To say that corruption is highly endemic in Nigeria is an understatement. It has vociferously eaten deep into the fabrics of the general society. Consequently, Buhari’s wide acceptance and victory at the 2015 polls was anchored on his avowed stance, determination and commitment to a greater fight against graft. The government of President Goodluck Jonathan was roundly accused of high profile corruption and eventually voted out of power. However, since 2015, the height of corruption is stinking and makes fun of the accusations against the former administration.
The acclaimed anti-corruption drive of president Muhammadu Buhari has suffered a self-induced debilitating blow. Buhari’s onslaught against own anti-corruption drive is practically evident with the release of Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame both former governors of Plateau and Taraba respectively.
The National Council of State had recently approved the pardon of Dariye, Nyame, and 157 other convicts following the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy. The 12-member committee, inaugurated by Buhari in 2018, is headed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned both Dariye and Nyame on account of embezzlling public funds amounting to N1.16bn and N1.6bn respectively. It took over a decade of rigorous and diligent prosecution before the hammer of conviction fall on both. How could the country spend millions of naira, time and energy diligently prosecuting these cases only for the convicts to be set free at one meeting?
Nigerians from all walks of life were happy that even the rich and the powerful can no longer run away from the long arm of the law. However, the nation was stunned but more enraged and bittered over this development.
With the release of these two who are already serving their jail terms; nobody needs to be told that anti-corruption has been compromised. Nigerians took the government seriously until the former APC chairman Adams Oshiomole boasted that the sins of any politician who joins the party is forgiven. The light of the celebrated anti-graft war was further dimmed as corrupt cases against Danjuma Goje the former governor of Gombe state and Abdullahi Adamu the ex-governor of Nassarawa were quietly dropped by EFCC. Goje is a Senator while damu is the current Chairman of President Buhari’s party – the All Progressive Congress.
There should be equal consequences for crime committed by both the poor and the rich. A nation unduly pandering with her justice system in favour of the elites is already doomed. There should never be different strokes for different people in the face of the law and dispensation of justice. The full wrath of the law should evenly apply. These freed men to the best of my knowledge are political Hussppupis and shameless scamers worse than the loaded bandits, kidnappers and terrorists.
We are a nation which plays politics to the extent of turning truth on its head. At a time former president Goodluck Jonathan pardoned late governor of Bayelsa state, Depriye Alamiyeseigha, hell was let loose by the then opposition APC. Both Nasir el-rufai – the governor of Kaduna state and Festus Keyamo, now a minister in Buhari’s government took the former government to the cleaners on that matter. They made a mockery of the issue. On February 27, 2015, Keyamo asked the former president’s supporters to justify why Jonathan should grant presidential to Depriye Alamieyeseigha.
The tweet read, “To GEJites: Give us 1 Good reason why pardon was granted to a convicted thief (Alams) when we are even looking for more ex-govs to send to jail.” Apart from the tweet, Keyamo had also issued a statement lambasting former administration of Jonathan for being insincere to the war against corruption. “It is shocking, confusing, and disheartening that at a time when the general mood of the country indicates that the war against corruption is insincere, slow and a sham, the President deems it fit to even rubbish the very little work that has been done by the anti-corruption agencies in securing the conviction of these individuals. It is also disturbing that at a time when Nigeria is still ranking very low in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International the President has further damaged the image of the country by this singular act,” the statement reads.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai was more blistering in his attack. He angrily said on a national television interview; “nobody said you should eradicate corruption but don’t go around – you know pardoning convicted people that have been convicted by regular court for corruption and you say you are fighting corruption. You are sending a wrong signal not only to those engaged in corruption but also to young people who see that there is reward in being corrupt. That is what Jonathan is doing. Tell me which government before him that pardoned corrupt criminals.”
Many have finally come to the sad conclusion that APC is not only worse but shamelessly corrupt. In their over seven years of ineptitude, they have failed in six number digits and brilliantly perfected the allegations they leveled against PDP.
We are not in the national mood when prisoners are set free. The rationale behind the pardon of the two is therefore, disturbing. There are set down criteria for setting convicts free and it is not clear whether these people have met them. Has government recovered all the stolen funds? The release of these two high profile corrupt individuals has sent wrong signals to the international community on our sincerity in fighting graft. It shows how unserious our leaders are in enthrenching transparency and accountability in governance. This underscores the fact that the evil of corruption will take more time to obliterate.
Those who are in position of authority can now go on stealing spree knowing fully well that even if they caught and with their connection to the corridors of power; the National Council of State will only sit once and they are free. Laws in Nigeria are not meant for the rich. The poor in the society have been jailed for stealing food stuffs while rich politicians who steal billions are merely given a tap on their wrists. Many people including officials of anti-corruption agencies have condemned the decision of government describing it as a monumental setback. According to Premium Times onlne report, officials of EFCC bemoaned government action. “People risked their lives and friendships to investigate the ex-governors. They refused to be compromised. Now, it appears all the efforts were in vain…”
To Prof. Farooq Kperogi, he was mostly bothered about the selective approach to politically motivated trials in Nigeria. He said, “the real problem for me is the invidous selectivety of a judicial system that jailed them while other corrupt ex-governors are not only walking free but occupying important government positions.”
The release of Dariye and Nyame has diminished the little gains made in the fight against corruption. Their profile also made mockery of the freedom of other 157 convicts. Nigerians have asked for the identity of the 157. Some questioned if they are part of the bargaining chips of those kidnapped in the Abuja-Kaduna bound train. This is totally an own goal deliberately scored against fighting corruption in Nigeria.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Development Communication Specialist writes via email@example.com and can be reached on 08060901201