Monday, September 14, 2009

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.

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.

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

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Beauty said...

it would be wise to remember that is the simple changes that make the most difference sounds like poetry. The simple things are the only things I would add. IMHO, tiny Chen Shui-Bian pursued independence from China and got punished for it.

Why punish those that have stolen from us? Why not just forgive them all? $1Trillion? After all, it is only money. We still have the Niger-Delta, lands etc. Rather than continue to criminalize our own people, why not just start a new page of forgiveness and use the SAN time to rebuild?

NaijaBabe said...

If punishment is not given, it will continue. And everyone will think its all well and good to aim for the position of power, so as not to do anything but steal from their own people. Why should it be acceptable?

Anonymous said...

This seems greatly encouraging for some other 'cases'!

let's hope a chance, o !

Gatto Gialo from Facebook


@ Beauty: I see your point but I believe that the lack of accountability in Nigeria has allowed for a bastardization of many things once ignored, and the end result has been to our detriment as a people.

I believe in forgiveness, but I thing that there must eventually be an accounting of the missteps, outright fraud and crude/violent acts that have contributed to the problems Nigeria has. Even if nobody goes to jail, a basic inquiry into these issues with a public release/review of the resulting information will be helpful for Nigerians today and Nigerians tomorrow.

So, while I can understand where you are coming from, I have to disagree and state unequivocally that a reckoning is necessary.

Hope all is well and sorry it took so long for me to respond to your comment.

@ naijababe: I have to agree with you. I also see beauty's point about forgiveness, and I think I simply want a revelation of the acts that contributed to the rot Nigerians must currently deal with, and the reason is in tow with your comment.

I hope all is well?

@ gatto G: Well, the Taiwan situation has some holes in it, I must admit. Shui-Bian accuses the present government of working on behalf of Communist China to punish him for not being as pro-China.

That being said, this does serve as an example for other coutnries who might some day want to hold previous administrations responsible for missteps. While I understand that such can deter governments from doing what they believe is necessary in the administration of their responsibilities, I believe that previous administrations and Presidents should not be exempt from review when there is a clear case (proven by concrete investigation and sanctioned under the law) of corruption hat can be tied to those in the administration.

How are you?

Beauty said...

Dear Solomonsydelle, Nigeria's former police chief Tafa Balogun is the case in point for forgiveness. His six month term and freedom did not save child witches in the name of Jesus from Akwa Ibom. Those corruption show trials take away the focus from what is truly important. Also, the costs of reckoning is far more expensive as we watch both our houses of parliament under perform. IMHO, today´s job should be, planning for efficiency in order to create our future truth. How do we create mean and lean governments at state and federal levels? A lot of effort is required.

This is an alternative courses of action for our so-called leadership and others that are trying to rebrand Nigeria. Keep those show trials on the front page and learn how mud stick. Investors and all have their sights, they will see it for the mediocre that it is. Forgive, create transparency in the system and watch the cash flow. We can only achieve that with effort. Who is ready to work hard for a better tomorrow? Why keep the status quo and the those SANs earning through their (Animal Farm) noses? Where does the cash that goes to paying those silks come from anyway? We should ask James Ibori, Bola Tinubu, and Obong Victor Attah.

How´s the book?

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Collins Chinedu said...

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