In Nigeria of year 2021, Nigerians struggle to convince the rest of the World that we truly understand the implication of waging a law based war on Corruption and Economic Crimes. We are still being overtly and covertly dramatic about such a life and death hydra headed monster of corruption and economic crimes. Virtually all aspects of the political life in Nigeria is characterised by corruption and financial malfeasance to such an extent that it appears that we have created a welcoming home for corruption in the World.
This is because if Nigeria truly wages a war on Corruption and Economic Crimes in the real sense of it, then the two recent global ratings as the World’s Poverty Capital and the second most corrupt Country in West Africa would not been necessary. To make matters worst, those at the pinnacle of political powers are busy playing too much of politics with the war on corruption to an extent that in Nigeria some corruption is better than the other based on political affinity and the networks of the person being accused of corruption. This much was revealed by the Advisory Council Chairman on corruption to President Muhammadu Buhari when he exchanged verbal abuses with the number one law officer of the Federation which will be shown in the concluding segment of this brief reflection made necessary by the high profile conviction for corruption of one of the World’s most powerful political former leaders in France. As soon as the sentencing was announced on the Global media, the over a dozen people in my office who watched it shouted that it was an impossible task in Nigeria because of the extensive problems of corruption and bribery that define the court system in Nigeria. And so in this write up, I will argue that Nigeria is a home for Sarcozys whereby they are the persons that control the different levers of political powers in Nigeria and they are simply above the law since those who ought to prosecute and jail them are similarly involved. Those who get jailed are the WRETCHED OF THE EARTH.
As stated above, Corruption and Economic Crimes are the main drivers of mass poverty and insecurity of all kinds which have manifested heavily all across board in the Nigeria of the year 2021. These social vices have become very troubling and indeed extensive because of the fact that the institutions put in place to combat them are themselves being weakened by Politicians.
Can I proceed by telling even if it means a repetitive affirmation, to my readers that the immediate reason for this reflection is the phenomenal judicial verdict of guilt that was pronounced by a court in France against one of France’s erstwhile powerful political leaders- Nicolas Sarkozy.
Also, we should be reminded as often as possible that what makes a nation strong and reputable globally is not by how powerful the political leaders are but by the strength of the Institutions put in place to make everyone to operate within the bounds of the law. Equity and equality before the law are two symbolic qualities that distinguishes a law based society from the rest.
In the light of the above statement, we need also to recall that France is a very strong Country and it is so because the institutions put in place are stronger than the politicians.
For the avoidance of doubts, historically, we must recall that the World economic forum had few years back, precisely in the year 2017 July, rated France as the World number 1 for soft power.
France’s vast diplomatic network, its cultural richness, not to mention Macron’s policies on cooperation and integration, have all contributed to the country’s No 1 position on this year’s Soft Power 30 index.
Meanwhile, the US has fallen from first place to third in the past year. This may be due to President Donald Trump’s “America first” policy, an approach that has “played poorly abroad, alienating allies and damaging links with the rest of the world”, the report says.
The US’s decline on the index is based on people’s changing perceptions, not facts. The country is still unrivalled in higher education, cultural production and technological innovation, argues the report. American universities continue to dominate global league tables.
The UK, in second place, is in a precarious position. Although it held on to its No 2 spot, it is one of only four countries to have scored lower in this year’s analysis, which ranks 30 countries overall. This is largely down to the Brexit vote, argues Portland. “It is hard to see how it will enjoy the same level of influence in Europe (and beyond) that it did as of 22 June 2016.”
Still, the UK continues to have the world’s most trusted news source – the BBC World Service – as well as a flourishing cultural, tech and education sector.
The top five soft power contenders have remained the same since the analysis was first published two years ago, but their order has changed. Germany, which has dealt with major issues including terrorist attacks and a wave of immigration, has fallen one place in this year’s index despite an improved overall score and widespread confidence in Chancellor Angela Merkel.
And although Canada “remains one of the world’s most well-regarded countries”, it needs to beef up its innovation and enterprise, according to the report.
However, even when France is a Nuclear power and one of the five Nations that wields the veto powers within the security council of the United Nations, France as it were still observes the institutional checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches including the President’s power to dissolve parliament and the National Assembly’s power to dismiss the Prime Minister, shared authority to initiate legislation between the parliament and the Prime Minister and the absence of any Veto power on the President.
In France, the parliament’s power are strictly enumerated by the Constitution, which lists the matters that can be the subject of legislation. The parliament began since June 17th 1789 during the French revolution. French president serves as the head of state, popularly elected and cannot be voted out of office by parliament. But he/she as president can be impeached by the French parliament for willfully violating the constitution or the National laws.
The process of impeachment is written in the 68th article of the French Constitution. A group of Senators or a group of members of the National Assembly can begin the process. In line with the democratic principle of separation of powers, the French Judiciary- although its members are state employees- is independent of the legislative authority.
The basis of the French legal system is laid out in a key document originally drawn up in 1804 and known as the code civil or code Napoleon.
In France, the law is no respecter of persons or status.
Unlike here in Nigeria, the former President Nicolas Sarkozy would be at home and treated as a sacred cow. In Nigeria, even some TERRORISTS ARE PAMPERED AND THOSE WHO AREN’T TERRORISTS ARE CLASSIFIED AS ONE.
But not in France where the Institutions are stronger than political forces.
The former President of France has today become a Criminal Convict over Corruption allegation of bribing a judge which is institutionally forbidden.
In Nigeria, the ICPC has recently told us that billions of Naira were pumped into pockets of judges as bribes. Not one person amongst the givers and takers of these bribes are in jails. Judges in Nigeria retire into stupendous wealth from the bribes accumulated from rich litigants who buy justice off the shelves.
How can corrupt judges be in jail when one of the key anti-corruption bodies is heavily weigh down by accusations of credibility crisis. Even the head of the judiciary at the moment in Nigeria was smuggled into office by the backdoor through an ex parte motion and through an order issued by a quasi judicial forum of Code of Conduct tribunal as against the Constitutional provisions that only give such mandates to the National Judicial Council. And so what you see happening is open public spats over who should be made Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC and not necessarily how to wage successful crusade against corruption. The war on corruption in Nigeria is characterised by corruption.
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) has only recently condemned the recent statement by the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay that the AGF would not allow the newly appointed Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa succeed on account of being a “powerful politician” that will interfere in Bawa’s work.
Reacting to the report credited to Sagay, the minister descended heavily on the senior lawyer, describing the professor as “a confused old man whose vision is beclouded by speculations and guess works”.
Malami, in statement issued by his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu stated that he has been known to be supportive of government agencies and parastatals under the Ministry of Justice, devoid of any undue interferences, so as to enable them achieve greater success.
He stressed that he was never identified as meddling into or interfering into affairs of any agency under the Ministry of Justice.
According to him, agencies and parastatals under the supervision of his ministry have been carrying out the legitimate functions and constitutional roles diligently and recording huge success due to his support.
According to Malami, agencies under him such as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Legal Aid Council of Nigeria ,among others have been recording tremendous success with greater vigour and commitment.
He added that in the exercise of his constitutionally recognised mandate, he is always guided by extant laws in supervising agencies under his control, adding that on no account was there any case of interference and excessive meddling.
“The submissions of Sagay are marred by conflicting statements and confused speculations.
“The highest of confusion is demonstrated by compounding and conflict statements coming at once from an individual.
“It was the same man who in the same report was quoted as showing great optimism with the appointment of the new EFCC chairman also becoming pessimist for a speculative future”.
Malami quoted Sagay as saying in the same report that “so, inasmuch as the removal of Magu to me looks unsatisfactory, we have to move on and if he (Bawa) is as good as his credentials indicate, then I think the future looks promising for the EFCC.”
“Hence, there was nothing to worry about the new leadership of the EFCC which many Nigerians hail, unless if the old man has skeletons in his cupboard,” Malami noted.
“We advise the old man not to start having a hallucinated, mixed-up and confused vision of a prognostic future envisaged by his sentiments. Let Sagay make less noise but allow the young man discharge his duties with vigour and vibrancy.
“Nigerians will be happy if the old man would come out publicly to explain reasons why he is jittery over the development, which has been praised and commended by Nigerians,” the statement added.
Abubakar Malami made these observations when one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s top anti-corruption advisers, Itse Sagay, expressed fears about the influence the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, may have on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the leadership of its new chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa.
Mr Malami ,who hails from Kebbi State like Mr Bawa, is believed to have engineered the exit of the former acting chair of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, and was instrumental to Mr Bawa’s appointment as the new head of the agency.
Mr Sagay, who is the chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said on Wednesday that he was uncomfortable with the fact that Messrs Malami and Bawa share the same state of origin.
He said by sharing the same state of origin, there was possibility that the two men were related, a development which he said would not augur well for the smooth operations of the nation’s flagship anti-corruption agency.
In an interview with PUNCH, Mr Sagay also said his fear was based on Mr Malami’s previous antecedent of attempt to control the EFCC and interfere in the activities of the anti-corruption agencies.
He said, “This issue is a very big question because I noticed that they both come from the same state of Kebbi and they may even be related. For me, that is not a very healthy thing because the chairman of the EFCC and the EFCC are supposed to be independent.
“They are not politicians, they are trained, security officers. The attorney-general is a politician who has all the weaknesses and loads of a politician. He has people he is obliged to.
“He has people who are close to him. Some of them may be criminals who might have committed crimes. In fact, some of them may deliberately do things because they think they know the attorney-general.
“He has already indicated his tendency to interfere in both the EFCC and the ICPC with the regulations he purported to make months ago. So, I am not comfortable at all that the possibility that they might be related.”
Although Mr Malami and Mr Bawa are from the same Kebbi State, the attorney-general is from the Birnin-Kebbi local government area of the state, while the new EFCC chairperson hails from Jega local government.
Speaking further on the matter, Mr Sagay, a vocal supporter of Mr Buhari , said Mr Malami was never inclined to allowing the anti-corruption agencies operate freely.
He said, “Malami has never been inclined to allow the anti-corruption agencies to operate freely. He is always sitting on their neck one way or the other. I have complained about that several times and nothing has happened. In fact, he has become more powerful. So, I will not be comfortable if they are related. I don’t want any outside influence on the EFCC or the ICPC.”
He, however, said although he did not know the newly-appointed EFCC chairperson personally, he was impressed by what he has read about his “credentials and fairly good record.”
He had said, “I don’t really know him. I have just read what has been said about him and he seems to have impressive credentials and a fairly good record from what I read apart from this issue of trucks which the EFCC has denied on his behalf.
“So, in as much as the removal of Magu to me looks unsatisfactory, we have to move on and if he is as good as his credentials indicate, then I think the future looks promising for the EFCC.”
Mr Bawa nominated by President Buhari as the substantive chairman of the EFCC, was screened and confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday last week. So you can see that what happened in France can’t possibly happen here whereby top officials are busy fighting over who should be the head of EFCC.
In a serious first World nation like France, Nicolas Sarkozy was accused of trying to obtain confidential information from a judge by offering to help him land a job.
The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty on Monday by a court in Paris on charges of corruption and influence peddling.
The verdict was the culmination of just one of several long-running legal entanglements that are coming to a head for Mr. Sarkozy, 66, who led France from 2007 to 2012 and is still widely popular among conservatives.
Mr. Sarkozy’s conviction was only the second time in modern history that a former French president has been convicted of a crime.
He was found guilty of trying to illegally obtain information on another legal case against him from a judge in return for promises to use his influence to secure a prestigious job for the judge.
He received a three-year prison sentence, with two of those years suspended. However, it was widely expected that Mr. Sarkozy would appeal, a process that would place the sentence on hold.
Until Monday, only one president in recent French history had been found guilty by a court of law: Jacques Chirac, who was convicted in 2011 of embezzling and misusing public funds when he was mayor of Paris. Mr. Chirac was the first French head of state to stand trial since Marshal Philippe Pétain was found guilty of treason at the end of World War II for collaborating with Nazi Germany.
Mr. Chirac, however, was tried in absentia because of his poor mental health, and last year Mr. Sarkozy became the first French president to physically attend his own trial since 1945.
Mr. Sarkozy, who lost his bid for re-election in 2012 and mounted a failed comeback attempt in 2016, has denied wrongdoing in a complex web of financial impropriety cases that has plagued him since he left office.
He is scheduled to stand trial later this month in a separate case involving his 2012 campaign, in which he has been charged with exceeding strict limits on campaign spending. The longest-running and most serious case against him involves accusations that his 2007 campaign received illegal Libyan financing from the government of the now-dead strongman Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Other cases against Mr. Sarkozy have been dropped, including one in which he was accused of manipulating the heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune into financing his 2007 campaign.
The verdict came amid a heating political climate in France as the country gears up for the 2022 presidential election.
Mr. Sarkozy is on good terms with President Emmanuel Macron, who has recently steered France to the right, and he still wields considerable influence on the main political party in France, Les Républicains. With the presidential election fast approaching and no clear front-runners in sight, Mr. Sarkozy’s blessing is widely sought by party officials.
The case on Monday, known as the “wiretapping affair,” was the first against him to finally reach trial, as Mr. Sarkozy — a lawyer by training — used every legal recourse available to him to draw out proceedings.
Although the cases are separate, the wiretapping affair emerged from the Libya inquiry, which began in 2013 and led investigators to place wiretaps on phones belonging to Mr. Sarkozy and Thierry Herzog, his lawyer.
Through the wiretaps, prosecutors claimed in court, investigators discovered in 2014 that Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Herzog were using secret phone lines and that the two had discussed ways of obtaining confidential information about another case involving the former president that was being handled by France’s top appeals court.
Prosecutors said Mr. Sarkozy sought to illegally obtain information from Gilbert Azibert, then a magistrate at the court, including by promising to use his influence to secure a job for the judge in Monaco.
The job never materialized, but under French law, prosecutors do not have to prove that a corrupt deal was carried out to secure a conviction — only that one was agreed upon. At the trial, held in November and December, prosecutors accused Mr. Sarkozy of entering a “corruption pact” with Mr. Azibert, a charge he strenuously denied.
Mr. Sarkozy’s defense had asked the court to throw out the entire case, arguing that wiretapping his phone calls with Mr. Herzog was illegal and that prosecutors had taken fragments of casual conversations out of context to cobble together a faulty case.
Mr. Azibert and Mr. Herzog were also found guilty by the court.
Aurelien Breeden has covered France from the Paris bureau since 2014. He has reported on some of the worst terrorist attacks to hit the country, the dismantling of the migrant camp in Calais and France’s tumultuous 2017 presidential election. @aurelienbrd.
When will the many Nicolas Sarcozys running Nigerian government be prosecuted and punished for their manifest economic crimes? I think it may take a revolution to see it happen and in a place whereby the mention of the word REVOLUTION lands you in prison, we may wait for so long to truly see a law based war against corruption untainted by politics.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and [email protected] theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.