Malabu and the allegory of brigandage By Nasiru Suwald

The Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, in one of his moments of frustration with the Nigerian project, proclaimed the Nigeria’s ruling party as a den of thieves. However, for somebody like me who with the benefit of a legal training, the ascription of criminality to an institution that had produced the government is at best vulgar, but mostly inappropriate.

Unfortunately for the nation, my worst fear about thIs weighty ascription has again come by way of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the immediate past chairman of the party’s board of trustees, and a former president of Nigeria.  

At the fourth annual Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies lecture, before an august gathering, and attended by two former Heads of State and a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Obasanjo averred that two of the three institutional components of Nigerian state are among the most corrupt organs of government, namely the National Assembly and the judiciary, with the Nigerian Police joining the roll of infamy.

The Owu high chief angrily thundered: “Integrity is necessary for all systems and institutions to be strong. Today, rogues and armed robbers are in state houses of assembly and the national assembly. What sort of laws will they make?” while he asserted: “If the judiciary becomes corrupt, where is the hope for Nigeria? Justice no doubt will go to the highest bidder. The judiciary did not see anything wrong with a former governor but the same set of evidence was used to convict in the U.K.”

As with anything that has to do with the old wily General, a lot of Nigerians were curious how the organ of government controlling the highest budgetary vote did not get his condemnation, especially because in Nigeria it is the executive branch of the government that makes provision for expenditure financing, as such it is the sector mostly the subject of occasional investigations by corruption interdiction bodies.

Thus, when a body controlling nearly 90% of budgetary allocations gets no flak from the august speaker, issues of convenient amnesia seemed to rear its ugly head.

Only a few days later, however, the $1.1 billion dollar Malabu oil scam came into the public sphere, serving as a balancing act on the position of the executive branch in the despicable hierarchy of corrupt institutions in Nigeria.

Generally, despite the attempt to clear the issues in the scandal, the facts in the deal are as murky as the sums transferred, for it is highly in bad faith for a government to be facilitator in a settlement involving a convicted money launderer, no matter the measure of cost such litigation could cause the government.

For the records, is it not the same money laundering conviction charge on James Onanefe Ibori, which earned him the tag of criminality worthy of a double jeopardy in law, on account of the claims that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has vowed to retry him again in Nigeria, upon the conclusion of his time in the penitentiary.

Then, what has made the same government to seek a relationship with the same set of money launderer, especially in a commercial contraction executed during the much vilified Abacha regime, which acted arbitrarily and in bad faith in the allocation of an Oil Prospecting License to a company owned by a cabinet minister, an act patently illegal by the dictates of the Nigerian civil service code?

Indeed, why should an administration premised on the rule of law, celebrate facilitating a settlement on a contract that is primarily illegitimate, while even the beneficiary to the gratuitous oil prospecting license breached the very terms of its execution with an attempted resale that is strictly against the terms of the bestowal?

If a previous administration attempted to revoke the contract, how come then that what the People’s Democratic Party found as contractually unethical in 2002, suddenly assumed an ethical legitimacy worthy of respect for commercial contractions?

Thus, it is in the manner that such government actions are taken, to deliberately act outside the rhythm of the rule of law, which has stamped the veneer of suspicion on the activities of Nigerian leadership. For it is beyond the comprehension of a reasonable person, how a public official could diligently facilitate a deal that enriches a private individual, without the expectation that he or she must have had some recompense.

As for the National assembly as an institution, even before the session of its ethics committee which has invited Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to clear issues on who are the rogues in the people’s chamber, an open and holistic investigation on the Malabu oil scandal is appropriate and urgent.

It will also help cause some shift in the hierarchy of corrupt institutions in Nigeria—for at least the legislature might sacrifice its position of infamy to the executive, while rescuing itself as in collusion with the criminal ideals of their beloved political party from the public perception of an organization full of dishonest men and women with pilfering fingers.



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