The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has adduced reasons why it believes that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation would not want the case of large-scale corruption and money laundering that the EFCC is prosecuting against the former two-term governor of Delta State Mr. James Ibori to succeed. Apart from the open secret that the ex-convict of London’s Clerkenwell Magistrates Court that former Governor Ibori is, was the biggest financial powerhouse for the President Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidential campaign for the 2007 election, Chief Michael Aondoakaa a is a personal friend to the Iboris and a sworn enemy of the latter’s prosecuting agency, the EFCC. We need to remember that he, Chief Aondoakaa, and a few colleagues of his had once gone to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Benue State Government to seek an order of the apex court to scrap the EFCC as an anti-corruption agency.
The AGF, who is expected to be the chief prosecutor of caught thieving rascals in government houses, is only serving as their chief protector. We need not forget in a hurry that it was our AGF who frustrated Ibori’s trial in another London court because, according to the court, “the evidence against him did not emanate from Nigeria ”. This was after AGF Aondoakaa (SAN) wrote the UK Metropolitan prosecutors that he had no evidence of corruption against their accused to make available to help their prosecution of Ibori. However, the same senior member of the Nigerian Bar who could not help the UK to diligently prosecute his client publicly promised to continue the Ibori’s trial in Nigeria . What a shameless ambivalence.
Just about the time our AGF protested the prosecution of Ibori by the Met police in London, the Court of Appeal in Kaduna struck out the EFCC’s case against the suspected crook on the grounds that Kaduna was about 700 kilometres from Delta State where the offence was allegedly committed! CACOL suspected that Aondoakaa’s stance on the case influenced the court’s decision since he bosses the courts. Our dismay stems from the fact that there had been several earlier pronouncements that Federal Courts, be it High or Appellate were one and the same no matter which part of the federation its officials operate. This gives an impression that “the suspect on trial was a special one and should be so treated”. Nonetheless, the preferential treatment had not been our worry but using it as an excuse to frustrate diligent prosecution of a leader who is suspected to have caused his people a lot of socio-economic calamity.
Now that the EFCC has indicated its preparedness to go ahead with the prosecution as the Kaduna Court ordered, no one or institution should provide EFCC with excuses for tardiness. We are worried that the 170-court charge against him is already facing the regular routine of challenging the competence of the Federal High court in Asaba to get along with the case owing to lack of what Ibori’s lawyer called absence of “prima-facie case” against Ibori. If the Justice of the court acquiesces to this, it will spell doom to diligent prosecution of other Corrupt Leaders in Nigeria and that will embolden up-coming ones to drown themselves in the pool of brazen corrupt activities. Nigerians are not satisfied by the mild punishments the judiciary gave the convicted former governor of Bayelsa State , Dipriye Alayemesigha and former Inspector-General of police, Tafa Balogun which were based on corrupted version of what justice should be termed “plea bargain”. We would not want President Yar’Adua to continue to accord state respect to suspected or convicted corrupt leaders like Peter Odili, the former governor of Rivers State who was granted perpetual injunction against arrest and prosecution, and Lucky Igbinedion, the convicted former governor of Edo State , who was given just a slap-on-the-wrist punishment for monumental corrupt practices. Their indulgence by both the judiciary and federal government is a dent on the president’s seven-point agenda and Akuyili’s re-branding campaign that will for long remain fresh sore points in our memory that Nigeria’s judicial system has to nurture.
CACOL therefore calls on all judges to live up to the confidence that ordinary members of this society repose on them by summoning up adequate courage to do the right thing by performing the sacred duty that will stand the test of history no matter whose ox is gored. They should not only outrightly reject frivolous objections and applications by lawyers who are paid to frustrate corruption cases but punish such litigants for attempt to deceive the public and erode citizens’ confidence in their courts.
Furthermore, we appeal to all concerned judicial officers both at the bar and the bench, including those in political and administrative offices, to allow all alleged corrupt leaders truly and sincerely prove their innocence or otherwise face the full weight of the law. It is our country, nay all of us that will be better for it. Justice must not only be done at all times, it must be seen to have been done.
Executive Chairman, CACOL
Tuesday, 4th August, 2009