Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Business activities were temporarily halted within Enugu metropolis yesterday as hundreds of youths took over the streets to protest the ongoing probe of immediate past First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) culminating in the freezing of accounts linked to her.
Led by their coordinator, Victor Ezenagu, the youths who operated under the aegis of Concerned Igbo Youths (CIY), claimed that the probe of Mrs. Jonathan’s accounts was a prelude to the eventual probe of former President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that the present administration was determined to humiliate the former president “at all cost.
While declaring that they were not opposed to the fight against corruption, the youths however insisted that any action not done within the ambits of the law would be vehemently opposed by them.
After marching through major streets within the capital city, the rampaging youths later moved to the South-east Zonal Office of the EFCC located in Enugu where they submitted a petition to the Zonal Head of the commission, Mr. Johnson Babalola.
In the petition titled: ‘Unjust Prosecution and Desperate Plan to Humiliate Former President Goodluck Jonathan,’ the groups demanded un-freezing of Jonathan’s account.
“While we salute the commitment of the present administration towards fighting corruption in the country, we, however, express our disaffection to the manner the war is being prosecuted by the commission under your watch. Some of the actions of the commission in recent time leaves no one in doubt that certain persons have clearly being singled out to be humiliated.
“A case in point is that of Mrs Jonathan, who is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC. We see the freezing of her personal account and on-going prosecution as an attempt to discredit former President Jonathan.
“It is quite condemnable that having sacrificed his ambition for the sake of Nigeria’s future, Jonathan’s family is being visited with such cruelty from the commission. We say this because Mrs. Jonathan is not the first person to have occupied the office of first lady in Nigeria. Yet, none of the other former occupants of that office is under probe, let alone trial.
“Following from the above, it is also not out of place to state that the current administration is indirectly prosecuting and persecuting Jonathan. But to unleash such an action on a man who willingly conceded defeat, even when he was being urged to fight on, has grave implications,” the petition read in part.
The group further noted that while they were not against the anti-graft war, “it should be done within the ambit of the law. It is not proper for the anti-graft agency to unleash itself on the family of former president Jonathan and freeze their account over mere allegations.
“We are sending a clear message that this unjust persecution, under whatever guise, will not be tolerated against a family that sacrificed so much for this country.
“We demand that the right thing should be done to avoid creating unnecessary tension in the Southern region over this situation.
“Already some militant groups have been placing this as one of their key demands. As such, we believe that the commission would do the needful and stop this seeming well orchestrated campaign against Jonathan.
“May we also state that this idea of always treating Ndigbo as second fiddle should stop. Mrs. Jonathan is our own and we are not ready to allow her being dragged to the mud just for coming from this part of the world. It is very clear that she is being victimized simply because she is one of us.
“The Igbo youths are, therefore, demanding that every action against her should be suspended as we are ready to take this mass action higher if our demands are not met. We say unequivocally that ‘Enough is Enough’.
Babalola in his response said the matter was already before the court and charged the youths to redirect their protest to the appropriate quarters.
He asked the youths to partner the commission to rid the country of corruption, stressing, “the EFCC is not witch-hunting the former first family or anybody, else as you said in your petition; the commission is only trying to rescue the nation; what we are doing is in the interest of the nation.”