In 2012, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the National Assembly chambers were filled with armed robbers, rogues and drug barons. The accusations didn’t go well with the lawmakers. They demanded an apology from Obasanjo who simply ignored them. Today, with the scandals oozing out of the Senate and House of Representatives, the former president is being vindicated.
The false asset declaration case against Senate President is still on, so is the one on the falsification of Senate standing rules. The budget padding scandal just started in the House of Representatives when former appropriation committee Chairman Abdulmumini Jibrin blew the lid on a padding plot in which the speaker Yakubu Dogara wanted to fleece the nation of a whopping 40bn. Jibrin, himself was part of the scheme, who started singing after he was booted out as the appropriation committee chairman . A litany of corruption scandals in the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999, rampant corruption cases had plagued the two chambers of the National assembly in a manner that made Nigerians view it as hallowed chambers of shame.
Of the three arms of government, the National Assembly is the most hated and vilified. In fact, majority of Nigerians would prefer to do without the national assembly if they can have their way. We had the case of Abdulrasheed Maina who stole N195 bn pensioners’ money. The House of Representatives set up a committee headed by Aloysius Etuk to investigate the matter. Hon Etuk later allegedly collected a bribe of $100,000 for himself and additional three billion naira for other members of the house. The scandal blew open but was hurriedly buried by the leadership of the house. The public believed that the national assembly only waded in to collect it’s shares.
Maina was also alleged to have given elements in the Presidency and Judiciary their own shares. He was never successfully prosecuted. Most Nigerians have forgotten the case. In police pension fraud, the accused Mr Esai Dangabar was alleged to have shared the N32.8 bn he had allegedly stolen with the investigating senate committee members. The matter was never pursued again.
There was also the case of Stella Odua when she accused the senators of collecting bribes from her when she came under investigation for her involvement in the purchase of N225m armoured BMW cars. The investigation was abandoned. Stella was not prosecuted. There was also the scandal involving Hon. Faruk Lawan who was caught on tape collecting $620,000 from Femi Otedola. Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Faruk Lawan was never prosecuted. The case was killed as the national assembly lost interest in the case.
In the Senate, Senators Ibrahim Mantu and Jonathan Zwingina reportedly demanded N54m bribes from Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. The case was buried. Iyabo Obasanjo was in 2008 arrested for collecting N10m bribe from ministry of health out of the N300m unspent budgetary allocation. Senator Iyabo was not prosecuted in what was a case of interference from President Yar’adua. Ms Aruma Oteh accused Hon Herman Hembe of bribe collection from SEC. The House of Representatives dropped the investigation. Professor Fabian Osuji was sacked as Minister of Education for offering national assembly N50m bribe. The matter was buried. Former speaker Etteh was embroiled in N628m house renovation scandal that sent her away. She was not prosecuted.
Evans Enwerem was removed for corruption as well former senate president Chuba okadigbo. Right now the leadership of the two chambers of National Assembly has never had peace because various scandals rocking them. There is forgery scandal, false asset declaration and budget padding. The list is endless. What manner of legislators are these that make laws for Nigeria, and how did Nigerians descend to the level of electing such people?
It is unfortunate that the requirements to become a legislator do not pay attention to education, character and quality. Meanwhile 99% of legislators seek the office with the sole desire to make money. Law-making was never the motivational factor. No wonder once they got there the burning issues are official cars, juicy committee leadership, constituency projects, with each legislator floating a construction company with the aim of misappropriating the money . After all that, they are not done yet. The legislators are all over ministries extorting money. The stealing has continued because impunity pays in Nigeria. The nation is a haven for all manners of thieves and criminals. The legislators continue their stealing spree because they know the law has so many loopholes that would allow them to escape justice. The judiciary itself is as deep in corruption as the legislature. Almost everyone caught in the cookies jar escaped justice with his loot intact. The Nigerian state will lose interest in the case in a matter of months and life continues.
People escape justice because of the failure of the judiciary to rise to the occasion to teach them some lessons. What is the problem with Nigerian judiciary? First, there is delay in adjudication of cases because of the refusal by courts to adopt electronic means of recording proceedings. Almost all Nigerian courts are manual. In Nigeria, judges still waste time recording proceedings in long hand. There is also the reluctance to reform the trial procedure to allow for the timing of proceedings as is the case in election cases. Lawyers, despite in the introduction of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 still employ ridiculous tactics to delay proceedings.
Then, the judicial corruption
Every Nigerian knows there is rampant and unchecked corruption in the judiciary. Like the legislature, no judge was ever jailed to serve as a deterrent. It is believed among Nigerians that money still dictates where the pendulum of justice swings. Although there have been identified cases of abuses, and for which culprits have been penalised, the argument is that it is not enough for judicial officers found wanting to simply be compulsorily retired by the National Judicial Council (NJC). Judges fired should also face criminal prosecution. There also improper coordination of prosecution by the anti-corruption agencies who are themselves poorly funded.
Today, most of the corruption cases in court are handled by a few lawyers, which to an extent, contributes to the delay being experienced in the handling of most of this cases. Judicial observers are of opinion that a situation where a single lawyer is saddled with the prosecution of over five cases in various courts at the same time does not portray the government as being ready to ensure swift and proper prosecution. The truth is, that to fight corruption Nigeria needs urgent judicial reform.
Aisha Buhari and the moral sheriffs
Some people on social media, mostly from the North, claim that Mrs Aisha Buhari’s dress on arrival at US was indecent and un-Islamic. To me, there is nothing indecent about her dressing. As a matter of fact, the woman has dress sense and swag. As a beautician by profession, her style tells on her personality, fashion and taste. And l asked those religious fanatics, did Aisha travel as wife of Nigeria’s president or wife of Sultan of Nigeria? Anyone used to long haul trips will learn to dress simple.
Those people should look at themselves and address their inadequacies. The sad reality is they will never complain about the deplorable economic situation in the country and whether the trip will add any value to Nigerians. Their main concern is for the wife of Nigeria’s leader to look moral, Islamic and cultural. Meanwhile the same people are some of the worst transgressors in the land. There is nothing they don’t do, yet they want to impose their hypocrisy on others.