Not many people are surprised at the turn of events in the hype that followed the arraignment of the oil marketers accused of defrauding the country in the controversial subsidy regime. Those who are permanently on the skeptical mode have continued to argue that the furore over the trial of the suspects is meant to fulfill all righteousness. That the trial is going no where. Not even the assurance from the federal government that there will be no sacred cow has been able to convince them. Many share in this opinion.
If there was any doubt to this, the retreat of the Economic and Financial crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trial momentum, has reinforced the belief (rightly or wrongly) that indeed the trial will be a huge hoax at the end of the day. It is considered a fiasco long foretold.
During the week, it was announced that the EFCC will suspend the trial of the suspects because it (EFCC) need to deepen its investigation, and firm up the charges against the accused in a way that the prosecution will be water-tight… Indeed, even in the first phase of the prosecution effort of 19 marketers (seven companies and twelve individuals) for the mismanagement of the N13 Billion Petroleum Support Fund (PSF), a set of marketers : Integrated Resources Limited and Pinnacle Oil and Gas Ltd, plus two individuals--Durosola Omogbenigun and Peter Mba who had earlier been arraigned at the Federal High Court, Lagos, had charges on them suddenly withdrawn by the EFCC. That, to many, was a sign that either the cases will be bungled or perfunctorily prosecuted in such a way that the judge will have no option than to throw the case out and set the accused free. Why did the EFCC ever file charges against people or organizations on whom it had not concluded investigations? And to know that often, the EFCC will pile up dozens of charges against an accused, yet will be unable to, sometimes, establish even one, thus casting it as either unserious or a compromised organisation.
But the EFCC argues that it is in a bid to avoid weak prosecutorial effort that it is re-kitting its investigations and reworking its charges so they can be unassailable in the court.
Last week, I was with a top official of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) who swore that indeed, the trial is “mere judicial razzmatazz”. He swore by his grandmother’s grave, that nothing will come out of it. “The trial is already dead”, he declared with oracular certitude.
It is significant that among the suspects are the sons of prominent members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They include Mahmud Tukur, son of PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur, Nasamu Ali, son of the party’s former National Chairman, Alhaji Ahmadu Ali . even the son of Arisekola-Alao, another PDP chieftain and financier was also arraigned. The wife of Ahmadu Ali, Maryam, had stood surety for one of the suspects, thereby reinforcing the belief that the subsidy scam is indeed within a ring of “top shots” of the nation, who have inadvertently helped to ruin the economy.
Although the EFCC claims that it is under no pressure to drop the cases against the accused marketers, it is all well known that the party and the federal government were embarrassed by the outcome of the probes. It is against this backdrop that ways and means are being worked out to salvage the image of the accused. The avowed disclaimer by the PDP regretting the involvement of Tukur’s son in the scam, and urging the trial to go on, is seen essentially as a grandstanding posture.
It will be very interesting to see a diligent prosecution that can establish the fraud allegation against the accused persons and all of them hauled into jail including Tukur and Ali’s children. Put differently, would the children of these “ Big men” be jailed?
The NUPENG source informed that what has been concluded is that there will be plea bargain at the faux pas called trial. That way, a fraction of their loot will be recovered and they will be set free. He sounded so sure.
But EFCC sources, last Tuesday, explained that what seemed like a suspension of the arraignment is because the courts are on recess, assuring that the next set of accused to be arraigned will soon be made known.
While we wait, the body language from the federal government and its agencies does not inspire confidence that they are determined to rein-in the bad guys. And this is somehow understandable. Many of the accused fraudulent marketers are allies of the PDP. One of them, the other day, alleged that some huge sum of money was paid into the account of a top government official, allegedly to support the presidential campaign of Mr President in 2011. Information like this helps to boost our fear that the trial is just a means of showcasing a pseudo seriousness in dealing with the mandarins who have raped our treasure.
East-West Road: Mr Orubebe, Please Spare Us the Noise
This is about my third article on the East-West road in recent times. And talking about it again is provoked by the recent misleading platitudes of Mr Godsday Orubebe, the Minister of Niger Delta, but also because, just last week, I drove through a section of the East-west road, with all the agony that can be inflicted.
While visiting the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Tele Ikuru, Mr Orubebe promised that not only will the East West road be completed in 2014, it will be delivered with a Grade A finishing. He had said that many times in the past but with no accompanying difference in the state of the road. It is either he is asking for more money, or he is rationalising why the work on the road is at such a snail speed. This is a road that has been in the works right from the second republic. The only portion that has been delivered perfectly is the stretch between Benin and Warri. The Port Harcourt-Ughelli stretch of the road is horrendous. We were all hissing and complaining for most of the distance of the road because of its bad state, worsened by the rains. Many have died along the road because of its terrible state.
Many, including this writer, had thought that with the creation of the Ministry of the Niger Delta, that the completion of the East-west road will be within a short while. But more than four years after it came into existence, the road remains largely unattended to, year-after-year. Orubebe is from that region. Mr President is from that region. The garrulous, sorry, vocal elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, is from that region. But completing and delivering on that road has been such an enigma. With the son-of-the-soil President in office, should the road continue to suffer the same pattern of ancient neglect? With a ministry devoted to the region, supported by the said personages and more, it is a wonder that Orubebe is still mouthing a hollow promise anchored on the future. I am yet to see what advantage the creation of the ministry has yielded to the region. Nothing has changed. What else should the region ask from the federal government to get it shining? The NDDC is there. 13 per cent derivation is there. Ecological fund is there. Ministry of Niger Delta is there. The president is there. Even repented militants are there. What else is holding down the region? What has Orubebe done with the annual budgets of the ministry—little be it or much? Even the much talked-about Coastal highway remains a paper-worth illusion under Orubebe. He had fought to annex the NDDC under his ministry unsuccessfully. He keeps parroting arcane platitudes that don’t translate to anything practical. The temptation to think he is so distracted because of his undeclared gubernatorial ambition (in Delta State) is strong. But even if he must run for governorship, does he not know that his performance in the little task of developing the region will be used in judging his effectiveness or otherwise?
Somebody should please tell him to face his work, with more action and less noise, and contribute to the development of the region, the raison d étre of the ministry he is heading today.
As Medal-less as Team Nigeria
So what is the latest from the medals’ table?
Which medals are you talking about?
What else but the London Olympics?
Of course, China is still leading and very comfortably too.
I am concerned about Nigeria. Whether our dear country has been listed on the medals’ table even if it for bronze.
Oh, so you are among them?
Among which people?
Among those who still think that we are destined to win medals at the Olympics?
Why not? It is not over until it is over.
Indeed! So you expect to win medals in this competition? You don’t seem to know where our strength lies? Nigeria will feature prominently in some other endeavours, not this.
Some other endeavours, like what?
Are you asking me? When it is a competition organized by Transparency International (TI), don’t you see how well Nigeria out-strides other nations? Don’t you see how we keep improving on our position on that medals’ table year-in-year-out?
What are you implying? That Nigeria is only good at odd and inglorious activities?
You said so, not me.
Look, Nigeria will get there. We are a developing nation. We are talented people. Our Human resource worth is more than a million rubies. All that is needed is a little tip to kick us into the orbit of a high-flying country. Do you know how talented, gifted, resourceful and even creative we are? Imagine harnessing all those attributes into productive venture, we will be up there, competing among the first world nations.
Hmmmmm, how sweet it sounds! So who is stopping us from experiencing such “little tips” that can trigger the tiger in us? Look, don’t deceive yourself. Our priorities and values are running on the opposite direction with the rest of the world. Yes, we are talented, creative, resourceful, tenacious etc. but on what issues? Do you know the tons of 4-1-9 letters generated every day from Nigeria to the rest of the world? Do you know how ingenious our civil servants and politicians are in circumventing laid down rules?
And in any case, how much preparation did Nigeria make before fielding athletes in the Olympics competition? Go and ask China and America how much they invest on their athletes all year round. How much do we vote for sports in this country and how much actually is left unstolen by those so-called sports administrators? Remember people like Amos Adamu?
How can our athletes do as well as Chinese athletes when our policies and programmes are so skewed in favour of political and ethnic considerations?
Honestly, I thought that at least in such games like swimming, Canoeing, gymnastics, boxing etc, that Nigeria will grab some medals. After all, all the Niger Delta militants plus all the Ilaje boys, made a lot of noise about being the elder uncles of fishes, as they can perform wonders even inside the ocean. How come they did not dare show up at the London Olympics to at least swim for us? And pray, how can anybody outwit an Ijaw man on canoeing? Why didn’t President Jonathan nominate some of his kinsmen for that sports? Haba! What about those Esan boys who usually spin themselves in the air? Couldn’t they have matched those Chinese in gymnastics? And can you imagine how much accolade we would have earned if just five of those Ojuelegba/ Yaba touts who are so ever quick to pull their trousers and pants for a fight right on the roads, participated in the boxing or wrestling competitions? We flew garnished elite children to London for this competition and left out the potential winners.
Look, you can only reap what you planted. A nation so suffused with corruption, materialism and warped values can hardly see what others are seeing. Do you realize that our children only find space to play football and other games only during environmental sanitation exercises, when the highways are closed? How many neighbourhoods have playgrounds as it is in other countries? Look at Festac Town, for instance, the notorious Federal Housing Authority (FHA), has sold out nearly all previously designated playgrounds, and you expect us to be as athletic as other nations? Be sure, we can be found wanting now, but certainly not when TI is organizing any global competition. If you doubt me, ask EFCC to list all the participants that have been warming up for the qualifying heat.