Corruption: Let the trials start

barack-obama-muhammadu-buhari1-702x336Last week, President Mu­hammadu Buhari under­scored his commitment to the battle against corruption with the announcement that the prosecution of treasury looters would begin in a mat­ter of weeks. He also inaugu­rated a Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corrup­tion to advise his government on the prosecution of the war against corruption, and ap­pointed prominent professor of law and civil rights activist, Prof. Itse Sagay, as its head.

A number of suspects are already being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over corruption allegations, while a directive has been issued to the Ministries, De­partments and Agencies of government (MDAs) to remit all government revenue into a Treasury Single Account (TSA) to promote transpar­ency and probity in their operations.

We strongly commend the Federal Government for these promising first steps in the battle to free Nigeria from the ravages of corrup­tion.

These are, indeed, indications that the war against corruption has started in earnest, and we stand firmly with the president in what he has described as his irrevocable commitment to breaking the vicious cycle of corruption by putting suspected treasury looters on trial and recovering stolen public funds. His affirmation that Nigeria has to break the cycle of corruption before it can make progress is the bare truth, and we urge all Nigerians to support the government in this war to send a strong message that public corruption will no longer be tolerated in the country.

We condemn the insinuations in cer­tain quarters that the president’s fre­quent statements on his anti-corruption initiatives may distract him from gover­nance. We do not think they can. Cor­ruption is a serious crime that Nigeria needs to make a clean break with, as it has brought virtually all sectors of our national life to their knees. Infrastruc­ture, power supply, education, health, the economy and most other sectors in the country are gasping for life on ac­count of rabid treasury looting that has cost the country trillions of naira in the last five years, with $150 million of the loot said to be stashed in banks abroad.

Public sector workers are owed many months arrears of salaries, while many state governments can no longer fulfill their responsibilities in many areas, in­cluding payment of pensions. The time has, therefore, come for Nigerians to stand firm against corruption and be one with the new government in the ef­fort to reduce it to the barest minimum.

There are, indeed, no two ways about it. Nigeria must either kill corruption, or corruption will kill the country. The choice is ours, and it is a choice we must make now with President Muhammadu Buhari leading the way, to ensure that we will have a country to bequeath to our children.

It is, therefore, strange that the presi­dent’s statements on his plans to bring treasury looters to book have been ruffling feathers, with claims in some quarters that they are not in Nigeria’s best interest. The Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar-led National Committee on the Peaceful Elections, unfortunate­ly, lent its weight to this position last week when it visited the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in Abuja. The Committee was reported to have counselled the Feder­al Government against “too much talk about the promised probe”. It said this was necessary so that the government would not “get distracted from the core business of governance on account of the probe”

It is important that all well-meaning Nigerians speak with one voice on the matter of corruption. There should be no breaking of ranks on the mat­ter, and we must never regard any talk about it as an unfruitful distraction.

Corruption is a big issue in the coun­try and we must all continue to talk about it, and also act on it, to send a strong signal to all public officers that it will no longer be tolerated in the polity. Not properly dealing with cor­ruption under the guise that it is a dis­traction will only encourage the pres­ent public officers to also loot public funds with impunity.

The prosecution of the war against corruption should not stop the govern­ment from implementing its change agenda in the country, as both activi­ties are not mutually exclusive. What is necessary, as the Peace Committee has also stated, is that the president must strictly adhere to the rule of law in his battle against graft.

As we have had occasion to state before, the battle against corruption must not be prosecuted in a way to suggest that it is a witch-hunt of any particular past or present public offi­cer. It must not also deliberately ex­clude any treasury looter, no matter how highly placed.

Billions of naira in public funds have been committed to sundry projects in many sectors of national life such as power, the railways, roads and other public infrastructure with very little to show for it. The probe should un­earth how the billions of naira were expended. Nigeria has severally been listed among the most corrupt nations in the world.

All hands must be on deck to cor­rect this perception. We must not cre­ate the impression it is necessary to slow down the president’s campaign against corruption.As Nigerians await the commencement of the prosecution of those who are suspected to have looted the treasury, we advise that the trials should be open, non-selective, fair, all-encompassing and targeted at recovering the looted sums. -The Sun


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