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Lagos Court Dismisses Graft Charges Against Atiku

In Nigeria, a Lagos high court yesterday threw out corruption charges against Vice President Atiku Abubakar by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Supporters of the vice president have welcomed the court’s decision calling it “maturity of the judicial system”. Observers say the court’s decision is a boost for the presidential ambition of Atiku.

Shehu Garuba is the spokesman for the Nigerian Vice President. He talks about the court’s decision.

“It is a landmark decision coming from the Lagos High Court, which is that the house of injustice that they built, charges concocted on the basis of falsehood and deceit has been smashed by a court of law. It says about the Nigerian judiciary, that there is hope for the common people that absolutism will not thrive in this country,” he said.

Garuba said the Vice President was elated when news of the courts ruling was communicated to him. But urged Nigerians to fight for their rights.

“He said that Nigerians should understand that they need to stand up and that in order for them to enjoy the rights given to them by the constitution, they must be ready to put up a fight. Otherwise if they should fold their arms and just sit back like that all of their basic, fundamental and human rights would be taken away from them,” Garuba noted.

He accused the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of targeting the vice president to foil his political ambitions.

“In this particular instance a panel sat down orchestrated falsehood, submitted it to government and the government took a short cut to ban him (Atiku) from contesting for public office. It is almost unbelievable but the government convinced itself that it has done the right thing… The president cannot usurp the functions of the court of law. There must be a separation of powers and the court must be allowed to carry out its duties according to the constitution,” he said.

Garuba accused President Obasanjo of setting up a kangaroo committee to pass judgment on the vice president.

“In this case the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission handed their investigation to a trigger happy president who was ready to shoot at the vice president. The president happily set up a kangaroo panel, which he called administrative tribunal, which passed the kind of judgment he wanted. The court had no difficulty therefore in concluding that this orchestration shall not stand,” he said.

Garuba explains the significance of the court’s ruling on Vice President Atiku’s presidential ambition.

“What it means is that whatever encumbrances that has been put on his path in the 2007 elections has been removed. The vice president never said that the presidency is a matter of life and death. But it is absolutely wrong for one man to say that he alone against the wishes of 108 million Nigerians will choose who will be his successor,” he said.

Garuba adds that the vice president has always maintained that only Nigerians can determine his political future and not the president.

He dismissed speculations that the vice president will stand as an independent candidate in the country’s general elections next year.

“The Nigerian Constitution does not recognize independent presidential candidacy. The vice president must stand on the platform of a political party but you also wish to know that there are not less than 50 political parties in this country, and it is the political party that put him in office the PDP (People’s Democratic Party) that suspended him and that issue of suspension is being contested… We are absolutely hopeful this too will be thrown out of court,” he said.

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