Several anti-corruption organizations are vowing to continue their pursuit of 31 Nigerian state governors and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who were exonerated Wednesday by Nigeria’s chief investigative arm of corruption charges. Accusations against the officials, who were singled out for the massive looting of state treasuries, were dropped after a lengthy probe by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Auwal Musa Rafsanjani is director of the anti-corruption group Transparency International Nigeria and national coordinating chairman of Nigeria’s Zero Corruption Coalition. He says that investigators are encouraging further abuse by public officials for misdeeds that have clearly been substantiated.
“This is naturally the right time for them to make this political settlement and it is rather giving encouragement for more officials to loot their states, since they know they will be cleared. It is absolutely wrong for this commission to come out and tell Nigerians that these people, who have been indicted before by the same commission, they are now being cleared for political reasons,” he said.
Nigeria’s state governors have long enjoyed immunity from prosecution while in office. Rafsanjani says public pressure had been building for a long time for the government’s chief anti-corruption agency, the EFCC to take action to root out widespread evidence of diversion of public coffers once the state executives gave up their gubernatorial posts.
“The issue is very clear. The commission has very early on investigated, and they found out that they have looted their state treasuries. So it is not something that requires any magic. It is something that has been established. There are a lot of records and evidences of these governors looting in a reckless manner their states and therefore, it is surprising to us to hear that the EFCC is clearing these state governors,” he said.
Pending the expiration of the governors’ terms, another Nigerian investigative body, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) decided to probe looting allegations against a total of 33 former chief executives. The length and high profile of the government’s probe is expected to draw public outrage that yesterday’s almost blanket dismissal was politically motivated.
Transparency International’s Rafsanjani says he sees several options being exercised that will ensure that the federal government will pursue additional criminal charges against the governors.
“There are three ways. One, is to have the political will from the central government. If the president is committed to fight against corruption, it is becoming to squarely deal with those who have looted the state. That is one issue. The second issue is for the international community to help us to ensure that all those who have been found guilty of looting the state or their local governments, or even at the national level, they should also impose sanctions on them. The third thing is the Nigerian people will consider to resist these leaders, even though the Nigerian government claims to have cleared those people. The Nigerian people have not cleared them, because they have been the ones who are the victims,” he noted.
As for two-time former Nigerian ruler Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight year presidential term (1999-2007), Rafsanjani says his legacy is forever clouded with doubts about integrity and the failure to end abuse by his political allies. Rafsanjani says he believes the public will deny the former general a privilege of serving as Nigeria’s elder statesman.
“As far as former President Obasanjo’s future role is concerned, it’s over, it’s over. It’s done. It’s over. Because he has abused the opportunity he had for a good eight years to be able to be recognized as a solid leader, not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa. Therefore, he has lost the respect. He has lost the statesmanship that most people would want to give him. So as far as his own case is concerned, it’s over,” stated Rafsanjani.