Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nigerian Ex-Governors Soup it out in EFCC Detention Cells

The recent arrest and subsequent arraignment in court of some ex-governors of the immediate past administration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is a culmination of the much awaited show down between the commission and the indicted governors. So far the ex-governors picked up include Uzor Kalu (Abia State), Jolly Nyame (Taraba State), Saminu Turaki (Jigawa State) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau State). Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu State) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti State) have been declared wanted and would soon be picked up. While Nnamani is hold up in the National Hospital Abuja undergoing treatment for what appears to be a specious and convenient ailment, Fayose’s whereabouts is unknown.

It is laudable of the EFCC to make good its promise to the Nigerian people of prosecuting these indicted ex-governors. While in office, under the protection of immunity conferred on them by virtue of their offices, many of these ex-governors had dared the EFCC to prosecute them. Loud-mouth boasts of how wealthy they were before assumption of office and how no one could do arrest them were made by many. Kalu was reported as having boasted in his characteristic crassness and bad grammar to have single-handedly bankrolled the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), insinuating that he was untouchable. “If the PDP was a company, I would own 70%.” (sic) – he is reported to have boasted. Now that they are out of office and have been stripped of the immunity protection of the office they are running scared, feigning ailments and crying like little girls who have lost their dolls.

Saminu Turaki’s cases particularly disheartening, being indicted for misappropriating about 36 billion Naira. This works out to an embezzlement rate of about 375 million Naira monthly, of the 8 years Turaki was in power in Jigawa State. Kalu is currently being arraigned on a 3 billion Naira embezzlement charge, but this may grow to as much as 59 billion Naira, the total amount for which the former Abia state governor is being investigated. Jolly Nyame, who is purportedly a man of the cloth (he is a reverend), has admitted to gross acts of corruption (1.6 billion Naira so far) and offered to return the stolen monies for some form of amnesty. Joshua Dariye, who is also indicted in the UK on money laundry charges linked directly to the EFCC investigation stands accused of embezzling several hundreds of millions of Naira in his care while he was governor of Plateau state.

Chimaroke Nnamani has requested to have his 5.6 billion Naira embezzlement indictment transferred to Federal High Court number 10 in Lagos in what appears to be a delay tactic, but that notwithstanding would only be postponing the judgment day as the evidence against him appears very strong. From his purported sick-bed in Abuja, Nnamani bleats some redundant “I am being persecuted” rhetoric, albeit trite and ineffectual, in his wishful bid for vindication.

These six ex-governors who are currently being prosecuted by EFCC make up only but a minority fraction of ex-governors who should be prosecuted. Bola Tinubu (Lagos), Peter Odili (Rivers), James Ibori (Delta), Lucky igbenedion (Edo), Abubakar Audu (Kogi) are some of the ex-governors that are being investigated by the EFCC. It is only when the full complement of ex-governors involved in corrupt self-enrichment, embezzlement and other financial crimes have been brought to book, that the EFCC would rightfully deserve all the praises it has garnered locally and internationally. It would also quell allegations of selective persecution, and rumours of a pact purportedly made by Ibori, Igbenedion and Odili with Yar’Adua for the former three to cede the PDP presidential ticket nomination to the latter in exchange for amnesty from prosecution by the EFCC. It appears Yar'Adua seeks to prove his independence from the OBJ led cabal as evident in his recent ministerial picks. If this is true, then we would sooner be seeing other erring ex-governors in the holding cells of the EFCC - Sweet Justice at last for the millions of hapless Nigerians whose lives have been nothing but a living hell by the criminal acts of these thieving ex-governors and their cronies.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Three-Year-Old Tot Kidnapped in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Last week’s kidnapping of three-year old Margaret Hill in Port Harcourt by a so-called Niger Delta Militant group gives patent lucidity to the extent of decadence and depravity of the criminal organizations prowling the Nigerian Niger Delta enshrouded in the dubious cloak of environmentalism and freedom fighting. The lukewarm and conciliatory approach of the Obasanjo government in past 8 years in handling the Niger Delta crisis has done nothing but to embolden these criminals and spurned several tens, possibly hundreds of criminal gangs who prowl the region maiming, kidnapping, disrupting oil production and extorting ransoms from the oil companies, government and private citizens.

Often, these ransoms are negotiated through intermediary negotiators, who in many cases, are in cahoots with the criminal militant groups and are just a component of the larger organized criminal industry. What exists now is an efficient criminal industry complete with symbiotic relationships between arms dealers, pirates, illegal oil bunkerers, kidnappers, negotiators and criminal politicians. Granted, not all negotiators and politicians are in cahoots with these criminal groups, but it would be difficult to make a case in the contrary for many of them. For example, the impeached former governor of Bayelsa state, Alamieyeseigha was known to have retained the services of MEND and other militant groups while he was governor to keep his political opponents in check in return for several millions of Naira (labeled security vote) paid out to these militant groups.

Indeed, Alamieyeseigha’s impeachment may have been partly responsible for the explosion of militancy in the Niger Delta. With their benefactor incarcerated, and government’s unresponsiveness to their demands for his release, these groups stepped up their activities in pursuit of other avenues for money. Kidnapping, bunkering and piracy came easy particularly as they were left unchecked by the Obasanjo government either by the lack of political foresight, attitudinal apathy to the plight of the Nigerian polity or a confused and convoluted bid to be politically correct.

The Yar’Adua government faces a Herculean job to undo the damage done by his predecessor’s years of inept management of the Niger Delta crisis. One can only imagine the anguish and grief the Hill family must be going through with their toddler daughter’s kidnapping. This is as good as any time for all well-meaning Nigerians to stop being tongue-in-cheek and out rightly condemn the despicable actions of these so-called Niger Delta militants. The Yar’Adua government should do all it can to ensure that the toddler, Margaret is returned to her parents unharmed, and promptly too. And after this is done, not only should the perpetrators be hunted down like the dogs that they are, but all other criminal Niger Delta militant groups should be brought to book for theirs is a criminal cause dubiously enshrouded in the legitimate cloak of environmentalism.

If the Yar’Adua government’s actions in the past couple of weeks are predictors of its future posture then it may well be that Yar’Adua seeks to pursue the “head-in-the-sand” posture of his predecessor, indicated by his release of indicted secessionist Niger Delta militant leader Asari Dokubo. It appears the charges of treason have been dropped against Dokubo, in return, Yar’Adua is paid back with the Margaret Hill kidnapping.