A judgement passed by a Federal High Court in Abuja in a case between the federal government and former First Lady Patience Jonathan deflated the high spirit of the anti-corruption agency in recovering $5.8 million and N3.5 billion stashed in 16 accounts associated with the former president’s wife.
In the judgement on Tuesday, November 5, 2017, Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that the accounts be unfrozen because the monies involved belong to a charity organisation, not Patience Jonathan.
The loss of the case against the flamboyant First Lady adds to the frustrations suffered by the EFCC in its efforts to recover funds looted from the treasury by politically-exposed persons over the years. In the last two years, 14 such cases have been lost at various courts in the country, while 44 such cases have been hibernating at various stages in the judiciary for about a decade.
Some other corruption cases lost by the anti-graft agency in recent times include those against Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Joe Agi; Grant Samuel, a businessman; Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a lawyer and activist; Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State; Raymond Omatseye, a former Director-General of NIMASA; and one against Alhaji Illiyasu Goje, a former local council boss in Taraba State.
Others include those against Mr Ebi Odeigah; Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; former Governor of Bayelsa State Timipre Sylva; Francis Atuche; former Head of Service, Steve Oronsaye; and Mrs Moji Yakudu, a Lagos-based businesswoman and eight others. In each of them judges claimed the EFCC could not prove its cases with adequate evidence.
Furthermore, data obtained from the anti-corruption agency’s website show that it has suffered from prolonged and inconclusive cases of politically exposed persons (PEPs) being prosecuted over corruption charges in various courts across the country. There are as many as 44 cases in this category, many of which have lingered for about a decade without being decided by judges.
They include that of a former Governor of Gombe State Danjuma Goje, which is still on-going at a Federal High Court, Gombe since 2011. He is facing trial for corrupt practices while he was governor.
Jolly Nyame, a former Governor of Taraba was taken to court in 2007 and docked at an FCT High court on 41 charges of criminal misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and criminal breach of trust as state governor. The case is on-going at the stage of trial within trial.
Joshua Dariye, who was a former Governor of Plateau State, has been standing trial on a 23-count charge of criminal misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, and criminal breach of trust. He was charged since 2007. The trial was to commence in January 2016, after the loss of interlocutory appeal at the Supreme Court by the defence, and return of the presiding judge from election petitions tribunal.
Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, a former Governor of Abia State, was also charged in 2007 over money laundering at a Federal High Court in Abuja. The case is still pending at the Supreme Court for determination on interlocutory appeal by the defence. Also, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, a former governor of Jigawa state, was charged in 2007 at a Federal High Court in Dutse. The trial is on-going.
The on-going case of Murtala Nyako, a former Governor of Adamawa State, was started in 2015 on charges of money laundering at a Federal High Court in Abuja. It is yet to be concluded. Alhaji Sule Lamido, a former of Jigawa State, is also facing charges of corruption and money laundering in an on-going case at a Federal High Court in Abuja. He was charged in 2015.
Otunba Alao Akala, a former Governor of Oyo State, is facing money laundering and corruption charges since 2011 at a High Court in Ibadan. The trial is yet to commence, as the case is on interlocutory appeal at the Supreme Court. Another former governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja, was charged in 2008 at a Federal High Court in Lagos. His case is on interlocutory appeal at the Supreme Court.
Mr Chimaroke Nnamani, a former Governor of Enugu State, also charged on corrupt practices while governor. The trial is on-going. Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a former Governor of Ogun State, was charged in 2011 at a High Court in Ogun State. The trial is said to be on-going. Aliyu Akwe Doma, a former Governor of Nassarawa State, was charged in 2011 over corruption at a Federal High court in Lagos. His trial is on-going. Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State is facing trial for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds while he was Sokoto State governor. It is still on-going at a High Court in Sokoto State. The trial of another former Governor of Nassarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu, charged in 2010 at a Federal High Court in Lafia is yet to commence as the case is on interlocutory appeal. In 2012, over 10 cases involving oil subsidy scams were taken to court and they are at different levels of trial at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
However, the EFCC achieved 126 convictions in various courts in 2016, and 103 in 2015. Although, it has been observed that the convictions involved low level grafts, an analysis of the convictions showed a high rate for suspects charged over obtaining by false pretence. In 2015, alone about 46 persons were convicted over charges that border on obtaining money by false pretence while 10 were convicted over charges of conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.
Eight persons were convicted for cheating, eleven convictions for stealing and one conviction for money laundering. The other convictions were those involving offences like forgery, fake documents, issuance of dudd cheques, illegal dealings in oil pipeline, illegal possession of documents and illegal dealing in oil products among others.
The EFCC has also recovered over N434.7billion between January and August this year, its acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu said during a meeting with journalists recently in Abuja. A breakdown shows that N409, 270,706,686.75; $69,501,156.67 (USD); £231,118.69 (British pounds); €610,816.20 (Euros); 443,400.00 (UAE Dirham) and 70, 500.00 (Saudi Riyals), making a total of N434.7bn recovered in both naira and foreign currencies.
Magu said, “we got the court to forfeit to the Nigerian Government a sum of N7.6billion which was hidden in a Nigerian bank by former petroleum resources minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. Earlier, another court issued a temporary forfeiture order to seize property worth $21,392,224 belonging to the same former minister. Those properties are awaiting final forfeiture. He said the commission recovered some N329 billion from a group of oil marketers for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Professor Itse Sagay, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in its annual report for August and July 2017, said it has drafted a bill for the establishment of Special Crimes Court which would be vested with the responsibility of trying corruption cases to a logical conclusion and speedily. Sagay said the special court should focus on offences which threaten stability of the nation such as terrorism, economic and financial crimes, money laundering, narcotic and drugs trafficking, kidnapping, corruption and cybercrimes.
The United Nations (UN) position on corruption and development as stated in the UN anti-corruption convention seeks to provide a universal legal anti-corruption instrument. The UN in its campaign, United Against Corruption, said, corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic development. It said every year $1 trillion is paid as bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion is stolen annually through corruption. It states that corruption has a negative impact on countries because it facilitates under-development.
The UN fact-sheet on the campaign against corruption in 2017 says, “Corruption stifles economic growth, undermines the rule of law, and squanders talent and precious resources. Where corruption is rife, companies are reluctant to invest as the costs of doing business are significantly higher. In corrupt countries which are rich in natural resources, the population often does not benefit from this wealth. Corruption also weakens safety and security structures such as the police service. Ultimately, corruption prevents people, countries and businesses from fulfilling their potentials.”
These lines summarises Nigeria’s predicaments, so the system needs to be overhauled to effectively checkmate corruption.