In Nigeria, it is a common trend for people to follow the band wagon effect and give opinions even on issues they have no facts about. Many even go beyond expressing ideas to give analysis on issues they know nothing about while giving the impression that they have facts and proof at their disposal.
This common act in the Nigerian society has encouraged people to pass judgment on others and malign them based on falsehoods that have been passed off as sacred facts.
In the past few weeks, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai, has been under the microscope and has been accused by many of being culpable in acts of corruption in the arms deal and also for having property in Dubai. Many have turned themselves into advocates and judges in his matter without first seeking for proof of his culpability.
He has indeed been declared guilty even before a trial which is against the law of fair hearing. Many have even dragged the federal government into the issue, alleging that it is shielding the Chief of Army Staff and tagging Lt. General Buratai a sacred cow of the Federal Government.
All the people that raised the allegations have however never produced any proof that the COAS has indeed flouted any known law. I believe that for anyone to put forward a series of allegations, he must also be willing to supply proof that what he is saying is right. You cannot accuse someone and now wait for others to supply proof of allegations which came from you.
This is against the background that under the law, having declared the said property as required of him by law, Lt. General Buratai has discharged the duty placed on him by the fifth schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act.
Indeed, the Code of Conduct Bureau had in a reply to inquiry into the matter clearly stated that General Buratai duly filed the said property in the name of his spouse and having so declared the said property as required of him by law, he has discharged the duty placed on him by the fifth schedule of the constitution.
And since he never made any false declaration and the said property wasn’t acquired after he became the Chief of Army Staff, nothing warrants the invocation of Section 15 (3) of the CCB Act.
For those that are asking how his wife could have such and the totality of the General’s income that could help the family have such, a look at his assets declaration could give them a clue. General Buratai had in his asset declaration listed farming as another source of income.
Further, he had declared a 20 Hectares farm in Keffi and Borno which is managed by his spouse and is operated by his family members. The wife who is not a public officer and has no access to public funds also engages in other commercial activities and has made a success of the family farm.
The farm which is a successful venture produces the family with the required income to live the life they want and a calculation of the proceeds by those that are conversant with farm operations at this period will prove that the family has the required income to purchase the property as dollar at the time the property was purchased wasn’t this expensive. The said property in Dubai purchased by the wife couple of years back was N48 Million only which is even less than what is used by private businessmen and other Nigerians to buy a three bedroom flat in Wuse, Maitama, and other posh areas in Abuja . In fact the said house in Dubai cannot even buy a Duplex in Maitama if converted and sold. So what is the noise about?
The truth is that in Nigeria or Africa you can never satisfy any person. If you are poor people will talk. If you are rich people will talk. If you declare your assets people will talk. If you do not declare your assets people will talk. If you are short they will complain; and if you are tall they will complain. Haba!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The COAS has in many ways proved that he wants a transparent system and is solidly in support of the government’s anti corruption drive. He has indeed made history as the first Chief of Army Staff to order all army officers to declare their assets in the history of the Nigerian Army.
The continuous allusion that that General Buratai is involved in the Presidential Arms Probe scam when he was never indicted by the report of the Presidential Committee on the Audit of Defense Equipment released weeks back is a case of persecution and in bad taste.
Anyone that has details showing his culpability that others do not have need to supply such, as the burden of guilt lies on the accuser and the onus lies on people calling for the General’s head to prove their allegations. Otherwise it is tantamount to Defamation of character which is actionable in Court by the General if he so wishes.
The General having successfully dislodged Boko Haram and chased away militants from Arepo and other parts of Lagos,Ogun and Niger-Delta is now being made to face another war on the media space. What a Country?
We need certified proof of his culpability before we can accuse him of corrupt acts, else, the anti corruption drive will no more be a prosecution but a persecution of the innocent.
Ugochukwu Osuagwu, a Solicitor and Human Rights advocate writes from London