Opinion

EFCC’S arrest of Obiano, another formality

By John Araka

Last week’s arrest of the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano , by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on the allegation of embezzling a whopping N42 billion of his state’s funds, was generally seen as no more than a mere formality to create an impression that it is delivering on its mandate to fight excessive corruption in Nigeria.

The Ex- Governor was picked up at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, when trying to flee the country , a few hours after handing over power to his successor, Prof Charles Soludo. No applause or excitement greeted the apprehension of Chief Obiano because experience has taught Nigerians that nothing concrete may come out of it after all.

It has now become a norm in EFCC to quickly arrest governors immediately they lose their constitutional immunity at the end of their tenure. It will then detain them for a few days, ostensibly for questioning. Soon after, they are released. And in most cases, not much is heard about the matter again.

Governor Soludo, just like most Nigerians, is conversant with this reality. No wonder, therefore, that he confidently told the congregants at his last Sunday’s Thanksgiving mass that his predecessor would soon be set free. That is truly going to be the case because Obiano’s detention by the anticrime agency will not be an exception to its well established mode of operation, The Trumpet gathered.

Senator Rochas Okorocha, of neighboring Imo State, was some time ago arrested, precisely on April 14, 2019 , by EFCC, soon after he exited Government House, Owerri, for alleged misappropriation of N7.9 billion of public funds. In less than 48 hours, he was released. Almost the same thing happened when the agency arrested some other former governors.

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Between the advent of Democracy in 1999 and 2019 , EFCC arrested 30 former governors. Out of them, only seven were successfully convicted.

They are: Joshua Dariye of Plateau State; James Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State ; James Ibori of Delta state; Late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State; Jolly Nyame of Taraba State and Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State, who was later released from prison on strange legal technicalities. Immediately he regained his freedom, he strolled to the Senate to take up his position as the Chief Whip. It was reserved for him while in jail. The Senate is regarded as the retirement home of some ex-governors.

In the 8th Assembly, for instance, they were 15 of them and two former Deputy Governors. It is pertinent to state that the cases of the other 23 accused ex- governors who have not been convicted, have been dragging on indefinitely, some for over ten years now. It clearly exposes the terrible weakness of our Judicial system.

Nigeria was once described as “ fantastically corrupt “ by the immediate past Prime Minister of Britain, Mr David Cameron. It is disheartening that the name of our dear country, is gradually becoming synonymous with corruption. In the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Index, Nigeria scored 24 percent, which placed it on 154th position out of the 180 countries that were assessed. Well, this is some improvement.

There were several cases in the past when it was among the worst ten. The report stated that “ in Nigeria, more than 100 powerful individuals were exposed as having used anonymous companies to buy properties with a total worth of over £350 million in the UK alone”. The same unsavory trajectory is replicated in the US and many other western countries as well as in Dubai. No group has dragged Nigeria sharply down the ladder of corruption Index, as much as the allpowerful state governors and their cronies. They have often devised very ingenious ways to cover their shameful tracks.

But that is where EFCC and other anti- corruption agencies should come in: to professionally dig deep to unearth their misdeeds and effectively prosecute them. Rather inexplicably, EFCC and other anticorruption agencies seem not to be living up to public expectations. .

They always bombard us with their self assessment of marvelous performance in the war against graft. The empirical facts point to the contrary. There is really nothing to celebrate because most of those convicted are the dregs of society .

The governors and other political heavyweights, who are, undoubtedly the biggest criminals, are usually shielded and treated with kid gloves.

All because they can easily deploy their ill-gotten humongous wealth to close the mouth of those investigating them as well as purchase judgments to pervert the course of justice. With about N42 billion at the disposal of ExGovernor Obiano, he has the capacity to dazzle the EFCC and Judicial officials, handling his case, with bag- loads of freshly minted currencies that will make them to speak in tongues . That will facilitate his getting out of detention as quickly as possible, just like others before him

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