By Bunmi Awoyemi
The greatest barrier to fighting corruption is religious and tribal sentiments. When the new EFCC begin to go after the rogues who have engaged in primitive acquisition of wealth some people will come out to shout that they are being targeted because of their tribe and/or religion. Some people are very quick to defend rogues who are of their tribe or religion. They tell you “he is our own thief, leave him for us. We are okay with him being a thief. Go and prosecute and jail a thief from your own tribe and religion.” This is one of the reasons Nigerian is retrogressing while most nations are advancing. May God help us reset the minds of Nigerians for them to know that any thief prosecuted no matter that thief’s faith or tribe is their number one enemy. When monies and assets are successfully recovered from these thieves it is for happiness of the greatest number.
Those tasked with the responsibility of prosecuting and adjudicating corruption cases should ensure that they do their jobs without discriminating on the basis of tribe, class and religion. I was appalled a few days ago when I learnt that an ex-governor’s brother who stole N25b from a state treasury on behalf of his brother was given the option of imprisonment for 6 years or N3m fine. While a woman who stole N8m from the company she worked for was sentenced to over 250 years in prison.There are at least 4 Senators-elect that ought to be arrested and prosecuted for pending crimes. There are some in the HOR like that guy from one of the Southeast states that was caught rigging who ought to face the music. If you do the crime you must do the time. That is the only antidote for brazen impunity.
It is not only the EFCC, ICPC and the Anti-fraud unit of the Nigerian Police that have work to do, the President, the Minister of Justice and the Judiciary have work to do. The EFCC, ICPC and the Anti-fraud unit must prosecute diligently and fearlessly. The judiciary must adjudicate without fear or favor and must uphold the ethics of their profession and judicial calling. The Presidency must NOT get involved in lobbying for certain people, most especially party men when they are being investigated or prosecuted. The Presidency MUST NOT manipulate the judiciary by trying to arm-twist them into giving light and embarrassing sentences to people they like.
The Justice Minister must not enter nolle prosequi for favored political sons and daughters or faithful party men who are undergoing prosecution for financial crimes to discontinue their prosecution midway into their trials. In fact the President should warn his Justice Minister not to use nolle prosequi at all.
Successful investigation and prosecution of financial crimes and successful judicial interpretation of the laws governing financial crimes requires incorruptibility, firmness, dedication and loyalty to the constitution. All those charged with this responsibility must imbibe these values and virtues.
Bunmi Awoyemi, Ph.D, the author of this opinion piece is a public affairs analyst, lawyer and entrepreneur.