The proof of trustworthiness manifests in the alignment of ones programmes and exertions towards the collective, hence the adapting of efforts by the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to the central theme of President Muhammadu Buhari programme and promises to the Nigerian populace to fight the cankerworm and hydra-headed monster that is corruption which has eroded every developmental effort to f the country.
The fear at the initial stage of the administration was that the President being a former impenitent military man, his temperament for sticking to the rule of law which appears slow and winding would be difficult and lead to trampling on rights of citizens; that the fear has either disappeared or operating in the realm of slim probability garners kudos to the chief Law officer of the country.
However, when competent pilot is in the cockpit, passengers ponder less about hazards but are lost in the euphoria of the convenience of air travel; that has been replicated and the quantum leap is only faced with the deep-seated rot that is fast being replaced with steady results.
It is only under Malami, who though appears taciturn but with a compensating lion heart that no matter how hard those opposed to the anti-corruption drive push him, you are spared the sobriquet of “corruption fighting back” whereas he should be singing it loudest going by the present realities. He is a stickler to the letters and intendments of the constitution and therefore locked on the rule of law without which no decent society will find a good rhythm.
Examples are legion and may risk exclusion of some, hence the need not to go into itemisation of the cases but all agencies of government are daily being busted by the rejigged anti-corruption agencies that were hitherto docile which indicates that certain variables that were wrong and not working have been rearranged and given the performance elixir. The currency of exposures and recency of events show that when the risk of being uncovered in the wrong is potent, it deters willingness to take the risk of graft. The only conclusion derivable from such is that there is a working template in place that seems to be effective in handling the Nigerian anti-corruption failures of the past.
The school feeding programme during lockdown where N2.67 billion has been traced to private accounts and another N2.5 billion found in a deceased Ministry of Agriculture staff account are pointers that though the situation had appeared hopeless, there are glimmers of light in new approaches that expose graft in real time. If it were in previous times, appointees and officials of regimes are protected even in graft than expose them. But now, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) are the ones that busted the latest. They traced the feeding programmes money into individual accounts and unlike with some agencies that would have started shouting from rooftops on sensing any semblance of graft or at best, commence trial through the press and in the process, make way for “settlement” or outright extortion, the Commission was quiet about it until all facts were in the bag.
To those who feel their travails starts and ends with Malami, there is need for them to have a rethink as most recent attempts to draw him into the mire of the compromised keep hitting the rocks. To them, they are learning, albeit lately and through the hard way that providence always smiles on the pure-hearted whose utilitarian approach end up benefitting the larger number in the society, especially the vulnerable.
The current feat of saving Nigeria the $9 billion asset seizure move by the Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) is reference case in point where the insistence on cutting the drain pipe through which the country has been bleeding shows that Malami is not a deals man like most people turn their public positions to be. He first started by ensuring that through court processes, he stopped the heist.
To many, Nigeria just got a legal team that worked to stop the fraudulent transaction but unknown to many, Malami went on a thorough groundwork to get the best lawyer whose team studied both the case and antecedents of those to decide on the matter where it was discovered that the judge was very averse to anything graft. Then the legal team went through the processes laboriously, bringing to the fore, operational standards of the company which had already been cited in other graft cases.
With that, the integrity of the company came under serious question which when it was through hard evidence, shown to the judge that the company had integrity challenge; the case became a one-way traffic kind of process. Since then, through the Malami system approach, a fine of $1.5 million in favour of Nigeria had been handed to P&ID while the $200 million bond requested for the arbitral appeal to stay the execution of the processes to frisk Nigeria of the $9 billion has been released.
How much he saved for the country and its assets is better imagined than quantified whereas if he chose to help himself as most public officer are wont, he would have been offered enough and seamlessly have compromised the entire process, This of course is no longer a case of one claiming to fight corruption but seen to be se doing with very tangible results.
On the local scene, the most frequent information and misinformation has been with the ongoing Justice Ayo Salami panel probing former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman of graft. Initially, with the enthusiasm of a man committed to seeing the anti-corruption fight to a logical end with results, Malami had expressed willingness and desire to testify and prove his allegations.
While Malami wanted and was prepared to appear before the Salami panel with facts and figures, it was drawn to his notice that EFCC was a Commission under his office and that certain constitutional and civil service rules dictated that he not appear as that would run against the order. After a careful study and exchange of ideas with other constitutional lawyers, he was convinced that all what those who were insistent on his appearance wanted was for him to take a wrong step. He denied them such pleasure of falling into their trap and upheld the constitutional provisions on such.
Meanwhile, the Directorate of State Security Services had severally submitted reports alleging that the anti-graft chief was after all not clean from the ill he was fighting and therefore urged the Senate not to clear him. On more than one occasion, efforts by the government to pull him through inspite of such damning reports melted in midmorning air, yet he was allowed to continue till such approach clashed with the uncompromising Malami mindset on anti-corruption.
One problem keep nagging the entire process as the panel decided it did not want press coverage. This led to those who had been using the press to do all sorts of media trial to seize the moment by continuing to dish out half-truths and near lies while Malami who is press-shy kept to his training of not blowing trumpets or feeding the press with (mis)information under the table. It is not farfetched the channels that were being used to do press trial of those under investigation are still the ones used to propagate falsehoods of proceedings in the panel.
How many people know that there was a threat to “pull down the roof” by one of those being investigated? The question is that if one was actually committed to fighting corruption, why keep any material with which roofs could be pulled down? Should such a person be taken seriously or seen as one who wants to clutch straws because he is drowning? Well, the difference becomes very clear here as Malami doesn’t leave a fallback position in anti-graft war but puts everything on the table which has left the fingers of those playing smart with the war severely burnt.
Reports have it that Magu claimed he had never received bribe all his life – good, but that smacks of the case of an executive of defunct Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI) who while on the hot seat of the press swore that since he was born from his mother’s womb, he had never told lies. Meanwhile, the issue that prompted his being on the hot seat bordered on constant untruths. It was like a case of travelling same road, at least on a reminder level.
Information also coming out of the panel said some lawyers were threatened to be dragged before disciplinary panels of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)for which apologies were tendered in writing to stem the action, yet when they brief their friends in the media, different “truths” are told which misrepresent the current situation. The deliberate twisting of reports on proceedings beggars belief, yet the report would when released, prove to Nigerians who is doing what. We are better spared the testimonies of senior lawyers on what they went through in the process of representing clients before the EFCC.
Some spoke of “Magu boys” and their terms for freedom while other locked people at will, denominating the freedom of citizens in foreign currencies. One allegedly drew the attention of the panel to the state-of- the –art cars packed in the EFCC premises and wondered aloud what the salaries of the operatives were to afford them just like the DSS had wondered how the Acting Chairman could afford the rent of where he was living which was way above his means.
Like President Buhari has said and restated, no nation can survive corrupt public service, so does Malami not take prisoners on the issue and has been all out unmasking every player on the corrupt lane. Before his time, judgment debt was at deal level in the ministry whereby people traded and executed judgments and ensured that payments were made on such no matter how dubious. That has become a thing of the past just like the P&ID deal has shown because Malami would not play ball with anyone who frisks and dupes the country.
Aside from stemming the corruption syndrome, the greatest contribution of the nation’s Chief Law officer is that he has enthroned a template for doing things so that whatever the nation wants to do has a procedure defined and to be followed instead of the former way by which what pleased those on the seat and their cronies became the rule.
By the time the special courts are in place and high profile cases tried and concluded to dispel the notion that the Nigerian law and courts were made for the weak and those lacking in requisite connections, then Nigeria would have without question, been instituted on the path of irreversible entrenchment of rule of law as well as seen as a country where consequences attend every corrupt move.
––Sunny Amadi Wrote from Port Harcourt