Civil Society groups working on anti-corruption and good governance in Nigeria have strongly criticised the federal government for dropping the N100 billion corruption charge against Mohammed Abacha, son of late head of state, Sani Abacha.
The Attorney General of the Federation, AGF and minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, said on Wednesday that the federal government had withdrawn the corruption charges filed against the Abacha family accused of receiving stolen property worth N100.38 billion.
The money is believed to have been stolen by the late head of state during his tenure from 1993 to 1998 and the office of the AGF had on behalf of the government filed a nine-count charge against Mohammed during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
The coalition of civil society groups, under the umbrella of the Zero Corruption Coalition, said the manners in which the administration perpetuates immorality, impunity and lack of transparency puts a question mark on the sincerity of the administration in battling corruption and sends a wrong signal that perpetrators of such crimes are likely to get away with fraudulently acquired public funds.
The coalition recalled that only a few months ago, the administration also pardoned the former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, indicted for looting and stealing of public funds.
“This action of the Jonathan administration raises further concerns about its commitments to the acclaimed fight against corruption. It is a naked dance in the public place, especially when weighed against the arrogant and contemptuous manner with which the Presidency has told Nigerians during his media chat that, there is difference between theft and corruption,” it said.
The coalition said it is convinced that the focus of the whole dropping of charges is mainly because the ruling party is now trying by all means to favour those corrupt people who are decamping to People’s Democratic Party from other political parties.
It noted that “the concerns of the civil society are that besides the national embarrassment that President Jonathan’s action depicts, it also shakes the moral foundation of the Presidency as well as portends grave implications for the myriads of corruption cases in the country. Indeed, it has the potential to de-motivate Nigeria’s anti-corruption institutions – i.e. Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) – to effectively deliver on their mandate of fighting corruption.”
The groups also stressed that incidents of corruption are traced to be the forerunner of insecurity, poverty, unemployment and infrastructural decay which the country is currently facing.
It demanded that the President Jonathan administration immediately directs the office of the AGF to continue with the case against Mohammed with the view to recovering the stolen money and that it tenders unreserved apologizes to Nigerians and the international community for its pro-corruption stance.
It said the administration must re-strategise the international campaign to press Liechtenstein, a small but very rich country in Europe, into returning the $185 million (N38.85 billion) of ill-gotten gains linked to the late military head of state, which is still being held nearly 16 years after recovery proceeding began.
The groups also called on the international community to join Nigerians in condemning the Jonathan administration and take practical steps to demonstrate its anger towards the Nigerian government.