There is a higher standard called Appearance of Impropriety that decent men and women adhere to before clinging unto Due Process. Of all the countries in the world, Nigeria has now championed due process for the rich, the looters and men born by the goddess. I do not think this sudden discovery of due process can fool anyone. The family of Pinochet in Chile and Fujimori of Peru would love our Attorney General self serving stand.
We are caught up with intellectual diarrhea while people in need of stolen resources are starving to death. You know, they know and I know the truth, but you have to prove it. After all, there are three sides to a story: your side, my side and the truth. Affirmative defenses can bury the merit of a case in court, a bonanza for lawyers. So if you desire justice, go to heaven! But Nigeria can not wait until everyone is probed, so get on with it.
This is not the case where all decent people will be accused and we will not have anyone to govern. Are we so short of men and women of high caliber that the Country will be so bereft? We have honest people in Nigeria, in our cities and villages but will never smell power until there is a revolution. If we want to avoid revolutions witnessed in many countries, trustees with appearance of impropriety must stand down before due process.
Distinguished men and women have taken sides and those who are helpless or restrained are signaling for help from overseas agents to come and deliver us from ourselves. We ask for foreign soccer couch mainly to be resistant to bribe and ethnic preference.
We ask for London police to probe Funso Williams’ death in order to be miraculously objective. We call on South Africa for GSM. These same Nigerians are miraculous workers in other lands against all odds. They vary from the space engineers to Mac Dee specialists.
Sometimes some of us have to hide our face in shame when we hear Agbakoba, Fasheun, Aondoakaa, and now the Delta Government asked for restrain either from the courts or the intelligentsias. These are respectable men whose stands confuse their constituencies. These are men who should be demanding decency in the polity, calling on those who have been accused of any impropriety that appears to soil the office they hold to clear their name first before stepping back into the position of trust.
Many of us may have lost our bet on this see-no-evil Government because we had hoped it would succeed in its fight against corruption: our number one enemy, as terrorism is in other countries. It gets more complicated when we become helpless, faking fights and problems instead of concerted effort to reduce the double headed evil in our midst. We are on fire in this house but we are fighting over who started fire before putting it out.
Africa, we can not rid ourselves of a cancer that infected our right hand? Selfishness has eaten up our guts. Either one person gets his way or the whole Country perishes. We are never short of ethnic champions crying out for their kin but we have made progress since most looters can not hide among their same kin anymore.
The men on the street quote my favorite: Saro say “na poor I poor, no be craze I craze”. No amount of logic, lawyers and public relation officers can fool us that Nigeria is not endemic with corruption as its worldly known. There are saints still in Nigeria but they are hard to find and most of them do not go near politics.
We beg foreign countries to take our loot at the risked of being detained with heavy legal and penalty payments. They humiliate us and complain about how we squander foreign aids given to us, actually a fraction of what they take from us in dubious loan penalties plus interest. That does not include royalties and taxes from our exploited resources.
We like to compare ourselves to how cases are handled in the civilized world or how they behave there. Those of us who have not been there have heard enough to conclude that if Nigeria does not grab a higher standard, it will sink. There are many instances in the so called civilized world where men who have stolen people’s money from the stock market were dragged to court in chains in the full view of television. Lobbyists have been jailed.
Where should we start? From the Watergate scandal of President Nixon where Attorney General John Mitchell was jailed or in his first term when Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign? In the Carter Administration, Bert Lance, Budget Director faced the music.
Yielding to the appearance of impropriety, Raymond Sullivan, President Reagan Labor Secretary resigned, and then asked where he was going to get back his reputation after he was freed in court. His Attorney General Edwin Meese III resigned in the face of impropriety for helping a company he owned stocks in.
Most of President Clinton friends that were dragged to jail resulted in nothing against the Clintons except graphic salacious sexual details. Recently, baby Bush Attorney General Gonzalez resigned over appearance of impropriety for firing prosecutors who would not carry out political agenda. These are painful sacrifices, no doubt.
But there is nothing as painful as corruption is to Nigeria as is terrorism to others. Political house cleaning can be dragged out with due process in court while exalted positions are spared. Immunity in Nigeria is an invitation to loot.
In the cash for honor scandal in Britain, the Prime Minister Tony Blair could have resigned if he was cautioned when interviewed twice by police. His campaign manager Lord Michael Levy and three others were arrested and questioned about possible offenses related to the sale of peerages and concealment of party donations.
But for some reasons, looting governors or head of police in Nigeria can not be disgraced even when we know the reason for going into politics in Nigeria is to loot the treasury. So it is fair to ask where Nigeria got to be the champion of due process amongst hardened kleptomaniacs.
Attorney General excuses and reasons for the defense of men and women of shady characters must stop. Most of us waiting for all the crooks to be apprehended in one swoop by one agency and one government are procrastinating and praying for our own turn.
No matter which party is in power, which agency is in charge, the fear of looting must be consistent. As it is right now, it is business as usual. There is a reprieve from Lagos to Sokoto among former Governors.
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Osondu Onoh Maryland,20910, USA October 16, 2007
We are discussing two issues absolutely different from each other. We are talking about impropriety which includes moral or inappropriate behaviours for public officers, and due process which is the basic rule that marks the framework for any official procedure in every democratic nation.
In my humble opinion, the issue about impropriety does not call for debate in a democratic and secular state like Nigeria, USA, UK and others. First of all, appearance of impropriety as fundamental to achieving respect for the rule of law and due process is like asking a Christian to swear an oath with a Koran.
What we demand from our public officials are fairness, strict adherence to laid down procedures and respect for our constitutional rights to freedom and justice. It would be insane to demand that a public officer anywhere in the world be perfect and distance away from any act of impurity.
As human beings we are bound to make mistakes however, mistakes are corrected accordingly in a democratic society. People pay high prices for their mistakes, errors or crimes. Some pay moral prices, some pay economic prices and other jail and more severe punishments.
The personal virtues and defects of any public officer are principally accessed, given consideration and recognition according to the situation that presents at the time. If there is a deviation from due process and strict adherence to the rule of law ignored, we tend to compile the sins of that individual including his personal relationships with his wife and family, while in the event of a smooth flow of political and economic decisions, nobody seems to care about “Ali Must Go”, and what it represents in our Nigerian society. You know what I am talking about.
Is it possible that only the high and mighty in the society can benefit from the respect for the rule of law and due process? My answer is no. It is difficult for an administration that campaigns and demands for the rule of law to prevail in every aspect of our society to show disregard to a judges ruling or order in a case involving ordinary individual in Nigeria.
It is difficult to abuse a public office and individual rights when due process is observed and literally followed. That would amount to hypocrisy and will be visibly detected, and informed. We will then have a course to fight the appropriate authority. We can now challenge whoever is involved with legal actions and protests.
However, it is imperative for us to embrace this initiative that will trap the high and mighty, and compel them to strict observance of the rule of law and due process in our democratic society.
Laws are made that men should feel safe and be shielded under it.
Generally, it is the duty of the accuser to provide evidence that will condemn the accused, and the accused has the obligation to provide evidence that can exonerate him/her from any wrong doing. Common sense tells us that we must respect every claim of innocence until found guilty. No one can be the law, the judge and the executioner.
What we have witnessed in the recent past is that the EFCC had shown disregard to the rights of every citizen of this country to free trial and consequently unleashed a dictatorial procedure in their fight for justice and corrupt free Nigeria.
What justice where they fighting for when innocent ordinary Nigerians are detained without trial for years until “OGA” (the boss) decides to show mercy and let them go, go free.
Of course many rich and influential men and women in the country will benefit from it (the rule of law), because they are the ones who can afford the cost of long and strenuous judicial process. It is the same in the USA and other parts of the world where the rule of law is supreme. When you have a good and high profiled lawyer; you walk into the court an accused person and in most cases, walk out a free man or woman.
Believe me, Pinochets family would be uncomfortable with our AGF and Nigerian society in general for the simple reason that they cannot be so sure in what direction the wind of their entire fate will blow tomorrow. Remember Charles Taylor and his journey through Nigeria.
Aberto Fujimori went through the thorn full process of justice in Chile before he was eventually extradited to Peru to face trial for his crimes against humanity and corruption.
He was not arrested and dumped in jail until he becomes desperate for freedom and is compelled to confess to a sin he did not commit. That would amount to torture and should not be condoned in any civilised world.
Nigeria is not the most corrupt country in the world anyway, so, comparing corruption to terrorism is absolutely mischievous and farther from the truth. We are not in a state of emergency because of corruption. Corruption cannot be eradicated by means of force and jail time for offenders only; we should also consider education as a viable means of getting to the last ranking man in the Nigerian corruption syndicate, the bribe givers.
Corruption is everywhere in Nigeria. Believe me, if AIG Ribadu were in the USA, he would be languishing in jail for abuse of office. It is corruption to illegally arrest members of a state parliament, intimidate and blackmail them with prison time, release them to go and impeach a democratically elected state governor, and no one dare demand explanation from him. Where was Gani? Where was Femi Falana?
Of course many mighty and high will walk with impunity because of the technicalities in law everywhere in the modern world. Our fundamental human right prevails over any fight or intention to fight any type of crime in the world. Because the worst crime is a crime against humanity and the right to be respected as a human being, due process has to be strictly observed before a person’s right can be violated.
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi was investigated for corruption and special treatment and favour to his private company. He was never arrested and paraded before the public without evidence linking him to those accusations.
US attorney general Alberto Gonzalez resigned from his job amidst allegations that he wrongfully removed federal attorneys opposed to his work methods. AIG Ribadu is walking with impunity and of course, shameless after accusing several Nigerians of corruption without evidence let a lone bringing them to trial before a competent court of law.
If every Nigerian knows his/her rights as a citizen, it will be difficult for any abuse on anyone to go impugn. If due process is inscribed in our daily activities, it will be difficult for any abuse of office to go unchecked. If we respect the rule of law, the burden will be on the judges to deliver justice with fairness. If every Nigerian feels respected and appreciated, no one will be complicit to corruption and other criminal acts.
There are more severe consequences for rejecting respect for the rule of law and due process than we can have in corrupt nation. Nigerian officials are not kleptomaniacs, they are white collar criminals. Kleptomaniacs are sick and easily detectible criminals while white collar criminals and more dangerously concealed, shielded and acknowledged in the society thereby, making it difficult to engage in a forceful and brutal way. They are real five star thieves, and that’s what demands for a more innocuous strategy to confront, trap and bring them to justice.
Nigerians should not question the resolve of this administration to fight corruption. We should not despair because we no longer read propagandistic headlines about corruption on our daily news.
The rule of law is more frightening to looters than the arrest and detention of looters whose bail and release will be subsequently negotiated by the next of kin to Ribadu (or whoever is concerned) and, end of the story.
The rule of law scares people who have leaved outside the law all their lives. The rule of law impedes arrogance and power drunkenness in every level of government in every society.
Due process and rule of law is not questionable or debateable in a civilised society.
OMOTAYO, J. A. Lagos, NIGERIA October 16, 2007
An iron ore lodged underground by nature does not suddenly become steel because people are in dare need. It follows a process: excavation, washing, melting, addition of carbon, and cooling. Each of sub-systems involved are governed by scientific laws. No one disregards these scientific laws in steel making process, even where improvised local methods or the convensional approaches are involved.
Similarly, fighting corruption must also follow a process: investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing. These sub-systems here are governed by "rule of law" just like the scientific laws in the foregoing illustration. We cannot jump "rule of law" in the fight against corruption, unless we have started another authoritarian war.
I do not like to see the looters of the economy walk free. It annoys me. If a revolution wipes off all these looters today just like the Russian revolution, Chinese revolution, French revolution, etc, I am okay. Revolution delivers instant justice whereas democracy does it gradually. But a revolution does no go hand in hand with democracy.
Rather democracy goes hand in hand with rule of law. Since Nigerians have accepted democracy, we must bear the pain of the slow process associated with the corruption war.
In view of the foregoing, the AGF is not at fault. He should be commended for adhering to "rule of law".
God bless Nigeria
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