The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has hailed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for arresting former Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos. He was reportedly on his way out of the country to Houston, Texas in the United States after handing over to his successor, Governor Charles Soludo. It was reported last November that the EFCC had placed Mr Obiano on a watchlist. The EFCC had requested the Nigeria Immigration Service to inform it anytime the Governor is travelling out of the country from any of the international airports, as well as other points of entry and exit.
In a release issued by the organization’s Director of Administration and Programmes Tola Oresanwo on behalf of its Chairman, Comrade Debo Adeniran, he noted, “Corruption allegations are weighty issues that must never be handled with kid’s gloves or trivialized at any rate, especially when it involves people we have placed in trust of our commonwealth, for administrative, economic and security of lives and properties of the citizenry. If you look at this particular matter that involves Mr. Willie Obiano, you will notice that he had been under EFCC watchlist for some time and it was not a surprise to hear that immediately after the swearing in of the new governor, he made his way towards the Airport with a view to jet out of the country.”
“We would like to commend the EFCC for this intuitive action carried out to prevent the Ex-Governor from evading justice as we believe this singular action will deter others with transient immunity from committing or engaging in corruption while in office knowing fully well that they shall be called upon to give account of their stewardship whenever their tenure expires”.
“Without prejudice to the investigation and prosecution that will eventually follow this episode, CACOL wishes to reiterate the popular adage within legal circle that, ‘he who comes to equity must come with clean hands’, we expect the EFCC not to leave any stone unturned in couching charges against the former governor since it is presumed that his investigation would have been concluded before the end of his tenure. The least we expect is that since he cannot be charged this weekend, we expect that first thing Monday morning he would find himself face to face with the law and we expect EFCC to expedite action in ensuring that there is diligent prosecution with a view to getting an adequate penalty on conviction.”
“If tracking and averting corruption is usually better than detecting and applying necessary sanction as a deterrent, anywhere in the world, the situation is actually truer here; this is why we have appealed to the federal government to set up special courts for trial of Corruption cases, especially the ones involving Government officials, strengthening of existing laws towards ensuring that no corrupt official gets away with looting or misapplication of our collective wealth, under any technicalities or manipulations”.
The CACOL Boss added “based on all our past experiences, only very few governors have been exonerated or have come out without corruption baggages after their tenure of office. On this note, we believe that it is not out of place to presume any outgoing governor corrupt until he is able to prove otherwise, without prejudice to all evidence and witnesses that EFCC could have gathered against him before he was arrested”.
“We would also suggest that anti-corruption agencies should set up a full-fledged investigative unit that would oversee the activities of all elected officials that are enjoying immunity while their tenure lasts and this includes President, Vice President and their families, Governors, deputy governors and their families etc. There should be a particular unit that will follow up every step they take that involves expenditure. That would help them to make prompt arrest and quick prosecution of such officials when their tenure lapses.”
“It is therefore incumbent on the anti-graft agencies to intensify their commendable efforts in tracking, investigation, arraignment and effective prosecution of all corrupt officials to avert a situation whereby the court would be left with no other choice than to order the release of a known corrupt public official for lack of diligent prosecution or perpetual detention without trial”.