Mohammed: Government is fighting cankerworms of corruption headlong
Abeny Mohammed is a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN. He told ABIODUN FAGBEMI that unless the country is politically restructured and greater power and autonomy ceded to the component states, the efforts to rid the nation of corruption would be an exercise in futility.
What is your view of what is happening today in the country?
It points to one basic need, which is restructuring. When we fight corruption without first carrying out the restructuring, what we will get is peace of the graveyard or temporary peace.
There is fear of the nation slipping into military tactics by some of the happenings in a supposedly democratic dispensation?
This country was more militarised during the last regime of ex President Goodluck Jonathan than it is now. Over every little thing then, the military were rolled out. If anyone is talking of militarisation today, he must be one of those, who, either directly participated in the looting of our treasury or passively participated in plunging our economy into a quagmire. So, what the Buhari government wants from them is to come out and account for their misdeeds, but it is saddening that people are complaining again.
It is an open secret today that the military are only deployed to flash points to ward off the incursion of the enemies of the country, especially, the Boko Haram insurgents. The point we are making is that, the looted funds are public funds and must be recovered. However, if anyone is displeased with the method being employed now, he can go to court for a redress. The courts are doing very well today. There is hierarchy in the courts. If a litigant is dissatisfied with a particular decision at the lower court, he can go on appeal till the Supreme Court level. A Nigerian court of recent allowed Steven Orosanye to go abroad for treatment despite being accused of alleged diversion of huge sum of public funds. If Governor Ayodele Fayose too is sure of his innocence, he should go to court instead of defending himself on pages of newspapers.
It appears the opposition party has been caged, and there seems to be no voice that can check any perceived excesses of the ruling government; is this healthy for the nation’s democracy?
If there is a weak opposition, it is because those who are supposed to raise their voices, but have refused to have skeleton in their cupboards. They have what they are hiding. Their hands have been soiled in dirty dealings. They have dirty issues hanging on their necks. But the truth is, no government can satisfy everybody 100 per cent. If what happened in Nigeria where many public office holders had stolen huge sum of money from the treasury had happened in other countries, by now, their economy would have totally collapsed. Even at that, no high profile person accused of looting had been successfully prosecuted or exposed. So we need to pray more, rather than complaining.
What is your reaction to the statement that some anti-graft agencies such as, DSS and EFCC have constituted themselves into agents of political vendetta in the hands of the ruling government?
The fact about the ‘modus operandi’ of these anti graft agencies is that none of them can work effectively without some measure of autonomy. So if they are effective at present, no one is teleguiding them. The EFCC is not going after you or I because nobody has accused us of any embezzlement or things like that. If one may ask, has there been any formal complaint to the EFCC by anyone against any member of the opposition that it has failed to act on? My heart bleeds for Nigeria and its future if we frustrate Buhari’s present efforts at fighting corruption in the country. Let people be bold enough to come up with their facts and figures to recover all our looted funds. Those who have stupendously enriched themselves at the expense of the state should be made to cough out the stolen wealth and stop hiding under the guise of being witch-hunted.
Today, it appears that those who took the stolen money into their farms or villages are being smoked out of their hiding places. In the past, huge sums of money could be successfully transferred from one bank to another but today, such dubious transfer is no longer possible. Not even the bank will want to implicate itself with such a shady dealing. Again, we should no longer listen to the tantrums of those already in the web of the EFCC, who are frustrating their trials. We should all rise and condemn them with their stolen wealth.
But what will be your reaction if there is a new government someday trying to do what Buhari’s government is doing at present to some of the former political office holders?
Look, it will be like the Yoruba aphorism that goes thus; ‘the cane you used for the senior wife is in the hiding for the new wife’. So, I will not be unjustly moved, as long as the government is fighting headlong the cankerworms of corruption. Let that government fashion out its own methods of fighting corruption, but what matters most is the courage to do it. Besides, I know that Buhari and his cabinet team are being careful not to get themselves involved in dirty deals, because one day, their own time of accountability will equally come.