New Telegraph

Ex-Governors And Alleged Corruption Cases

In spite of the recent denial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of the list of former state governors purportedly being investigated for the humongous sum of N2.187 trillion corruption cases, which has gone viral on social media, there is no denying the fact that there is no smoke of the allegations of stinking sleaze, without the flaring flame of crass corruption as committed by not a few of them.

In fact, the news item that made the headlines in several newspapers on January 14, 2024 had to do with the anti-corruption agency beaming its searchlight on 13 former state governors to the tune of N772 billion grafts. And on February 6, of this same year, it was reported that the EFCC has opened corruption cases against the former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello now on the run.

The allegations levelled against him include 19 counts bordering on alleged money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N80.2 billion. He allegedly withdrew $720,000 from the state’s accounts to pay his child’s school fees in advance through a Bureau de Change.

That was before he left office on January 27, 2024. While what looks like a melodrama of the cat-and -mouse unfolds between the EFCC and Bello, the current governor of Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti has since opened the can of worms of nauseating corruption cases allegedly committed by his predecessor, Okezie Ikpeazu. According to the statement credited to the incumbent governor, on June 15, 2023 Ikpeazu “left nothing in Abia accounts”.

He is being asked to account for contracts to the tune of N107 billion, as this was what came out of the forensic audit Otti set up immediately after he took over the reins of power in May last year. Not left out of the weighty allegations of the misappropriation of public funds is that of the former governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawale that sparked off protests by some concerned citizens of the goldrich state.

For instance, on May 18, 2023 the EFCC announced that it was investigating allegations of extensive corruption, fraudulent contract award, and misappropriation of over N70 billion diverted from the state government coffers.

It would be recalled that some two years before now, precisely as at April 16,2021 there was the reported probe being carried out by the EFCC into how eight former state governors were involved in sleazy financial scandals involving over N500 billion of public funds.

This recurring issue of corruption severally levelled against not just state governors but top politicians, including ministers, lawmakers and presidents bring forth some important questions on how public funds are handled by those entrusted with public trust.

In the frontal fight against corruption, it should not be politicised. There should be checks and balances to prevent free access to state funds by governors

For instance, why should the payment operational process be so loose as to literally give the governors the sesame key into the state’s tills, dip their hands into it and take away mind-boggling sums to feather their own nests?

Secondly, why should they enjoy the obnoxious immunity all through their questionable terms in office, only to wangle their ways into the National Assembly, to make laws for us all? That is even when there are allegations of financial fraud still hanging on their necks? Certainly, such an image-damaging scenario calls for a thorough review of our laws on the fight against insidious corruption in high places.

According to Wikipedia corruption in Nigeria runs through virtually all levels of government. Such rears its ugly head from huge contract fraud through petty bribery, money laundering schemes, embezzlement to the seizing of salaries from fake workers.

In fact, it is estimated that financial corruption sets the nation back by billions of naira on a yearly basis. But we cannot continue to tread on this path of perfidy, with some unpatriotic political office holders stealing the nation blind in the midst of mass poverty, joblessness, and decrepit infrastructure, low educational and healthcare delivery.

According to the Economist magazine of London on October 10, 2019, quoting Chatham House, a British think tank, the Nigerian political elite stole some $582 billion of public funds from political independence in 1960 to 2019. Such was the stinking, scandalous situation that in 2016 the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, described Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt”.

He made that statement while in conversation with the late Queen Elizabeth II. How terribly self-decimating corruption has undermined us as a nation. In the frontal fight against corruption, it should not be politicised. There should be checks and balances to prevent free access to state funds by governors.

The EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) should be totally independent of the executive arm of government. Our laws should be re-tooled so that the death penalty might be considered for the perpetrators, as it operates in some Asian countries.

This will definitely serve as a strong deterrence to those who erroneously believe that they could pilfer public funds and go Scot-free, under an inclement environment of crass impunity in high places.

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