Updated: February 26, 2021
Nigerian activists on Sunday urged the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to dump a list of mega looters it released on Friday, saying that it was “clumsy, arbitrary and selective”.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said the list seems “to serve a political objective or carry out political agenda.”
“This kind of action can only diminish the government’s ability to fight corruption, frustrate its oft-expressed goal of a transparent governance, allow suspected perpetrators—whether from the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP)–to escape justice, and ultimately, deny victims of corruption justice and effective remedies,” the organization said.
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Background: The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had on Friday released a list of some of those who have allegedly looted the nation’s treasury. The names in the list revealed were mostly opposition PDP chieftains who are currently being tried for corruption and financial crimes.
SERAP in a statement by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said “the authorities should withdraw the looters’ list and come up with a comprehensive list as ordered by Justice Hadiza Shagari last year.”
“Allowing the published looters’ list to stand will undermine the credibility of the government’s claim to fight corruption, and signal to Nigerians that it is not serious to satisfactorily address the allegations of grand corruption under the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan and involving those close to this government.”
According to the organization, “If Buhari is truly interested in vindicating the rule of law and the proper administration of justice, his government will do well to genuinely obey Justice Shagari’s judgment ordering the authorities to ‘tell Nigerians the full names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present.’ Few things would go farther in fostering and nurturing our system of constitutionalism, democracy, and the rule of law.”
The statement read in part: “This politicized list comes at a time when the government is promoting itself as a beacon of transparency and accountability, and a model for other African countries to follow. The authorities ought to have resisted the temptation to put out this shambolic list and instead obeyed the spirit and the letter of Justice Shagari judgment. What is at stake is not just the rule of law, but also the larger question of whether the government is really serious to fight grand corruption and combat the impunity of perpetrators, regardless of who is involved.”
“The government cannot pick and choose which judgments it wants to obey even though the judgments at times may be highly unsettling. The judgment ought to have been fully obeyed and implemented even if the government would step on toes and make some politicians—whether in APC or PDP–uncomfortable.”
“For the government to impose this list on Nigerians, which would seem to serve as an expedient means to an end that disregard the orders by Justice Shagari is more than a violation of law; it is a breach of trust with the Nigerian people. If disobedience of court orders becomes the norm, the ship of government would become anchorless and adrift in a sea of treacherous uncertainty that could lead to a beachhead on the land of tyranny.”
“If Buhari is to renew his commitment to fight corruption regardless of whether it involves politicians from his own party and the opposition, something more than a propaganda list and hypocritical conduct is needed to restore citizens’ confidence in the ability of his government to deliver on good governance. That something more is a restoration of the rule of law.”
“Our courts, interpreting our Constitution and legislation, stand as the living symbol of the rule of law. But persistent disobedience of court orders by this government has magnified its lack of respect for the rule of law. Persistent disobedience of court orders is profoundly, dangerously wrong, and a distortion of democratic principles, and ultimately, an assault on the very concept of the rule of law and judicial integrity.”
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abukabar Malami had last year disclosed President Buhari’s directive to all relevant agencies to compile documents on names of all looters with a view to fully enforcing the judgment of a Federal High Court ordering the government to release to Nigerians information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered.”
The judgment delivered in July last year by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016brought by SERAP ordered the government to tell Nigerians the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official. Mr Malami made the disclosure during a meeting at his office with a delegation from SERAP in October last year.