Jonathan’s Order on Stolen Assets Abroad

It is re-assuring to note that the President Goodluck Jonathan Administration is standing up to the fight against money laundering and sundry other forms of graft in the country. The recent repatriation of almost twenty-three million pounds sterling laundered and stashed away in the Island of New Jersey, by some criminally-minded people, is a boost in such a fight against high profile theft of public funds. Evidently, the further empowerment of anti-graft agencies namely, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), by the recent signing into law of the 2011 Money Laundering Prohibition Act and the Evidence Amendment Act 2011, has facilitated and fast-track the recovery of stolen funds from the national treasury.
And surely, the charge by Mr. President to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, and the boss of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, to collaborate effectively to recover other laundered monies still kept away in safe havens abroad should raise the tempo of the anti-corruption campaign of the Jonathan Government to a crescendo. Unarguably, the single most devastating indictment of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the civil regime it enthroned since 1999 is that it unscrupulously fostered the conditions for graft and allowed corruption in the public and even in the private domains to spiral out of control; with devastating consequences for infrastructural development and public service delivery. Also, unarguably, graft and money laundering are inimical to transformative socio-economic development and growth; as such practices deplete public treasury and deprive the country of the much needed scarce financial resources for massive development of infrastructure which drive job creation as well as industrial and technical progress.
Predictably, President Jonathan did not mince words, in his address to the 8th National Seminar on Economic Crime, last week, at the EFCC Training and Research Institute in Abuja; stating unequivocally that all the nation’s stolen and laundered funds stashed away anywhere in the world must be recovered and brought back home to rebuild the economy and to create jobs and adequate opportunities for the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That, in my view, is good executive order and pronouncement. And the fact that the effort to recover stolen public money has started yielding fruitful results is indicative of the commitment of the dispensation to battle corruption, make it expensive and unattractive, and redirect resources to transformative growth and development.
In all of this, however, two crucial areas in the fight against graft, remain unattended: The need to aggregate the total sum of all monies recovered so far, periodically, and earmark visible public projects to utilize the recovered fund on for public benefit; the need to publicize the individuals or groups involved in the theft or laundering activity and to bring them promptly to justice.
Needless to say, no useful public purpose is served if recovered laundered fund is secretly appropriated or shared amongst the states, to end up being stolen again by more clever and crafty politicians and contractors or not accounted for altogether. Recovered stolen public fund should be properly accounted for and judiciously spent on concrete public projects that would add value to the lives of Nigerians. As we speak, the recovered Abacha loot is the only one, to the best of my knowledge, that is frequently publicly mentioned, but no public project can be pointed to as evidence that it has been judiciously appropriated for public welfare. Other cases of recovered stolen public money are just mentioned glibly by the authorities; most of them recovered half-heartedly through plea bargaining, and in circumstances that are dubious and suspect.
In my view, recovered stolen public money should be adequately publicized and appropriated for visible public projects that could be identified by everybody, and the penalty for offenders of the anti-graft law should be severe, having been publicly tried in a properly constituted court and promptly brought to justice. It is when penalties for offences are properly meted out and are deemed to be proportionate to transgressions that justice is served. Only thus could would-be offenders of anti-graft laws be effectively deterred; and public funds would be a-no-go area for political thieves and contractors with itching palms; and public funds could then be judiciously used to provide basic infrastructure that serves the needs of every member of society.
And such infrastructure as good network of roads, efficient rail transportation system, regular uninterrupted electricity supply to power industries and for domestic uses, and clean portable drinking water; will spell a return of our cities to bucolic splendor, and Nigerians from backwardness to prosperity.




© Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved. Prof. Jim Unah. >By Wolab Resources