- Category: ARTICLES
- Sunday, 19 August 2012
- By Daniel Aremu
UNFOLDING events in the N304 billion fuel subsidy trial have raised niggling doubts about the commitment of the Federal Government to bringing the errant firms and individuals to justice. At the commencement of the trial, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, who was expected to lead the prosecution team, failed
to appear in court. And contrary to Adoke’s statement that Before we arraign any suspect in court, we will ensure there is water-tight evidence to make their prosecution easier, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission curiously withdrew charges against four fuel subsidy fraud suspects, even before charges were pressed against them.
These clearly present a foreboding of an unfolding nightmarish farce and gives serious cause for concern. According to the counsel to the EFCC, Oyedepo Rotimi, the charges against Durosola Omogbenigun and his company, Integrated Resources Limited, as well as Peter Mba and his company, Pinnacle Oil and Gas, were mistakenly instituted.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that the suspects conspired to collect over N2bn from the Federal Government as payments for the importation of some litres of petrol. But Rotimi claimed he had instructions from the AGF to withdraw the case because the charges were misconstrued by the prosecution and were inadvertently filed against the defendants. As usual, the excuses from the AGF ring most hollow.
The questions are: At what point did Adoke and the EFCC know that the charges were mistaken? Does it mean that they file criminal charges against people without proper investigations? And why would such a serious case be treated with such levity? Yet, Adoke has boasted that the trial of oil marketers is neither suspended nor stopped at all.
This government is committed to its anti-corruption agenda and it has demonstrated it with many cases in court. But the dreadful truth is that this administration has not shown the much-needed zero-tolerance attitude to corruption. How many of these many cases in court have finally been dispensed with and how many convictions have been secured? The EFCC prides itself on having convicted over 500 persons out of 700 prosecutions since 2003. How many of these are high-profile convictions? So far, the corruption cases against some ex-state governors have seen a lot of motion without movement.
A typical example was the case the EFCC preferred against the erstwhile governor of Delta State, James Ibori. In 2009, the Federal High Court in Asaba, presided over by Justice Marcel Awokulehin, absolved Ibori of all the 170 charges levelled against him, only for a court in London to find him guilty of some of the same charges and sentence him to 13 years imprisonment, three years later.
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria is right to insist that the withdrawal should have been left for the courts of law to decide. Indeed, it was another fraudulent way to delist some companies from the list of those indicted for the fuel subsidy scam.
Recall that the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy management formerly led by Farouk Lawan had indicted some companies for their involvement in the scam. However, while presenting the report to the House, Lawan convinced his colleagues to remove the names of two companies from the list. Zenon Oil boss, Femi Otedola, appeared later to allege that Lawan and the clerk of the committee, Boniface Emenalo, collected $620, 000 in bribes from him to remove the name of his company.
It is even surprising that, up until now, we are still talking of collecting evidence to prosecute Lawan and his accomplice when there is overwhelming evidence to prosecute them immediately. For instance, Lawan, who initially denied collecting the bribe, later recanted, claiming that he collected it to use as evidence against Otedola. Also, the House Committee Chairman on Narcotics, Adams Jagaba, whom Lawan allegedly gave the money to, has since denied ever collecting it, threatening to sue Lawan if he did not stop blackmailing him. But the wheel of justice appears stuck.
Surely, the fuel subsidy scam will not go away until justice is served. Corruption has done a lot of damage to the reputation of Nigeria. In a recent assessment conducted on Nigeria’s investment climate in 26 states for the year 2011, the World Bank observed that companies in the manufacturing and service sectors lost 2.3 per cent and 2.2 per cent of their revenues respectively to corruption.
Manufacturing firms, the report noted, reported paying 3.2 per cent of their sales earnings in bribes. While we continue to treat corruption with kid gloves, more serious countries have continued to deal corruption a deadly blow. In China, a number of people involved in corruption cases have in recent years been jailed, while some of them have been executed.
For instance, a former Chinese Communist Party chief who was responsible for investigating corruption, Zeng Jinchun, was executed last year for taking more than $4.7m in bribes. In Israel, former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was impeached in 2008 on charges of fraud, breach of trust and acquisition through fraudulent means. In May this year, he was also indicted for accepting a bribe to promote the construction of housing projects.
Last month, he was cleared of two charges of corruption but found guilty of another count by a Jerusalem Court. Nigerians want to see some seriousness in the fight against corruption. The successful prosecution of the fuel subsidy scam suspects is particularly of great interest to Nigerians, considering the crisis, sufferings and deaths, the so-called removal of fuel subsidy caused in the country in January.
The culture of impunity which has stunted our growth as a nation must stop.
by Comrade AremuforYouths
Saturday, 18 August 2012