Recovering stolen oil funds …. SUN

200397812-001

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/

The chances of Nigeria recover­ing stolen oil funds brightened recently as President Muham­madu Buhari disclosed that his administration had identified countries, banks and other financial institutions where payments for the stolen monies were deposited. The president, who spoke while receiving visiting United States (US) Congress­men in Abuja, acknowledged the sup­port and cooperation his administra­tion was getting from the international community in gathering intelligence required for the tracing and recovery of the stolen funds. This is a good step forward in the effort to recover stolen oil revenue and should be encouraged and sustained until the funds are re­covered.

During his recent US visit, Buhari urged President Barack Obama to as­sist Nigeria recover about $150 billion oil money looted and stashed abroad by Nigerian government officials. Obama reportedly graciously agreed to do this. It has also been reported that $6 billion was traced to the ac­count of an unnamed ex-minister.

While we welcome the moves by the Buhari administration to recover looted funds, we think the current piecemeal release of information on the matter is not in the nation’s best interest. The undue publicity given to the government’s early findings in the efforts to recover the funds is pre­mature. Such sensitive information would have been better kept secret until investigations are completed, the looted funds are traced to specific accounts and countries, and the gov­ernment is set to lay formal charges against specific suspects.

Already, Buhari’s statement that he would limit his probe to former president, Goodluck Jonathan’s ten­ure, appears not to be helpful to his anti-corruption crusade. That stance has been greeted with criticism, with some describing it as a witch-hunt.

President Buhari’s resolve to recov­er stolen oil funds is good, but the in­vestigation of the theft must be thor­ough, discreet and in accordance with due process. His administration must get unassailable facts and be ready to bring the culprits to justice before making a public show of its findings.

Making thinly-veiled accusations against unnamed officials of the im­mediate past administration sug­gests that they are guilty of certain offences, without providing any facts to support the insinuations. Govern­ment should beware of accusations by innuendoes, as they do not help the people’s faith in the anti-corrup­tion war. Suspected persons should be presumed innocent until facts are provided to the contrary. Our extant laws support this position, so we must strive to avoid media trial of suspects.

Our anti-graft agencies also tend to engage in this unfair imputation of guilt by the way they arrest suspects. Let the government and its agencies resist the urge to publicise their find­ings in corruption investigations until the entire process is completed and suspects are charged to court. Convic­tion of suspects can only be achieved through clinical investigations and diligent prosecution, not media blitz.

Since the government claims to know those who stole oil funds and where the money is located, it should employ the due process of the law to go after them and recover the loot. The public only needs to be apprised of the details of such thefts when the suspects are charged to court, and when the funds are eventually recov­ered.

In doing this, there should be no sa­cred cows. All those implicated in cor­ruption investigations must be prose­cuted, and the stolen funds recovered.

Corruption investigations should be all-encompassing and not discrimi­natory. They should not be done in a way to suggest that any particular person is a target of a witch-hunt, or that anyone is being shielded from in­vestigation.

Good enough, Buhari has given as­surance that the ongoing probes will be fair and non-discriminatory. We commend his efforts to recover stolen oil funds and urge the countries which have pledged to assist Nigeria in this regard to fulfill their promise.

 

1 Comment

  1. Pls don’t mislead us here why did,’t previous governments before PMB probe the ones before them,Buhari received GEJ handover note not others so he should carry on the probe simple.

Comments are closed.