“Government must stop trivializing the fight against corruption with politics”.
A coalition of civil society groups has accused President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, of playing petty politics with the fight against corruption in the country.
The coalition, West African Civil Society Forum, WACSOF, consisting about ten anti-corruption organisations, said on Friday that the decision to drop corruption charges against Mohammed Abacha, son of the former military dictator, Sani Abacha, only confirms how deeply rooted in corruption President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is.
The members of the coalition include Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD; Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD; Centre for the Development of Civil Society, CDCS, and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC.
Other members include National Procurement Watch Platform, NPWP; West African Civil Society Forum-Nigeria, WACSOF: Zero-Corruption Coalition, ZCC; Tax Justice and Governance Platform Nigeria, TJGPN; Women Advocate Research & Documentation Centre, WARDC, and Advocacy Nigeria.
The WACSOF, through its National Coordinator, Sola Folayan, condemned the role played by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Adoke, who ordered the withdrawal of a nine-count charge against Mohammed, accused of receiving property worth N100.38 billion believed to have been stolen by his father between 1993 to 1998.
The group recalled that the Jonathan administration had, in a similarly gesture, granted pardon in controversial circumstance to the former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was indicted for looting and stealing of public funds,
The WACSOF said the latest action involving the Abachas raises further concerns about government’s commitment to its acclaimed fight against corruption.
“It is a naked dance in the public place by government, especially when weighed against the arrogant and contemptuous manner with which the President had told Nigerians during his recent media chat that there is difference between stealing and corruption,” Mr. Folayan said.
He said the coalition is convinced that the main focus of government over the Abachas charges withdrawal saga is because the ruling party is desperate to favour corrupt politicians decamping from the opposition political parties to the PDP.
“Government must stop trivializing the fight against corruption with politics,” he said. “The civil society sees the dropping of the charges against Mohammed Abacha for corrupt enrichment and money laundering as a way the administration is perpetuating immorality, impunity and lack of transparency in the system. It puts a huge question mark on the sincerity of the Jonathan administration to fight corruption.”
For the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, apart from the national embarrassment the action has inflicted on the country, the group is concerned that it has completely eroded whatever remains of the moral foundation the presidency has to pursue other corruption cases in the country.
Mr. Rafsanjani said the action has the potential to de-motivate Nigeria’s anti-corruption institutions, like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Crimes Commission, ICPC, to effectively deliver on their mandates of fighting corruption.
He said the Abacha saga is likely to send a wrong signal that perpetrators of such criminal acts against the state are likely to get away with such acts. He asked President Jonathan to immediately direct the AGF to reinstate the case against Mohammed Abacha and ensure that the case is prosecuted to its logical conclusion with a view to recovering the stolen monies.
Mr. Rafsanjani urged the international community to join Nigerians at home and abroad to condemn the Jonathan administration by taking practical steps to show anger towards the Nigerian government.
“This action has brought to Nigeria further opprobrium and other negative consequences that the country is not genuinely committed to fighting corruption. Incidences of corruption are noted to be the forerunner of insecurity, poverty, unemployment and infrastructural decay which the country is currently facing,” the coalition stated.
It called on Nigerians to brace up to take their destinies in their hands by mobilizing a national day of protest against corruption and impunity in Nigeria.
Also, the Executive Director, African Network for Environment, and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, David Ugolor, described the decision to drop the corruption charges against Mohammed Abacha as very unfortunate, as it suggests desperation on the part of the Jonathan administration.
“This singular act would only encourage a reign of impunity that would do incalculable damage to government’s claim to a commitment to fight corruption in the country,” Mr. Ugolor said.
The civil society groups, he warned, would rely on the United Nations international conventions against corruption and asset forfeiture laws in the United States to get the assets of these former Nigerian leaders confiscated for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“If the government is not going to work with the Nigerian citizens to recover the stolen wealth, the civil society would work with foreign governments to ensure that these funds are recovered and brought back to fund good governance and transparency to make the society a better place for all Nigerians” Mr. Ugolor said.