LAGOS lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to revisit the Okigbo Report on the 1991 Gulf War Oil Windfall to enable Nigerians know what happened to the $12 billion revenue earned by the country during the period.
He made the call yesterday in Abuja, at the on-going National Seminar on Economic Crimes which entered its second day.
Speaking in his capacity as the chairman, Chief Fawehinmi said EFCC owes Nigerians a duty to prevent the emergence of corrupt leadership in 2007, even as he pleaded for internal vigilance and external support to ensure that those who take power next year do not scrap the agency.
Chief Fawehinmi, also urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to work with EFCC to ensure that corrupt politicians are disqualified from contesting the Presidency in 2007.
His colleague, Mr. Femi Falana challenged President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare his assets publicly."It has to be understood by the government that corruption does not begin and end with offering or receiving bribe by public officers. If the Obasanjo regime wants to be taken seriously in the war against corruption, there has to be leadership by example".
Chief Fawehinmi, accused the Presidency and the National Assembly of deliberately frustrating the release of terms and conditions for public declaration of assets.
His words: "There is provision in the constitution for public declaration of assets, but the National Assembly has deliberately refused to make terms and conditions available over public declaration of assets. So, whenever you go to the Code of Conduct Bureau, they say you have access to assets declared, but the National Assembly has not made available the terms and conditions."It is a shame because they do this to prevent people from knowing what they do. I think the EFCC should prevail on them to make available, the terms and conditions. Corruption is the bane of our society. It is corruption that has made it impossible for Nigerians to enjoy the fruits of what God has given them.
There are constitutional provisions that those indicted of fraud should not rule. All sections of the constitution should be used by the EFCC in collaboration with INEC to disqualify dishonourable men who have looted the treasury of the country. We will never allow those who can upturn what has been done by the EFCC to take power", Fawehinmi vowed.
Pointing at President Obasanjo as the architect and midwife of the immunity clause in the 1979 constitution, the human rights crusader said :"It was Obasanjo unfortunately, who started with this immunity in 1979. I am happy that he now wants to fight it, and if he does not mind, he should remove Section 308 from the constitution before he leaves office".
Fawehinmi insisted that for those in governance to be seen to be seriously working against corrupt practices, their actions and conduct should be transparent enough to remove any doubts.He maintained that situations whereby certain public functionaries carry out their duties in suspicious manner, public cynicism against government will continue to pervade.
Falana said: "Those who are leading the anti-corruption crusade must be above board like Ceaser's wife.Falana berated the Obasanjo administration for allegedly adopting double standards in prosecuting the anti-graft war, equally faulting Obasanjo's plea of immunity when dragged before the law courts on issues of corruption.
Said he: "The president waived his immunity and appeared before the Oputa Commission in response to the petition of Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti on the violent destruction of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's residence by armed soldiers when General Obasanjo was the military Head of State. Paradoxically, the President is pleading immunity in the pending suit challenging the legal validity of the license issued by the Federal Government to the Bells University of Technology, Badagry".
While noting that President Obasanjo may have had the ICPC Act in mind when he cancelled the sale of government houses in Lagos to top government officials and relations of his late wife, Stella, the legal luminary urged him to lead by example with regards to his properties."The President should take similar action by allowing the federal government to confisticate the Presidential Library and the two private universities at Badagry and Yola without any further delay. "If that is not done now, those projects are going to be taken over by the government at the appropriate time. After all, it was the same Obasanjo regime that confisticated the Abacha Foundation and the Women Centre established by the Abacha junta," Falana noted.
He alleged that the fight against official corruption has been hampered by the lack of political will and the concept of executive immunity in Nigeria has been grossly abused to the extent that it has made a mockery of accountability in government, even as there are adequate provisions in the constitution for the removal of public officers covered by the immunity clause once they were proven to have engaged in corruption.
Describing arguments against the removal of the constitutional immunity clause as double standard, Falana contended that since those covered by the immunity can institute libel suits or secure the enforcement of their fundamental rights, "there can be no legal justification for preventing other persons from suing or maintaining civil proceedings against them while in office."The immunity conferred on the heads of government from responsibility for criminal offences including corruption committed by them while in office, has exposed the war against corruption to ridicule before the generality of Nigeria. "In spite of the success recorded so far in the anti-corruption crusade, the Transparency International[TI], has repeatedly labelled Nigeria to be in the miasma of corrupt practices. No doubt, corruption has assumed a frightening level in the country", he stressed.
He expressed dismay that contrary to the relevant provisions of the constitution and the Code of Conduct Act, the Code of Conduct Bureau failed to make public, the asset declaration forms submitted to it by public officers, a situation, he said, has made it impossible for citizens to exercise their constitutional duty of reporting non-compliance with, or breach of the provisions.
Falana said: "If the Obasanjo regime wants to be taken seriously in the war against corruption, there has to be leadership by example. In this regard, only Governor Umaru Yar' Adua of Katsina state has complied with the law by making a formal proclamation of his assets".
He condemned alleged ownership of private universities by President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, describing it as the worst case of abuse of office ever committed by government officials in recent timesAlso speaking at the occasion, Inspector General of police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, blamed the elite for the rising spate of financial crimes, who he said, use the websites and credit cards to commit fraud.
Ehindero, who was represented by the DIG in charge of 'A' Department, Alhaji Bello Labaran, identified perpetrators of these crimes and money laundering as organized business groups who have collaborators around the world.