It was with great curiosity that I learned that a former President of Taiwan was sentenced to life in prison, last week. Chen Shui-Bian is the first former Taiwan leader to be put on trial, and he was convicted for embezzlement of state funds, money laundering and the accepting of bribes. I couldn't help but wonder if such would ever be possible in Nigeria, a country which has witnessed Heads of State, like Sani Abacha, plunder the national bank account while other officials, big and small, have used their influential positions to gain astounding wealth at the people's expense. Despite this, most are yet to be held accountable, although the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claims that it has recovered over $55 million in lieu of convicting those who illegally amassed those sums since its new boss came to office.
THE HALLIBURTON PROBE REMAINS STALLED
This issue of accountability is especially relevant, given that the Halliburton probe, which should have ended in June was reportedly stalled again, by the government's refusal to finance the investigation's travel expenses. While it is quite possible that this reluctance stems from an effort to compel completion of the probe without much overseas travel, a feat that was thankfully achieved by the Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee, the fact that this particular investigation has outlived its original timetable gives cause for concern. As of now, there is little indication as to when this investigation will end, and considering Nigeria's 'punishment problem', the continued delay does not encourage one to hope that those involved in the Halliburton scandal will face justice very soon. It seems that as is always the case, Nigeria's leaders will promise to deal with a problem and instead stall their way until the dust settles and the people, seemingly forget.
IS THERE A BOKO HARAM INVESTIGATION OR NOT?
The lack of accountability is equally compounded with the revelation that the government is unwilling to share information about the promised inquiry into the recent Boko Haram violence that led to the loss of over 800 lives in August. Shortly after the Boko Haram incident, President Yar'Adua promised to investigate the matter and particularly the alleged extrajudicial killings of many supposed and actual members of the militant sect. According to NEXT, the government acknowledged these extrajudicial killings by military and other armed officers, when a federal government delegation traveled to Switzerland, the weekend following the killing, "to apologise to the United Nations"[sic] and Michael Aondoakaa promised that the "federal government would punish any security agent found to have perpetrated the alleged extra-judicial killings.” Yet, despite this, very little is known about Boko Haram, apart from the alleged training of certain members in Afghanistan and the fact that the wives of many Boko Haram members are getting divorces. What remains to be determined is who funded Boko Haram? How did they get the weapons and overseas training they are alleged to have received? Why were its leaders slaughtered before valuable information could be obtained from them and before they could face justice in a court of law? Will anyone be held accountable for the violence and resulting failures? Or, will this just be another chapter in Nigeria's fairytale of stalled justice and inaction?
When it comes to Nigeria's recent history, the country, unfortunately, does not have a good track record of ensuring justice for those wronged. After all, the Apo 6 murder remains unsolved, those who had Ken Saro Wiwa executed are not in jail, bloggers and journalists continue to be harassed and countless, nameless faces seek justice for crimes committed against them, to no avail. This reality continues to play out everyday in the lives of those who have lost loved ones because money intended for certain services was stolen or because certain officials and their allies choose to satisfy their self interest over the needs of the greater public. Nigeria must begin to hold criminals accountable for their actions. Petty criminals, while a problem, tend to face the music, languishing in jails, while their rich and influential peers live without fear of consequences. Nigeria's punishment problem cannot be allowed to persist for it frays the already sensitive fabric of the nation. And, for a nation interested in improving its reputation, it would be wise to remember that is the simple changes that make the most difference.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Nigeria's Punishment Problem
- Posturing & The Halliburton Panel
- Arrests Made in the Halliburton Scandal
- Halliburton & Nigeria - Corruption Inc. Pt 2
- Siemens & Nigeria - Corruption Inc.
- Crime & Punishment: The Nigerian Edition