*There should be no sacred cows in the war against corruption
From Toyin Adinlewa
Nigerians had witnessed several cases where government institutions established to legally neutralize the so-called “immunity” on political office holders who perpetuate evils with impunity turned immunisers in a manner against public scrutiny and principle of accountability. It has been a synergy of evil and collaboration of cat and dog leaving the electorates to suffer the consequence.
But with the current tide in our democratic development, how can impunity survive the tsunami of change combing nooks and crannies for political Timber and Calibre in ensuring that only those who are accountable, honest, competent, in high spirit of service to humanity and have no corruption trait should work with the man to whom U.S.A President, Barack Obama referred to as a man of high integrity?
This question, with no straight answer, has continued to boggle my mind since the victory of APC at the polls considering its all-encompassing campaign promises, the influx of politicians from the opposite parties and the angelic status of the President Muhammadu Buhari who has continued to affirm he would fight and kill corruption before it kills Nigerians.
Hardly had the All Progressives Congress-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari hit the ground running when my greatest fear started to play out with Nigerians watching keenly in total bewilderment the protracted imbroglio that greeted the 8th Senate in the course of electing its principal officers.
It was indeed a miasmic drama acted by two factions within the APC which saw Senator Bukola Saraki’s emergence as Senate president in a manner deemed by All Progressive Congress’s leadership a sheer and blatant violation of party “Supremacy” principle.
However, at a point when it was thought by Nigerians that the race for leadership that grounded legislations in the National Assembly for weeks had been relegated to the past, three cases from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) reared up their ugly heads to question its President.
As if it was an episodic drama which now reached its climax: firstly, on July 23, Mrs Toyin Saraki, wife of senate president Bukola Saraki, was invited by the EFCC to answer questions in relation to several contracts executed by companies said to be linked to her while her husband held sway as the Kwara governor.
Secondly, some days back Kennedy Izuagbe, a former director of Societe Generale Bank Nigeria Plc and managing director of Carlisle Properties and Investment Limited, companies associated with the Senate President, was declared wanted by the EFCC over a case of conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of over N3.6 billion.
Finally, a 13-count charge of corruption was filed against Senate President, Bukola Saraki, by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). He was accused of making false declaration of assets, declaring some assets beyond his legitimate earnings, operating foreign accounts while being a public officer and the declaration of a property (assets) that had not yet been sold to him while he was the governor of Kwara State.
Apparently, these offences are a breach of Section 15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, LFN 2004 and punishable under Section 23 (2) as incorporated under paragraph 18 of Part 1, Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, of which Section 3 (d) states its function thus: “Receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act.
These were the revelations that surrounded Saraki’s ordeal. But in a country where conspiracy theories are in full supply, where meanings are quickly read into actions no matter the value of such actions, people have been peddling stories of Bukola Saraki being a victim of persons more powerful than him in the polity with particular reference to President Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Ahmed Tnubu.
Towing this line of insinuation is the PDP who has accused Buhari of showing total displeasure in the election that brought Saraki to the seat of Senate President when he declared that party supremacy must be adhered to and going by Buhari’s stern stance on corruption by exhibiting unmitigated political will to thoroughly prosecute those who plundered our commonwealth.
Hence, pro-PDP and anti-APC see the move for justice as a witch-hunt or political score settling but it should be noted that a house that is built with spit won’t endure long before it is demolished by dew and for EFCC and CCB to be alive to their constitutional duty of holding accountable people who perpetuate impunity with immunity is a commendable move.
But, does Saraki in actual fact remains a saint? In other words, did Bukola Saraki hold back facts about the ownership of the properties in question? Or is the CCB like the EFCC merely doing the ‘eye-service’ of supporting the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s fight against corruption? The onus lies on Saraki to prove his innocence in a judicial manner before Nigerians could subscribe to his allegation of being witch-hunted and bullied.
All the same, the take of Mr Integrity on this issue is clear: “the issue is obviously a judicial process and has nothing to do with him because as an independent institution equal to any superior court of record, the Code of Conduct Tribunal is set up by the constitution to determine the issue of default, false declaration or forgery in assets declaration.”
So PDP need to be reminded that when Nigerians voted for Buhari in the last election, it was because of his stern stance on corruption and his commitment to fight impunity with the last blood in his vein by bringing to book anyone found guilty to have plundered our commonwealth-the popularity which by electoral arrangement, all APC senators- Saraki inclusive, benefited from.
Hence, there could be no sacred cows in the war against corruption not even under the watch of now-informed-Nigerians, but all Saraki needs to do, and which his supporters ought to tell him, is that he should first of all clear his name rather than allowing opposition party members to politicise a serious matter of law.
The perceived disagreement by APC caucuses on who should lead the National Assembly cannot and should not be the explanation Saraki has to offer for the charges leveled against him, he should, however, first and foremost prove his innocence and take on his accusers on the point of law by proving his innocence.
As the National Assembly resumes today, Saraki and his cohorts need to understand that nothing should change in the manner and conduct of legislative businesses. His ongoing trial is personal and should be treated as such. Hence, Nigerians would be expecting a successful screening of ministerial nominees should president Buhari present them this week as promised.