The Ijaws: A nation in distress (1)
OF late, two Ijaws citizens have come under the light of the agents charged with corruption: Mrs. Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, and Chief D. S. P Alamieyesiegha. One was arrested in London plushest address at No.1 Park Lane; another one was being sought out by the British police to answer charges of money laundering.
This piece in no way condones alleged corrupt practices and no one should read it as such. For the benefit of doubt, Mrs. Deziani Allison-Madueke was charged with corruption; the NNPC over which she presided was the Sodom and Gomorrah of corruption and the stories about how allegedly corrupt NNPC was, is a legion.
As for Governor DSP Alamieyesiegha, he ran away from Nigeria to undergo a tummy tuck operation in Germany. When the warrant for his arrest was issued in Dubai, he ran to London where he was thoroughly watched by the secret services of Britain. He left London, according to some sources, with the active connivance of the British authorities, for Cote de Ivorie en route to Nigeria. On arrival to Nigeria, he was promptly arrested by EFCC. But he spent several months in the hospital in Lagos and Abuja before he was released.
A couple of years later, he was pardoned by President Goodluck Jonathan. About a fourth night ago he was said to be wanted by the British authorities for money laundering. He has not been enjoying good health, although the incessant and unrelenting pursuit by the British and other authorities could not have improved his health. He died soon after.
Let’s go back to the antecedent of Alamieyesiegha’s impeachment. A good precedent in law is that, although an enthusiastic officer may pursue a case with all due diligence, he may not do so while breaking the law. Alamieyesiegha’s impeachment was a travesty of the Nigerian constitution. He may have been a thief but the law demands proof in a proper court by the prosecution that the culprit is indeed guilty. The impeachment provision in our constitution is antithetical to that very constitution which guarantees to every individual the right of justice. Mr. DSP Alamieyesiegha was dragooned into impeachment by overzealous EFCC members, on the order of higher authorities.
There are 24 members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. The EFCC simply picked up all of them and asked them to account for the one billion Naira constituency project they signed for, they were all locked up at 15 Awolowo road and asked to sign a declaration condemning the government or explain a one billion naira constituency project each received in their states.
This declaration formed the basis of the impeachment, which lasted eight hours from when they returned, to Yenagoa in Bayelsa. The House formed a committee to impeach, asked the Chief Judge to draw up charges and set up an impeachment tribunal which reported to the Chief Judge who rubber stamped this Kangaroo court.
Our constitution although is a legal document, is written in simple English which could be understood even by the near illiterate. Can impeachment proceed if it does ask for a committee to draw up the charges, it does ask for the intervention of the chief judge but it further asks, as is normal in other cases, for the accused to be informed of the charges against him on both occasions and more importantly that the accused must be given a right of reply within 21days after the charges preferred against him have been published.
None of this was done in Bayelsa. Mr. Goodluck was the Deputy Governor and he saw all these illegalities yet he accepted them so that he may be Governor. When he became President he attempted to right a palpable wrong. He granted Governor Alamieyesiegha a pardon. The impeachment of Alamieyesiegha took all of seven hours from when the assembly men came back to Bayelsa. Does this mean that the Governor was not corrupt? Not at all.
But it does mean that our Law enforcement agencies cannot in the pursuit of a particular case commit a plethora of offences and get away with them. Most Nigerians have a simplistic view of matters such as this: but the man was corrupt etc. he should be in jail. Should this be the case then for all the Governors, Presidents, Vice Presidents we have ever had; should they on then say so of Nigerians be in jail.
The case against Alamieyesiegha wasn’t proved and can never be proved since he is now dead. Many people would be puzzled as to my stand in this issue clearly; they would say Alamieyesiegha was guilty of corruption. Why waste government’s time and money to prove the clear evidence? You do it because it’s the basis of Democracy – a man is free, innocent until proven guilty. Alamieyesiegha was one of 36 thriving governors, one of thousands thieving politicians; his death in no way reduces the culpability of the others.
Alamieyesiegha was hounded to death because he was a minority. Diezani’s case is more difficult to defend because so far, it is going according to Law. Many Ijaws have complained about her implacable hatred of her fellow ethnic comperes; that her shadow fell far away from the Ijaws: her favour went to many non-Ijaws all of whom are lining up to put bigger nails on her coffin. I am on record of saying that the job was too big for her, just as Jonathan’s job, turned out to be big for him. She inherited a broken NNPC, totally unfit for purpose.
She had no one to advise her on what to do; those who advised her became instant enemies. She worked in a kleptocracy and there was no cause for her to distinguish herself in that group except maybe excel in their peculiar calling. Her appointment confirms a simple fact – the International Oil Companies (IOC) are inherently in an antagonist relationship with NNPC. This is not that bad but one cannot keep going to those one regulates to pick the head of NNPC. Her knowledge of the business was skimpy but does she deserve her present treatment?
To answer such question, we have to delve into history. Oil which though no more than 10% of GDP produces over 90% of funds for the Federal Government which then divides the proceeds among the 36 states. The governors of the nine oil producing states are the super stars of Committee of Governors (COGs).
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Dr. (Ambassador) Cole, OFR, writes from Lagos.
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