Archive for February 2012

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF IBORI’S $250M GRAFT GUILT   4 comments

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, pleaded guilty in a British court on February 27, 2012, to stealing $250 million of Nigerian state funds which he spent sordidly on luxury houses, cars and a private jet.

Ibori, the governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, admitted the money-laundering charges after a six-year chase by Britain’s Department for International Development which funds the London Metropolitan Police’s proceeds of corruption unit (POCU), which investigated the case.

Pending his sentencing on April 16 and 17, 2012, it suffices to examine how significant Ibori’s guilty plea is to Nigeria. The very first significance of it is that it will greatly rekindle nationwide and international calls for a more pragmatic and aggressive fight against corruption in Africa’s most populous nation. Indeed, the Ibori guilty plea comes at a time when popular discontent with corruption and waste in government circles is at an all-time high and tempers are flaring amidst rumours that the Jonathan administration, which has made very little headway against what is clearly Nigeria’s biggest problem, will go for full deregulation as from April 1, 2012, and further plunge the masses to more suffering whilst condoning the monsters and looters.

Secondly, it is interesting that Ibori had been exonerated of similar charges by a Nigerian court in 2009 after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a case against him in December 2007. This turn of events is therefore a fitting indictment of our judicial system which is quite guilty of corruption itself as the recent Salami/Katsina-Alu saga showed. It is a shame that Ibori pleaded guilty in a British court after a Nigerian court had declared him free. It is an indication that the judges who set Ibori free should themselves be put on trial for abetting corruption! The independence and integrity of the judiciary remains an indispensable prerequisite for a serious fight against corruption.

Also, on February 4, 2011, WikiLeaks documents stated that the Yar’Adua administration, with its Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa, had demanded that the United Kingdom dropped corruption charges against James Ibori. A diplomatic cable from the US embassy in London claimed that Aondoakaa attempted to blackmail British officials into abandoning the corruption case. It is not unthinkable that this actually happened because Ibori bankrolled the PDP’s 2007 presidential campaigns which produced Yar’Adua.

Another important significance of the Ibori guilty plea is that the British authorities began investigating Ibori in 2005 and didn’t give up until now whereas in Nigeria, charges are hastily dropped after corrupt politicians are rushed to the EFCC and their party and other bureaucratic barons intervene to stop cases against them. With that in mind, it won’t be too much to ask for the EFCC, in the interest of justice, to now revisit other graft cases against former politicians after Ibori’s eventual guilty plea. For instance, former governors Joshua Dariye (Plateau) and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa) are both still wanted in the UK for corruption. Perhaps, the EFCC should collaborate with foreign anti-crime agencies like the UK’s and check the past records of all our former office holders especially from 1999. There are many bigger Iboris in the system – some are even still in office as governors, senators, ministers and so on.

Furthermore, Ibori’s case has greatly exposed the weaknesses in the internal structure of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); a party which had maintained power at the centre since 1999 and also controls more than two-thirds of Nigeria’s states. For one, Ibori, a former convict, ought never to have become governor. The PDP’s selection process that allowed his candidature was heavily flawed as is the case till this day. Also, the PDP accepted a great deal of funds from Ibori for its 2007 presidential bid without properly investigating the source of his wealth. What’s more? Ibori was touted as a likely running mate to late President Yar’Adua in 2011! For a party that prides itself as Africa’s largest, vicious developments like these only go to confirm how corrupt it is.

On the whole, the Ibori $250m theft only goes to emphasise how much corruption is Nigeria’s greatest bane. For President Jonathan, who on October 14, 2011, naively argued that infrastructure, not corruption, was Nigeria’s biggest problem, he should be schooled as to how many rural roads, health centres and schools $250m can fetch!

GOD help Nigeria!

Posted February 28, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Corruption

FIX ASO ROCK’S WEBSITE – IT’S AN IMAGE-MAKER!   6 comments

I have issues with the West and especially with the United Kingdom and the United States, but honestly, you can’t take it from them at times. Have you ever visited the official website of the British Prime Minister’s residence at http://www.number10.gov.uk or that of the US Presidency at http://www.whitehouse.gov? These websites depict organisational brilliance and professional sublimeness at their consummate best! They are awe-inspiring fountains of knowledge on the histories and operations of these world-renown edifices. In fact, you could consider the websites museums of some sort!

Even our own African brother-giant, South Africa, also appreciates the importance of giving its presidency a befitting and eye-catching website. At http://www.thepresidency.gov.za, the South African presidency is officially treated to a website of the classic standard of the Western countries mentioned above. The Ghanaian presidency’s website, at http://www.presidency.gov.gh, is equally very organised and attractive.

By contrast, the official website of the Aso Rock Villa, the Nigerian President’s official residence at http://www.nigeriafirst.org is an utter disgrace, providing very little information, in text or photos, about the Villa itself or of past presidents/heads of state. In addition, pictures on this website are shaped improperly and information provided there is scarcely detailed and comprehensive. In fact, the computer graphics alone are no better than what obtains in some amateurish blogs! Added to that, it is an insult that in the information age, updates from the presidency’s official website are often behind time. Indeed, going by standard examples like the ones listed before it, the URL of that website itself doesn’t suggest any relationship with Nigeria’s presidency. Why not simply go with http://www.asorockvilla.gov.ng or a http://www.presidency.gov.ng?

Rather than spend billions of Naira each year refurbishing the furniture or the dome in the Aso Villa or ₦1billion on food, why not spend a negligible token to bring the Villa’s official website up to speed with a truly modern outlook? Indeed, rather than buy more aircraft to add to an already saturated presidential fleet, why not invest funds in things that add value to the State House and boost tourists’ and investors’ interest in the system the more? Moreover, rather than appoint political cronies of senior ruling party stalwarts or some other lacklustre or pseudo-professionals who evidently don’t possess the technical know-how to man this vital national image-making website, why not get the best brains in the land to do the job?

In addition, as is the practice in other climes worldwide including in those same countries mentioned above (@PresidencyZA, @PresidencyGhana, @KremlinRussia_E) @whitehouse @Number10gov etc), methinks it will be proper and professional for Aso Rock’s Twitter handle to be @AsoRockVilla for example, rather than the extant scenario where serving individuals use their personal handles for that purpose. This seemingly minute fact could go a long way to further institutionalise the Aso Rock Villa, in image, and in substance!

For President Goodluck Jonathan’s battalion of media aides viz. Reno Omokri for New Media, Doyin Okupe for Public Affairs and Reuben Abati for Media and Publicity (as if there’s any practical difference between the last two, by the way), my current postulations are tasks they would do well to attend to.

Present challenges notwithstanding, Nigeria remains a country with a great promise. Consequently, anything in this information age that can potentially and practically serve as a window to our government, especially the presidency, must be tailored to reflect that.

Raymond is on Twitter @Raymond_Eyo

Posted February 3, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Aso Villa