Put Them In Prison

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Nigeria is a very rich country indeed. Otherwise the kind of high level roguery that went on in the not too distant past and is still going on now in the public sector would have crippled a country less endowed. From media reports, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is making very strange recoveries of stolen money in all currencies, local and foreign, hidden in places that challenge the primitivism of the Stone Age era. It is obviously leaving Nigerians staggered and amazed at the extent to which corrupt practices are being perpetrated in the country and with such mindless impunity. The conscience of those in charge of our collective estate has been so deadened that the word shame no longer exist in their lexicon.
The embarrassing dimension to it is the perception of the international community about us as Nigerians. With the volume of liquid cash being recovered from obscure places by the anti-graft operatives but which are, however, still traceable to people who had had the opportunity of serving the country in one capacity or another, makes the outside world wonder if we are normal human beings.
To many in the country, corruption is so pervasive that it has turned public service into some kind of criminal enterprise. Where there are incidences of political violence, chances are that they are instigated by graft. Corruption has become so endemic that it is denying millions of Nigerians access to even the most basic health and education services, and reinforced other widespread patterns of human rights violations.
One of the reasons why, in our opinion, corruption has continued to thrive is that most of the culprits are politically exposed persons. To date, many of the outstanding corruption cases are against the political elite. Their cases have made little progress in the courts for the simple reason that the class to which they belong consider it suicidal to allow any of its own to be rubbished. The few that had managed to reach conviction levels, got away slaps on the wrist with none going to prison that they deserve. A visit to the National Assembly will expose the decay of Nigeria’s moral fibre as well as the ineffectiveness of the anti-corruption campaign.
The Senate, for instance, is fast becoming the dumping ground for former governors most of whom were widely implicated in corruption but cannot be prosecuted. And seemingly so.  Some of those governors, on leaving office were actually arraigned. But not a single one is serving prison time for any of the alleged crimes. The reason is easy to decipher, they are so politically connected and with a heavy war chest, have the resources to penetrate a judiciary that is predisposed to corrupt influence. That trend has persisted till date leaving the EFCC with a battered reputation and an uncertain record of accomplishment.
However, and in fairness to the EFCC, some of its perceived failures are not of its own fault. The hurdles the anti-graft agency had had to run up against are mostly institutional. Those obstacles make any honest effort to prosecute the accused look herculean and leaves the impression that the political system rewards rather than punish corruption. When socially incorrect characters with proven criminality still aspire and in fact attain the highest echelons of politics in Nigeria, the message is clear.
The courts on their part can also be an obstacle to accountability. Most of the EFCC’s cases against nationally prominent political figures have been stalled in the courts for years without the trials even commencing. Nigeria’s weak and overburdened judiciary offers seemingly endless opportunities for skilled defence lawyers to secure interminable and sometimes frivolous delays.
Recently, the EFCC has been regaling Nigerians with the sight of raw cash recovered from people who had access to the public till. In our view, such demonstrations are doing very little to help the war on corruption because soon the whole drama is forgotten. To most, it presents to the criminal minded the possibilities and opportunities that corruption has to offer.  As it is often said, only the coward think about the risk rather than the reward. Those who have the heart are tempted to make a dash for it in the hope that they may somehow get away with it. And beyond the initial media trials, they do get away with it.
We are, therefore, persuaded to demand that the trend must discontinue. Treasury looters are, by definition, thieves. They deserve to be put in places reserved for persons of their ilk-the prisons. Nothing short of that will do.

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