President Muhammadu Buhari’s attempt to clear his allies, without any investigation, of corruption allegations being levelled against them is “curious”, “contradictory” and “uncalled for” to his anti-corruption stance, Nigeria’s anti-corruption group said on Friday, wondering if the President was still committed to his per-electoral promises.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, said “words are not enough”, adding that “the President’s defence contradicts all the petitions sent by CACOL and other civil society organizations (CSO) to the anti-corruption agencies and the President regarding corruption issues which indicted some of the Cabinet members”.
It also contradicts, the activists added, “the anti-corruption war his administration appears to be fighting so vigorously”.
President Buhari this week in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, told Nigerians bluntly to stop accusing and finger-pointing at his Ministers and other top government officials accused of corruption without evidence.
Mr. Buhari said Nigerians should ignore “orchestrated attempts” to discredit his administration.
But, the Executive Chairman of CACOL said in a statement to TheSimonAtebaNews that “the President’s take rather than kill the suspicions of the majority has only exacerbated them”.
“When the first line of defense of an indicted, suspected or accused person or group tows, is the line of ‘provide proof/evidence’ without attempting to smash the allegations via transparency and accountability beyond reasonable doubts which is an easier and less labourious option, then ‘aspersions’ and ‘conspiracy theories’ will continue to fly.”
He said the President’s position is throwing up the old question of whom the onus of proof should lie upon between an accused and an accuser.
“But in spite of our recognising that there may be frivolous accusations which could be the basis for the President’s opinion, we still feel every accusation should be treated as ‘possible truth’ until it’s 100% proved to be baseless. There can be no half-measures if we desire to kill corruption in our country, Nigerians can no longer take the words of public officials as credible given the past and present experiences they have been and still being made to sadly go through.”
“Consequently, we believe the onus of proof should lie on the accused particularly where it concerns public officials like Ministers. We advise that the President should not to vouch for any public official as he is not competent to do so. Even the President came to a realization that frustrated him to admit publicly that the Judiciary sector is a headache in the anti-corruption war and predicated his claim on corrupt tendencies in the sector! Added to this is that the President has had to relieve some public officials of their positions based on suspected or actual sharp practices.”
“It is therefore uncalled for and contradictory for the President to ‘blanketly’ award the badge of inculpability in corrupt practices on his Cabinet members. Accused public officials should lawfully clear themselves of allegations that are not true. And knowing that within the ambit of our laws, there are provisions for punitive for persons who make frivolous allegations should be enough to not wield extra-constitutional powers to gag Nigerians,” Mr. Adeniran argued.