Whenwill our Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala call a press conference totell us about looted funds recovered from other corrupt Nigerians apart fromthe Abachas? The apparent exclusive focus on the so-called Abacha loot bysuccessive administrations since 1999 is making Nigerians suspicious about thesincerity of the government in fighting corruption vigorously at all fronts. Isour Finance Minister telling us that there are no corrupt Nigerians since thedeath of Abacha in 1998? Is she also telling us that money has not beendisappearing into private pockets since the beginning of this democracy in1999? The Global Integrity Group, a Washington-based corruption watchdog,reported that “$129 billion werefraudulently transferred out of Nigeria in 10 years” under our so-calleddemocratic rule. The Abachas have coughed out $700million to the federal government and the United States recently announced thefreezing of another $400 millionof the Abachaloot.
Whyis the government mainly interested in the Abacha loot? Is it because the manis dead? Is it not ridiculous to make the Abachas the constant focus ofNigerian’s anti-corruption crusade? How can we trust the government that it hasthe courage to fight corruption by scratching the surface of the problem? WhatGeneral Abacha allegedly stole cannot stand in comparison to today’s extraordinaryscale of corruption. Nigerians are really getting bored with the idea that the Abacha loot was the only stolen funds? As a former senior official of the World Bank, our Finance Minister has all the connections internationally to recoverlooted funds kept abroad by other corrupt public office holders. But we are notseeing that effort.
However,it is surprising she is always talking about the so-called Abacha loot whenbillions and trillions stolen by other corrupt officials remain safely kept inforeign banks. Public support is essential to fighting corruption, but that canonly be achieved if the government shows enough courage to recover looted fundsfrom all corrupt officials. Nobody however powerful should enjoy any connectionor immunity so much that the government cannot go after their looted funds abroad.
Nigerianscannot forget in hurry the amount of enthusiasm and extraordinary efforts putin by the federal government in pursuit of the Abacha loot. But should theseefforts end there? Why is our Finance Minister always silent about the billionsof looted funds kept away abroad by other corrupt Nigerian public officials? Ifthe federal government could demonstrate unusual zeal to go to courts abroad inpursuit of the Abacha loot, why is it not applying the same energy inrecovering other looted funds?
Theexclusive focus of loot recovery efforts on the Abachas is making Nigeriansdismiss the sincerity of fighting corruption. Apart from the fact the we cannot find evidence where therecovered Abacha loot were applied to the welfare of Nigerians, it is alsodisturbing to create the impression that going after the Abacha loot is enoughto end corruption in Nigeria.
Moremoney is being stolen under the guise of democratic rule. In fact, a democraticgovernment should be more accountable to the people than militaryadministration. Democracy cannot make any impact on the lives of the people ifthe government cannot demonstrate enough courage to go after all looted fundsinstead of the current one-sided efforts on the Abachas. The war againstcorruption in Nigeria is appearing to be like a dog and pony show.
Arewe really serious about this anti-corruption crusade? If the government could hireinternational lawyers and other experts to facilitate the recovery of theAbacha loot, why are we not seeing the same efforts directed at recovering thebillions stolen by other corrupt Nigerian public office holders?
Nigerianswould never be impressed by these cosmetic efforts, which focus loot recoveryexclusively on the Abachas because the man is dead. The government cannot onlychange negative public perception towards the anti-corruption war if it is notwilling to fight corruption at all levels against anybody. Concentrating lootrecovery on the Abachas diminishes the credibility of the anti-corruptioncrusade. No nation can progress with corruption and, unless the government goesbeyond the Abacha loot and goes after other big thieves, its credibility willsuffer more blows in the eyes of the public.
Ochenelu wrote from No. 87, Cairo Crescent Wuse II, Abuja.
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