Namadi Sambo and Jonathan’s wanton Impunity

Namadi Sambo

Namadi Sambo was sworn in as Nigeria’s vice president yesterday following the confirmation of his nomination by the National Assembly on Tuesday. But the former governor of Kaduna State was last week dragged before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over allegations of financial impropriety.

A Kaduna-based lawyer, Sadau Garba, petitioned the anti-graft body asking that the governor be investigated for allegedly misappropriating N153.6bn with the support of the state legislature.

A copy of the petition alleged among other things that the N1.2bn spent by the state government in hosting the U-17 World Cup championship in Kaduna State, 2009 was yet to be accounted for.

In the petition, Garba averred that the state obtained a $17.32m loan guaranteed by the Minister of Finance from the Islamic Development Bank, but that the loan was not captured in the 2009 budget as required by law.

Instead of investigating his claim, the petitioner was harassed by security operatives. Garba accused security operatives of acting out the script of the state government by harassing him on account of the petition.

Compare with the case of Eric Illsley, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central in the United Kingdom. He was charged with three charges of false accounting involving more than £20,000.

Illsley was immediately suspended by the Labour party. Announcing Mr Illsley’s suspension from the Labour Party, a spokesman said: “The Labour Party’s general secretary has issued Eric Illsley with a suspension following the CPS’s announcement of criminal charges against him.

“As a result, Eric Illsley has been suspended from the Whip and cannot attend any Labour Party meeting. This was felt necessary in light of the criminal charges.”

I am not personally against the nomination of Namadi Sambo as the vice-president. Sambo might not be bad as an individual and a citizen of the country. It might even that as some people claim that Garba’s allegation is baseless, a mre distration. But the confirmation of Sambo as Vice-President when there are pending allegations of corruption before him is bad for Sambo, speaks ill of President Goodluck Jonathan, and bad for the country.

Please note, this is not another faceless individual or group sending anonymous petitions to the EFCC, this is a named individual, a Lawyer, based in former Governor Namadi Sambo’s Kaduna State. He was willing to stand by his petition. The least that Jonathan could have been done is to quickly order investigations of the allegation in a clear and transparent manner before Namadi is sworn in a vice-president.

The confirmation of an alleged corrupt Nigerian to the exalted office of Vice-president is a practice that can only be seen practiced in a nation without conscience like Nigeria. While Sambo may happily assume his position in Aso Villa, the alleged corrupt practices labelled against him while in the office as Kaduna governor would be hanging on his neck.

It is very bad that he was confirmed vice-president without the agencies in charge of handling corruption cases telling Nigerians that they have the cleared air of his alleged corrupt practices.

On the UK expenses scandal, Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said yesterday: “Having thoroughly reviewed a file of evidence we received from the Metropolitan Police in March this year, we concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal charges against Eric Illsley MP.”

The charges, under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968, relate to expenses he claimed on his second home in London. They included council tax, service and maintenance charges, repairs and insurance charges, and utilities and communications charges.

The first charge covers May 2005 to April 2006, the second the following year and the third for the year after, concluding in April 2008.

Mr Illsley will appear in court for the first time at City of Westminster magistrate’s court on 17 June. He is the fourth Labour MP to be charged over his expenses and a fifth parliamentarian, Lord Hanningfield, also faces trial on similar charges.

“The first charge alleges that Mr Illsley dishonestly claimed expenses in relation to council tax, service and maintenance charges, repairs and insurance charges, and utilities and communications charges for his second home in Renfrew Road, London, between May 2005 and April 2006.

“The second charge relates to the same claims between May 2006 and April 2007, and the third charge relates to the same claims between May 2007 and April 2008.

“In total the charges allege a sum in excess of £20,000 was dishonestly claimed over this three-year period.” But Namadi Sambo was accused of embezzling N1.2bn!

This is a country where the rule of law and transparent governance matters.

The president has just displayed wanton impunity and fragrant disregard for the feelings of on-looking Nigerians. He has also inadvertently harmed his war against corruption. Ironically, the swearing in of Vice-president Sambo comes on the same day President Jonathan restated his full commitment to war against corrupt officials.

Goodluck Jonathan yesterday declared “a result-oriented anti-corruption crusade, acceptable electoral reform and stable power supply as the irreducible minimum factors for gauging the performance of his administration”

In displaying this impunity, Jonathan is imitating his former boss, late president Umaru Yar’adua and former president Olusegun Obasanjo before him.

In September 2006, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) named Mrs. Patience Jonathan, wife of Goodluck Jonathan, then Bayelsa State Governor, as an accomplice in the N104million-money laundering case involving Mrs. Nancy Ebere. Yet that did not stop former President Olusegun Obasanjo from crowning Goodluck Jonathan as vice-president.

Needless to say, once he became the vice-president, the EFCC dropped all the corruption charges pending against Mrs Jonathan.

In the days of Umaru Yar’adua, Orji Uzor Kalu was hounded by allegations of corruption and the plundering of public money. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted him for diverting Abia State fund totalling N5 billion, in 36 instalments into the account of his Slok Nigeria Limited during his tenure as the governor of Abia State.

While still undergoing trials for his crimes and was granted judicial bail, the first thing he did was to drive to Aso Villa to confer with President Yar’Adua. Kalu’s party the PPAwas allowed to nominate individuals to Yar’Adua’s government.

James Ibori- was being tried for alleged money laundering. Ibori and four others were arraigned on a 103-count charge of money laundering and abuse of office.

The EFCC, in one of the charges, alleged that Ibori on 26 April, 2007 attempted to bribe the EFCC investigators with a cash payment of N1.8 billion ($15m) in order to influence their investigation. But Mr Ibori enjoyed free access to Aso Villa at the time of President Yar’adua.

When asked about these in an interview, President Yar’adua declared; these are former governors, they are my friends, I cannot stop entertaining my friends simply because I am now the president.

These Yar’Adua’s friends, corrupt ex-governors that must be invited to Aso Rock- the president’s residence, transported with presidential Planes, and consulted on matters of state policy.

It is this arrogant, contemptuous dismissal of the feelings and view of the masses that is at the root of the Namadi Sambo debacle today. The feeling that what the citizens may think does not matter, ‘After all, you would always have your way, you would always win another election, whether they like it or not; whether they like you or not and whether they voted for you or not’.