Amnesty for Corrupt Government Officials in Nigeria

Amnesty for corrupt officials may sound silly and unconscionable. In fact, in so many ways, it is. But that is exactly why I am proposing it. After all, from many preposterous and silly ideas have come some ingenious results. And so what I am proposing — a time-stamped and measured amnesty for public officials and accused politicians — may yet be one of the workable solutions to the crisis at hand: the longwinded and unproductive prosecution of corrupt officials. As it is, we are not getting anywhere prosecuting and recouping our money.

If Nigeria was a nation of law and order, my proposal wouldn’t have been necessary. If crooked officials, from the days of General Yakubu Gowon through the second coming of President Obasanjo, had been arrested, prosecuted and spent considerable time in jail, there wouldn’t have been a need for what I am suggesting. And if the EFCC and similar agencies has had a good record prosecuting corrupt officials, there wouldn’t have been a need for my “dumb idea.” But that is not the case. That is not the reality and the truth.

The reality and the truth is that fighting corruption is a lost cause. It is a hoax, a façade, a pretend-war; and a national disgrace. No government since the days of General Yakubu Gowon has had a genuine plan or a genuinely fought war on corruption and fraudulent activities. Except petty thieves and burglars, pickpockets, and armed robbers, how many high powered thieves have ever been prosecuted, spent upward of five years in jail while forfeiting all the money that was stolen? All the money!

The fact is that less than forty high level officials and politicians, in the last forty years, has ever incurred stiff and deterring penalty for their crimes. Heck, no one is even afraid of government. No one is afraid of stealing. And why should anyone be when there are no punishing deterrence in place? Governments go governments come; criminals go, criminals come. All the while we keep yakking about corruption. In the process, we have allocated and spent billions of dollars to “war against corruption.” It is laughable.

Who doesn’t know that all the wars we’ve fought against corruption has been nothing but masquerade shows? Even those with the mandate to fight corruption, have themselves, been engaged in corrupt practices. How many politicians, since its inception, has the EFCC successful prosecuted? And of those how many had one hundred percent of their loots confiscated? In the case of Tafa Balogun and Alamieyeseigha, the gist is that they gave up less than 50% of their illegal bounties. Taking the immediate past governors as the representatives of corruption in Nigeria, how many of them are in the slammer today?

Does the EFCC or any other agency know how much people like Peter Odili, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ahmed Tinubu and others stole? The EFCC and other agencies may not know how much of our money was stolen, and where such monies are kept. But the Western world knows. They know; but since it is not in their interest to give the money back, they are not telling. Every western nation knows how much Nigerian officials are worth, in terms of their investment portfolios. Western banks and financial institutions are recipients of more than 70% of Nigeria’s stolen wealth.

In three years or less, most Nigerians would have forgotten this set of lawbreakers and political vagabonds. Igbinedeon and Ibori, along with their western, northern and eastern counterparts would have been a distant memory. All the ministers, local government chairs, commissioners and Obasanjo’s henchmen would have been forgotten — forgotten as crooks and thieves. Who would be surprised if Peter Odili and Orji Kalu, two of the poster boys for all things reprehensible about Nigeria, becomes the darling of the Nigerian political scene? There are institutions now waiting to bestow them with titles.

My proposal, as silly as it may sound, is worth exploring. To be sure, they may not be the definitive solutions to the problems of corruption, only that they will help recoup some of the money we’ve lost. The proffered suggestions will also save us time and money with all these phony pursuit of arrests, detentions and trials. Alternatively, we could adopt the Jerry Rawlings Initiatives or the Chinese System of Instantaneous Justice. I have in the past given you this and that. Here is the third way: a time-stamped and measured amnesty.

By time-stamped measured amnesty, I mean this: Within a given period of time, any public official who confesses, and gives up 100% of his or her loot before a properly constituted body should be granted a conditional pardon. The confession must come with a full detail of how much was stolen, who the accomplices were, and where the loot is kept. Once the money is returned to the state or federal government’s coffer, a conditional pardon follows.

The only penalty will be that the person will be bared from holding political office — elected or appointed — for eight years. A public official, who confesses, turns in his or her accomplices and then return less than 100% of the money should be barred from elective or appointed position for sixteen years. However, those who refuse to confess, and refuses to return 100% of the stolen loot should be given the CSIJ. Such people deserve to be executed. Now, I am open to anyone reformulating this prescription.

Does anyone know how much it would amount to if all the 1999-2007 governors plus their commissioners, along with President Obasanjo and his 1999-2007 cabinet members gave up just 70% of what they stole? $35…55…85 billion dollars? The amount stolen will be more than enough to repair Nigerian roads and bridges. The same amount could be used to upgrade our hospitals and institutions of higher learning.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was established in 2004 to “combat financial and economic crimes. The Commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes.” In the years since it was established, it has been chasing shadows and shadow boxing.

Assuming the EFCC is till around in 2014; it still will be chasing shadows and shadow boxing. And by then the Commission would have spend more than $5 billion doing nothing but running around, huffing and puffing. And our corrupt officials and politicians would still be laughing, winking, and smirking in our faces.

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