the presidency asked the Minister of Justice to query him over his indictment by the Senate, he was eventually exonerated from any blame by the government on the grounds which punctured the report of Senate committee which it said was not supported by majority members and was, therefore, unreliable. That had greatly incensed some people who felt that the exoneration of the SGF had really destroyed, and drastically reduced, the effectiveness of the report of the Senate Committee, rendering it invalid.
Now that President Buhari had acted in a manner suggestive of breathing new life into the anti-corruption crusade by reigning in two key officials of his administration, majority of Nigerians who reacted to that move were extremely happy that at last the government was rising against its allegedly corrupt, certified agents, as against its seemingly well publicized attitude of targeting officials and stakeholders of the former party in power.
Corrupt Nigerians that bled the country white in the past have not been conclusively tried and punished in accordance with the rule of law. The APC government was seen to be leaving so many stones unturned, ensuring that sacred cows were allowed to go scot-free on account of political affiliation. Accordingly, the trial of those that have short changed the country and those that have stolen our collective wealth has not been proceeding satisfactorily.
From the beginning, there had been attempts at prosecuting persons perceived to be corrupt, but unfortunately those trials achieved little results. Very few of them were diligently prosecuted to logical conclusion while the convicted criminals were usually treated with kid’s gloves throughout the trial period.
Nigerians are now satisfied that the Buhari administration is presently differing substantially from the hitherto established norm of slow motion, especially in dispensing justice and quite audacious and resolute in fighting corruption. In fact, it was Buhari’s anti-corruption stance that endeared him to the electorates before the 2015 elections. Their expectations were, therefore, very high and it was imperative his administration has to do whatever it can to sustain and maintain the prevailing goodwill it currently enjoys.
For that reason the Government should have subjected the SGF and the Director-General to through investigation by an independent panel to save its anti-corruption campaign. The two indicted officials belong to the executive arm of government and it should therefore be right and proper if the probe panel was headed by a member of the judiciary. The Osinbajo panel is considered partisan, and there are fears in many quarters that it may be biased in determining the innocence of Babachir and Oke.
It can be rightfully said that in order to uphold the confidence reposed in Buhari’s administration the ongoing probe of key officials of his government must be impartial and dispassionate. Anybody who has illegally enriched himself must be purged of the spoils he had enjoyed and then be paid in his own coins. There should be no sacred cows in the great drive to cleanse all governmental institutions of official corruption.