It appears the current leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is ready to prove nay sayers wrong. The Ola Olukoyede-led anti-graft agency poses as if it is indeed committed to prosecuting the war against corruption without fear or favour.
And to demonstrate its commitment in this regard, the anti-graft agency hinted at its resolve to restart the stalled multibillion naira corruption cases against some former governors after long years of unexplained hiatus.
Although monies huge enough to provide water, build classrooms, build health centres, construct roads, provide electricity and other basic necessities for most of the rural communities in need have been allegedly mismanaged by some of these governors, their prosecution has either been stalled by political consideration or needless technicalities by the courts.
No fewer than 13 former governors who allegedly fleeced their respective states were dragged, and some even charged, to court by the anti-graft agency but the cases are yet to be prosecuted to a logical conclusion, fueling speculation, especially among Nigerians, that some of the former governors are sacred cows that cannot be tried by the EFCC.
Going after looted billions
But it seems the EFCC is now poised to go after the looters and ultimately recover the looted billions from former Governors Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State, Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako of Sokoto State, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, Danjuma Goje of Gombe State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Peter Odili of Rivers State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State, Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Theodore Orji of Abia State, Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa, and Uzor Kalu of Abia State, who have graft allegations hanging on their necks before the court.
Another former governor accused of corruptly enriching himself with the resources of his state is the current minister of state for Defence, Muhammad Bello Matawalle, who is alleged to have stolen N70 billion from funds that accrued to Zamfara State when he held sway as governor for four years.
Both former Governors Adamu who later served as Senator representing Nasarawa West senatorial zone and eventually chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress and Wammako who is currently a Senator representing Sokoto North are accused of N15billion fraud each.
Senator Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State is being quizzed about alleged N5.3 billion fraud, while his successor, Sullivan Chime, is being investigated over alleged N450 million campaign fraud as part of the N23 billion allegedly shared by a former minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
In Abia, Theodore Orji is being investigated for an alleged N551 billion money laundering, while Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is being investigated for about N7billion fraud.
Former Governor Goje is being investigated by the commission for an alleged N5billion fraud, Sylva for alleged N19.2 billion money laundering, and Lamido for alleged N1.35 billion fraud. Former Kano Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso is facing a N10 billion fraud case, while Peter Odili is accused of diverting N100 billion Rivers’ funds.
In the days ahead, Nigerians will ultimately know whether the EFCC is serious about reopening the corruption cases against these former governors who fleeced their states when they held sway as the chief executives or not.
As a matter of fact, most Nigerians believe that about 90 percent of political office holders, including governors, are corrupt and deserve to be prosecuted upon leaving office. They also know that because of our failing system, some former governors still wield enormous power; hence, asking them to account for their period in office may well be herculean.
The lacklustre manner with which cases of corruption involving the former governors are being handled lends credence to the widely held view that some of them are, technically speaking, above the law. Curiously, it appears the Ola Olukayode-led EFCC wants to prove us wrong. We can’t wait to see these guys have their full day in court.
However, I doubt if that will ever happen. From its inception, two decades ago till date, the EFCC has been able to successfully prosecute only two former governors – Joshua Dariye of Plateau state and his Taraba state counterpart, Jolly Nyame. Both have been convicted, served brief jail terms and were pardoned.
It is certainly not for fun that of all the former governors accused of corrupt enrichment, only two have been convicted. We are dealing with a club of the most powerful group of people in the country. It is a given that even the president respects and, to a large extent, kowtow to the governors’ forum.
Understandably, Nigerians are skeptical about the anti-graft agency’s determination to effectively prosecute these former governors without interference, and the reason is not far-fetched. The president, his vice and the secretary to government of the federation are all former governors. As a matter of fact, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio is part of the clique. And until his emergence as the chairman of the National Assembly, Akpabio has a barrage of allegations of financial misappropriation levelled against him for which Nigerians expect the EFCC to act. Will these people not interfere? I doubt it.
A huge challenge
It is a given that for the EFCC to effectively prosecute these former governors it needs, to a large extent, the support of serving governors who will help the agency to seamlessly access some documents. Without such support, it will be very easy for the judges to hide under the cloak of technicalities and lack of cogent evidence to dismiss the cases. There is high probability that governors will support their predecessors, except in a few cases where the relationship between the former and the latter is frosty.
I don’t see Governor Audu Sule of Nasarawa State and Ahmed Aliyu of Sokoto, for instance, not doing all it takes to shield Abdullahi Adamu and Magatakarda Wammako respectively. I certainly don’t see Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano State not doing all within his powers to protect his benefactor and former governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who is also facing fraud charges. Also, can Governor Biodun Oyebanji do anything short of providing protection for his successor and benefactor, Kayode Fayemi? Certainly not.
These are part of the challenges the EFCC would face, coupled with the fact that some of these former governors are influential members of the ruling APC and may be shielded by ‘ogas’ at the top since they will play instrumental roles in subsequent elections.
Can Olukoyode muster the courage to confront these people? Will the EFCC get the needed support from the appropriate quarters? Is it ready to embark on an all-out war against these corrupt ex-governors? Can we be guaranteed that membership of the ruling party won’t absolve any of these former governors? Therein lies the challenge.
That notwithstanding, the EFCC which is considered as flexing muscle only when dealing with yahoo boys must redeem itself by taking the prosecution of these former governors to a logical conclusion.