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OPINION

Time To Sanitise Our Hallowed Legislative Chambers

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For some people, the senate and indeed the National Assembly is fast becoming a safe haven for alleged corrupt former state governors who bulldoze their way into the hallowed chamber against all odds.

Sadly, the sins of these few Nigerians who ordinarily should have no business coming into the hallowed chambers, have continued to hunt the nation’s apex law-making- bodies.

Many analysts have now warned that it might take a longer time to erase this widespread, but negative perception about these ugly embedded political transfusion, especially in the Nigerian Senate, unless political parties move in a determined manner to prevent many corrupt former governors or politicians, especially those still standing trial over alleged corruption in a court of competent jurisdiction, from seeking refuge in the cocoon of the legislative chambers.

Interestingly, about 15 e- governors are reported to have topped the list of 109 senators expected to take oath of allegiance on the floor of the senate in June this year when the 9th Senate will be inaugurated. But what is unfortunate is that some of these former state chief executives are the same politicians that are still standing trial for allegedly looting their state treasuries while in office.

It is obvious that Nigerians need to demand the removal of alleged corrupt persons from partaking in our electoral process. If the people in their constituencies refuse to understand that they have elected ‘thieves,’ then it is left to the media and human right activists to continue to hold them accountable.

The Senate should not be a retirement home for looters or former governors standing trial for corruption charges even though they remain innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. For the singular fact that they are standing trial, it is morally wrong to field such persons as candidates running for any public office. A clear example is the case some Nigerians still make about how morally wrong it is for the APC to have presented former governor of Abia State, Oji Kalu to contest at the just concluded National Assembly election despite his pending trial over an alleged N7.6 billion fraud levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) . It was even more spurious to have suspend the trial of the former governor before the election to give him a strong footing without any reason.

Without doubts, the senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be men and women of implacable character who have excelled in life. This can only happen when far reaching steps have been taken by successive governments in power to sanitise the polity, including the hallowed chamber.

To curb this pattern in our leadership system, Nigerians need to begin to really see it for what it is and demand that it should cease to be the case.

Many Nigerians today are of the opinion that for the Senate to be considered an institution to be respected, the Senators themselves must be persons of unquestionable character. That is why barely two months to the inauguration of the 9th senate, the expectation is that persons that must occupy the principal office positions or standing committees, should have no such criminal charges against them still pending before any court.

Until that is done, some Nigerians still continue to see the senate as a safe haven  or retirement home for corrupt ex-governors and politicians who still have pending  corruption charges levelled against them by the EFCC.  Unfortunately, about 15 former governors are expected to form part of the 9th senate and to make matters worse, some of them still have corruption charges against them in court.

Another issues is that many Nigerians feel like there is a clear evidence of double standard in operational in this administration especially when you consider the former governors that were allowed to contest legislative positions in the just concluded elections. That is why the same former governor who at some point, was reported to have abscond from court on the grounds of ill health (surgery in a Germany hospital) is now parading himself as the winner of an election that ordinarily should have been declared inconclusive by INEC.

We will recall that Abia leaders had earlier petitioned the president and the National Judicial Council ( NJC) demanding immediate  full scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding  the suspicious suspension of the resumed trial of the embattled former governor of the state over alleged N7.6 billion fraud levelled against him by the EFCC. The group at a press conference said the long delay in the trial of the APC chieftain and his active participation in electioneering campaign under the close watch of security operatives in the state would further cast doubts in the ant-corruption crusade of the present government, but no one is listening.

The questions making the rounds for every responsible and law-abiding Nigerian, especially the people of Abia State are numerous and they include:

Why is the celebrated case of alleged corruption against the former governor against the people of Abia State being delayed for so long, even on the fallout of perceived political reasons and collusion?

Why is the Federal High Court in Lagos playing double standards and awaiting for further directives from ‘God knows where’ to proceed with a trial within its court that started since 2016 and has assumed many twists?

Why also, is the former governor and his lawyers busy using series of adjournments to avoid trial, including submitting his travelling passport to the EFCC as required, and no one is arresting him for such violations and affront to the court?

Can the good people of Abia State ever get a remedy from the court for the plundering of its resources?

Nigerians decry any double standards in our courts, especially in the fight against corruption. They demand immediate reopening of this celebrated fraud case against Oji Kalu as well as a speedy and fair trial for the benefit of all Nigerians. Our democracy deserves nothing less than that!

– Okoli writes from Abuja

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