By Omololu OgunmadeÂ in Abuja andÂ Hammed ShittuÂ in Ilorin
The Federal Government yesterday reacted to calls to withdraw the alleged lootersâ€™ list because of its arbitrariness by releasing a new list of alleged looters of the treasury and clarifying that the list of alleged looters which it released earlier was based on verifiable facts, including the amount involved, the date the amount in question that was collected and from where it was taken.
Releasing a fresh list of alleged looters, in a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also said those complaining that the list was too short apparently did not understand that it was strategically released as a teaser.
The latest development was however provoked by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to â€œimmediately withdraw the clumsy, arbitrary and selective lootersâ€™ list, released last week, as the list would seem to serve a political objective or carry out political agenda.â€
The organization said: â€œThis kind of action can only diminish the governmentâ€™s ability to fight corruption, frustrate its oft-expressed goal of a transparent governance, allow suspected perpetratorsâ€”whether from the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party (PDP)–to escape justice, and ultimately, deny victims of corruption justice and effective remedies.â€
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the Pioneer Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practice and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) Justice Mustapha Akanbi(rtd) has charged federal government to as a matter of priority release the name of anybody that has looted the government treasury irrespective of party affiliation.
Justice Akanbi said the naming of corrupt Nigerians must cut across all political parties in order to give credibility to President Muhammadu Buhari led administration’s efforts in fighting corruption.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had on Friday released a list of some of those who have allegedly looted the nationâ€™s treasury. The names in the list revealed were mostly PDP chieftains who are currently being tried for corruption and financial crimes.
Addressing the media in Lagos yesterday, Mohammed clarified that ”At the press conference where the list was released, I did say it was a tip of the iceberg. Apparently, this does not mean anything toÂ Â people whose style is to comment on issues they barely understand, or just to shoot down anything coming from the government,” he said, adding that the Federal Government has a large number of alleged looters on its list.
Alhaji Mohammed slammed the PDP for daring to challenge the Federal Government over an issue that the party knows is its weakness: Looting of public treasury.
”What was the PDP expecting when it challenged the FG to name the looters of the public treasury under the party’s watch? Did the PDP actually believe that the massive looting under its watch was a joke?
Â Did they think it is April Fool?” he queried.
Â The Minister said the PDP’s reaction to the looters’ list has shown that its recent apology is an election-induced act, contrived to deceive unsuspecting Nigerians to vote for the party in the 201Â Â general election, even when it has not come clean on its looting spree during its time in office.
”The hysterical and panicky reaction from the PDP has shown that the party is not at all sincere about its choreographed apology. Were it not the case, the party would have followed in the footsteps of one of its leaders, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, who simply owned up to his role in the party’s rigging in the past elections and said he had turned a new leaf.
”It is said that a true confession is done in humility with an attitude of repentance. It is clear that the PDP does not know this, hence its resort to hubris instead of humility and genuine penitence,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said the Federal Government will neither be intimidated nor blackmailed into silence, adding that it will also not rest until all those who looted the public treasury have been brought to justice.
Releasing the list of 24 names making up the second batch of alleged looters and the amounts allegedly embezzled, Mohammed listed the alleged looters to include:
1. Former NSA Sambo Dasuki: Based on EFCC investigations and findings alone (this is beside the ongoing $2.1 billion military equipment scandal), a total of N126 billion, over $1.5 billion and 5.5 million British Pounds was embezzled through his office. A good number ofthese monies were simply shared to persons and companies without anyformal contract awards.
2. Former Petroleum Resources Minister Dieziani Alison-Madueke: In just one of the cases the EFCC is investigating involving her, about N23 billion is alleged to have been embezzled. She is also involved in the Strategic Alliance Contracts of the NNPC, where the firms of Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko got oil blocks but never paid government taxes and royalty. About $3 billion was involved. The Federal Government is charging Omokore and Aluko and will use all legal instruments local and international to ensure justice.
3. Rtd. Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah: N13.9 billion. N4.8 billion recovered by EFCC in cash and property
4. Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika: N4.5 billion. N29m recovered by the EFCC so far.
5. Alex Barde, former Chief of Defence Staff: N8 billion, and EFCC recovered almost N4 billion in cash and property already.
6. Inde Dikko: former CG Customs: N40 billion, and N1.1 billion in cash recovered in cash and choice properties.
7. Air Marshal Adesola Amosun: N21.4 billion.Â N2.8Â billion recovered in cash. 28 properties and 3 vehicles also recovered.
8. Senator Bala Abdulkadir, former FCT Minister: N5 billion. Interim forfeiture order on some property secured.
9. Senator Stella Oduah: N9.8 billion. Interim forfeiture order on some property secured.
10. Former Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu:Â N1.6Â billion – from NSA. 11. Senator Jonah Jang, former Plateau State Governor:Â N12.5billion.
12. Bashir Yuguda, former Minister of State for Finance:Â N1.5Â billion.
13.Â Â Senator Peter Nwaboshi: N1.5 billion
14. Aliyu Usman: Former NSA Dasukiâ€™s aide: N512 million
15. Ahmad Idris: Former NSA Dasukiâ€™s PA: N1.5 billion
16.Â Â Rasheed Ladoja: Former Oyo Governor: N500 million
17.Â Â Tom Ikimi: N300 million
18.Â Â Femi Fani-Kayode: N866 million
19.Â Â Hassan Tukur, former PPS to President Goodluck Jonathan: $1.7 million
20.Â Â Nenadi Usman: N1.5 billion
21. Benedicta Iroha: N1.7 billion
22. Aliyu Usman Jawaz: Close ally of former NSA Dasuki: N882 million
23Â Â Godknows Igali: Over N7 billion
SERAP Ask FG to Withdraw Arbitrary Lootersâ€™ List
Reacting earlier, SERAP in a statement yesterday by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said: â€œThe authorities should withdraw the lootersâ€™ list and come up with a comprehensive list as ordered by Justice Hadiza Shagari last year. Allowing the published lootersâ€™ list to stand will undermine the credibility of the governmentâ€™s claim to fight corruption, and signal to Nigerians that it is not serious to satisfactorily address the allegations of grand corruption under the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan and involving those close to this government.â€
According to the organization, â€œIf Buhari is truly interested in vindicating the rule of law and the proper administration of justice, his government will do well to genuinely obey Justice Shagariâ€™s judgment ordering the authorities to â€˜tell Nigerians the full names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present.â€™ Few things would go farther in fostering and nurturing our system of constitutionalism, democracy, and the rule of law.
The statement read in part: â€œThis politicized list comes at a time when the government is promoting itself as a beacon of transparency and accountability, and a model for other African countries to follow. The authorities ought to have resisted the temptation to put out this shambolic list and instead obeyed the spirit and the letter of Justice Shagari’s judgment. What is at stake is not just the rule of law, but also the larger question of whether the government is really serious to fight grand corruption and combat the impunity of perpetrators, regardless of who is involved.
â€œThe government cannot pick and choose which judgments it wants to obey even though the judgments at times may be highly unsettling. The judgment ought to have been fully obeyed and implemented even if the government would step on toes and make some politiciansâ€”whether in APC or PDP–uncomfortable.
â€œFor the government to impose this list on Nigerians, which would seem to serve as an expedient means to an end that disregards the orders by Justice Shagari is more than a violation of law; it is a breach of trust with the Nigerian people. If disobedience of court orders becomes the norm, the ship of government would become anchorless and adrift in a sea of treacherous uncertainty that could lead to a beachhead on the land of tyranny.
â€œIf Buhari is to renew his commitment to fighting corruption regardless of whether it involves politicians from his own party and the opposition, something more than a propaganda list and hypocritical conduct is needed to restore citizensâ€™ confidence in the ability of his government to deliver on good governance. That something more is a restoration of the rule of law.
â€œOur courts, interpreting our Constitution and legislation, stand as the living symbol of the rule of law. But persistent disobedience of court orders by this government has magnified its lack of respect for the rule of law. Persistent disobedience of court orders is profound, dangerously wrong, and a distortion of democratic principles, and ultimately, an assault on the very concept of the rule of law and judicial integrity.
Implement Justice Hadiza Shagari’s Ruling
It would be recalled that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abukabar Malami, had last year disclosed that President Buhari had sent a directive to all relevant agencies to compile documents on names of all looters with a view to fully enforcing the judgment of a Federal High Court ordering the government to release to Nigerians information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered.
The judgment delivered in July last year by Hon Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari following a Freedom of Information suit number:Â FHC/CS/964/2016 brought by SERAP ordered the government to tell Nigerians the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.Â Â Mr Malami made the disclosure during a meeting at his office with a delegation from SERAP in October last year.
It would be recalled that the SERAP suit was a follow up to the disclosure last year by the Federal Government of funds recovered from some high-ranking public officials and private individuals
In her judgment delivered on 7th July 2017, Justice Shagari agreed with SERAP that â€œthe Federal Government has legally binding obligations to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present.â€ Joined as Defendants in the suit were the Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Muhammed and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. The same day that the judgment was delivered, Mr Malami told reporters in Abuja that government was in agreement with the ruling and would carry out the order as long as it was not sub judice.
Justice Shagari also granted the following reliefs: A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants are under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with up to date information relating to the following: 1. To widely disseminate including on a dedicated website information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered since May 2015. 2. The circumstances under which stolen public funds were returned.
It would be recalled that the Ministry of Information last year published details of the recoveries, which showed that the Nigerian government successfully retrieved total cash amount valued at N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, Â£3,508,355.46 and â‚¬11, 250 between May 29, 2015, and May 25, 2016. Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, Â£2,484,447.55 and â‚¬303,399.17. Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totalled: $321,316,726.1, Â£6,900,000 and â‚¬11,826.11. The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period. The non-cash recoveries are â€“ farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels
Subsequently, SERAP issued an FOI request and gave the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters
The request reads in part: â€œWhile we believe that suspects generally are entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, SERAP opposes blanket non-disclosure of names of high-ranking public officials from whom some of the funds were recovered. SERAP insists that the public interest to know is greater than any other legitimate interest that the government might wish to protect.
â€œThe Nigerian government has an obligation to balance whether the risk of harm to the legitimate aim (that is secrecy of ongoing corruption investigation and presumption of innocence) from disclosure of the names of public officials is greater than the public interest in accessing the information. Publishing the names of those public officials will provide insights relevant to the public debate on the ongoing efforts to prevent and combat a culture of grand corruption in the country,â€ it stated.
Treat Alleged Looters Equally, Akanbi Declares
In Ilorin, the Pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practice and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) Justice Mustapha Akanbi(rtd) has charged the federal government to as a matter of priority release the names of individuals that have looted the government treasury irrespective of party affiliations.
Justice Akanbi said the naming of corrupt Nigerians must cut across all political parties in order to give credibility to President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s efforts in fighting corruption.
Justice Akanbi made this declaration on Sunday during an interview with journalists shortly after a special prayer organised for him by members of Muslim Charitable Women Association of Nigeria founded by the wife of the Emir of Ilorin, Hajia R.A. Zulu Gambari at Justice Akanbi residence, Agbadam street, G.R.A, Ilorin.
According to him, “the announcement of those who looted government money should not be limited to members of the opposition party (PDP) alone but should cut across members of ruling party too if the government is sincere about the war against corruption”
Justice Akanbi who said the release of alleged looters of Nigerian funds was long overdue stated that naming of corrupt Nigerians will give people the confidence in the present administration.
“If there are members of APC or any other political parties, they should mention them so that there will be credibility to what they are doing because fighting corruption should not be one-sided.
“I have always said that why do they have to hide the names of those who have looted the nation’s treasury?
“If you know they have looted the nation’s fund, let the public know and then take them to court so that people will feel confident in what you are doing” he added.