- As Gowon denies corrupt charges against his regime
- Buhari seeks legal framework for repatriation of stolen funds
By Olisemeka Sony
Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has cautioned that federal government’s much publicised anti-corruption war would not bear desired fruits until corrupt leaders are brought to justice.
“I am not a vengeful person but I think until we ensure that some of our leaders pass through those doors (to jail), this struggle against corruption in this country will not be won, will not be over.
Soyinka, a renowned social critic and human rights activist made the declarations on Monday while speaking at the 8th Commonwealth Regional Conference for Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa in Abuja.
This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari has harped on the urgent need for countries to come up with a legal framework that would make it easy for the repatriation of stolen funds. Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, said the absence of legal basis for cooperation in some countries, differences in legal and procedural frameworks, language barriers, bank secrecy rules, jurisdictional issues, lack of funding were some of the obstacles standing in the way of effective mutual legal assistance.
According to him: “While public sector corruption is the usual focus, the private sector complicity is significant especially with large multinationals engaged in tax evasion but it is the more complex web of public-private collusion and connivance that results in proceeds of corruption ending up in countries and their financial institutions and systems, dismantling the conspiracies that fasten the export of stolen assets is probably as important as the theme of this conference.
“It underscores the fact that fighting corruption is futile if we do not ensure that the proceeds of corruption find no safe haven and that such proceeds are fully recovered.”
Soyinka, however, disclosed that during his recent visit to the new head office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja, he took the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to task on the treatment of the Very Important Persons (VIP) accused of corruption.
The playwright said, “That we have been bled dry in this nation by corrupt leadership and their agencies is nothing to reiterate. It is a given. And I took the trouble to visit the headquarters of the EFCC. I wanted to see what would be the mode of hospitality of some of our leaders who will surely, sooner or later, pass through the doors of that beautiful building.
“And so, I spoke to Magu and I said I want to see where the presidential wing is. I said as a human rights person, I want to make sure you treat them right when they come here and he said ‘sorry it is an egalitarian institution, and I said I would take that message back to them that they should get ready to go down a little bit in status when the time comes and justice catches up with them.”
The Nobel laureate said for now, the responsibility of anti-corruption agencies should be to recover the rest of Nigeria’s stolen funds which could be used in developing the nation.
Gowon argues that it was the military leaders who came after him started looting because they did not want to end up like him, who was poor after leaving office.
The former military head of state, who ruled from 1966 to 1975, recalled while addressing participants at the 8th Commonwealth Regional Conference for Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa in Abuja, that he was attending an Organisation of African Unity summit in Kampala, Uganda when he was ousted from power. According to him, it was his aides that contributed money for him to travel to Britain where he went into exile.
Hear him: “I can assure you we did not know anything such as corruption. Yes, some of my ministers were accused of corruption but I can assure you that it was something we tried to make sure it didn’t happen especially in our public service.
“But after I left office, in 1975 and the state in which I left office, I can assure you that apart from my salary, it was those members of staff that were with me during the OAU meeting that contributed their estacode to ensure that I had something to live on after I had been asked to leave office.
“That was the only one and then I said I wish I had probably done something, made sure I had provided for the future. I think it was that experience that probably made some after I had left office to make sure that they provided for the future and, therefore, you should not blame them for doing that after the experience that I had.”