Roguery or Tyranny: A Nation's Dilemma

by Adebayo Adejare

“There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

The recent revelation that Nigeria legislators i.e. Senators and house of Representatives Members (National Assembly) are the highest paid in the world raises significant questions not only on the need for effective checks and balances on organs of government but also fundamental issues as to the work ability of the presidential system in an emergent democracy. The least paid federal legislators earn more than the president of the United States of America and the Assembly consumes over twenty-five per cent of the Budget.

Members’ pay had for years been kept secret. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) requested disclosure but was met with stiff resistance as well as retaliation. by the immediate commencement of impeachment proceedings against him by the legislators. The Senators and house Members simply commenced impeachment Proceedings to force their way through at the time.

Today both the Finance Minister and the Central Bank Governor have queried the wisdom of disbursing over one-quarter of the national budget on remuneration of legislators. International monitory authorities have persistently recommended that Nigeria cuts down on the size of government. But they are unmoved.

The intransigence of Nigeria’s legislators is a flagrant abuse of trust. Professor Itse Sagay SAN described> the attitude of the legislators as “locust mentality”. Executive powers and acts face challenge daily by citizens in our courts. National Assembly exercises checks on the Executive especially through appropriations.

The Body Constitutionally empowered to fix Remunerations of all public officers is the Revenue Allocation and Mobilization Commission (RAMC). However, the Legislators have by-passed that body. President Jonathan has learned from Former President Obasanjo’s experience of retaliation and is compelled by the circumstances to just look away.

Now that as many as 84 of the Senators have lost out in the Ruling Party’s primaries it is very dicey if anything will be done this legislative session by the legislators about the matter. The in-coming legislators would probably just benefit in studied silence over the situation. The Nigerian Tax-payers and the entire civilian population are compelled to bear the brunt in forced silence.

The salaries and allowances are clearly not reasonable. The Senate {President earns $1 Million (gross salary and various allowances) daily. the Dollar equivalent is $10,000. This is in a country where the average citizens lives on less than $1 a day! How did the Legislators respond to the public outrage? They summoned The Central Bank Governor Mr Lamido Sanusi but he could not be intimidated. He boldly repeated his assertion that the Nigerian economy could ill-afford to bear what the Legislators were paying themselves.

There is no precedence for the payments since October 1, 1960 when Nigeria gained Independence from Britain whose Legislators do not earn as much. Yet our National assembly members refuse to budge quietly continuing to draw the salaries and allowances ignoring adverse opinion.

They had taken over 11 years to produce an amended Constitution despite public and Supreme Court outcry over the incongruities in the military imposed grossly dysfunctional 1999 Constitution. How much did that item cost the nation (apart from their regular remuneration)? – over 5 Billion Naira!

Provisions that Nigerians had rejected and which were found unsuitable over the decade that we operated the 1999 Constitution were retained, forcing the President to observe that there will be need for further amendment at the next legislative session. But members jettisoned all commendation when they arrogantly refused to present the Amended Constitution for Presidential Assent until ordered by a High court to do so.

The Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) were set up during President Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency to combat the malaise of corruption and economic crimes including international fraudsters for which Nigerians have become notorious. Funding for establishment came from sympathetic International Organizations and friendly nations.

Eight years after: What is the outcome? The two bodies are far far from reaching the goals for which they were established. They were met with not just resistance from the corrupt leadership but plain assault on every front including persistent blackmail of the entities and their personnel. To date nobody has been able to come up with an iota of evidence against the leadership of these bodies – a very rare feat in contemporary Nigeria.

The corrupt Governors and others mobilized Nigerians against the Bodies. They bribed individuals and Media houses to propagate unfounded allegations of corruption and selective prosecution against the bodies and their leadership. Some were asked to say that the Bodies were Obasanjo’s weapon to realize “Third Term”. Yet others simply employed and deployed spies into the bodies who daily revealed highly confidential law enforcement information with which they fought the body in the media and in the courts.

The gullible ones bought the bait! (Just like some bought the ruse about Obasanjo’s impeachable Offenses with which he was blackmailed to succumb to looting by Legislators) The most depressing of the antics was the hijack of identity of EFCC Press Officer by fraudsters who then sent e-mails and media releases in his name!

The 1999-2003 Governors have successfully resisted prosecution or recovery of loot. They launder loot to retain political power, set up NGOs, fund Election, corrupt the judiciary and blackmail successors. EFCC had files on 32 but has succeeded in prosecuting only about three. The others were helped to frustrate the body by Interim Injunctions by High Courts, persistent media jingo of political victimization or persecution against the incumbent President, allegations of tyranny and repression or even pursuit (including assassination) of investigators! Four years after they left office, the looting Governors (and others) are laundering the loot and when some Nigerians raise eyebrows they quickly allege that it is because they did not get a cut.

Truly, a few privileged Nigerians, sitting as judges in many of the cases including election petitions have been getting a cut! At the election Tribunals as well as regular courts, numerous inexplicable abusive orders and verdicts have emerged. The officials have been brazen, acting in total impunity leaving Nigerians without remedy and the Nigerian State unable to secure justice even in its own courts.

Little wonder the EFCC has transformed into what (in local parlance) is called “rent and debt collector” regularly entering into compromises with looters for fear of frustration or loss in court where interim orders or inordinate delays or outright impunity are the weapon of looters. Overseas jurisdictions remain the nations only succor to obtain justice, but that is if the suspects do not escape “home’ like Governor Dariye, Alamieyesigha and many drug and credit card fraudsters.

One Ex-Governor got the court to quash his entire indictment. The British Judge in convicted Mrs Ibori’s Trial in London observed that the Nigerian Judiciary had been compromised. The National assembly, the EFCC as well as the INEC have expended scandalous amounts of their allocation to defend frivolous suits and resist unjust orders.

If Nigerians thought they had seen the worst in our Maximum dictators Sanni Abacha (who printed Naira and just plainly embezzled State funds) or Ibrahim Babangida (who appropriated into his pocket $12 Billion proceeds from Gulf War excess crude Petroleum) they should go and see what some civilian Governors have done to their States. They would weep for Nigerians! These Governors ha

ve been mobilizing public opinion against the Federal Government to divert attention off their massive looting of their State’s Treasuries. State Governors were angry at President Obasanjo for publishing Federal fund allocations to states.

The excellent Local Government system commenced with the 1976 Reform has been rubbished by charlatans imposed by Governors into Local Government Offices whose main pre-occupation is pursuit of monthly allocations after which the Secretariats are deserted until the next allocation comes. Yet we claim to operate a Federal Republic and the common man is wrongly made to believe that the Presidency is his enemy. Military governors embezzled Ecological Fund but their civilian counterparts simply followed suit. There is secret but evil code of conduct among Public officers not to probe or expose predecessors but to just make a whisper about “empty treasury” but proceed to silently “eat” their own ignoring loud public and press outburst about their predecessors’ misdeeds.

In consequence, there is a lot of questioning going on on whether democracy was well worth it and whether the Presidential system can work for us. Regrettably there is a paucity of answers. Writers are more interested in applause earned in sweetly depicting the plight of Nigerians or criticizing authorities than in proposing creative and viable solutions. They fearfully dodge discussion of the disastrous outing of Nigeria’s military in power and the hot issue of corruption in the Judiciary.

The unabated, rapacious and mindless looting by Military dictators as well as the resulting capital flight that has thrown Nigeria into what Richard Joseph terms a “dismal tunnel” received more attention by overseas scholars and journalists than Nigerians. Journalists are busy making nocturnal visits to looters and discredited Nigerians to obtain “brown envelopes” to help launder image and misinform the public.

Rather than sympathize and go for a resuscitation restoration and rehabilitation the current set of Legislative and executive Leadership have chosen the cruel path of their military predecessors pushing the country further down the path of despair and human degradation. The issue today is Legislative allowances: who knows what it will be tomorrow? Legislators must be reasonable and respect public opinion rather than ignore Nigerians if indeed we are in a democracy.

The entire society stands condemned by the international community and posterity unless these few whose acts endanger our society are sanctioned. The criminal justice system has failed Nigerians. Experience has shown that the Military cannot salvage this nation. Rather our democracy out to be adapted to our peculiar needs and environment as we have witnessed other nations practice. We know that the answer to impunity is retribution which our society has been lacking in courage to enforce. But the beginning of light at the end of the tunnel is RETRIBUTION.

We shall not be able to break the cycle of impunity, corruption and maladministration unless Nigerians abandon the present “I don’t care” attitude to government Properties replacing it with the enthusiastic embrace of loot recovery. An independent deterrent sanction force is needed to check roguery in government. In the alternative or in addition, Special Investigators/Prosecutors should be appointed for high profile cases so that rogues in government would get the message that there is consequence for infamy and that rogues will have no place to hide or rest. This indeed is the real dilemma of Nigerians today.

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