Ahead of the February 25 presidential election, the leading presidential candidates are entangled in one corruption allegation or the other, leaving Nigerians with no choice but to choose a lesser evil at the poll. AdedayoAkinwale writes:

With 32 days to the February 25 presidential election, Nigerians will once again have the opportunity to  decide on who will direct the affairs of the country for the next four years.

Unfortunately, the leading presidential candidates – Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), AtikuAbubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) are all entangled in one corruption allegation or the other.

What this means is that Nigerians are to make their choice at the polls among the leading presidential candidates in the next few weeks.

Unlike in 2015, when the then opposition APC portrayed General MuhammaduBuhari as the untainted ‘Mr. Integrity’ who was out to save Nigeria, none of the leading presidential candidates in the forthcoming election could be easily described as untainted and incorruptible.

Though the last seven and half years have shown that President Buhari packaged for Nigerians by the APC  would be leaving Nigeria worse than he met it, despite his sterling record in infrastructure development

Accusations and counter accusations

Recently, there had been accusations and counter accusations between the APC, PDP and LP over alleged corruption of their principals.

The Presidential Campaign Council of APC threw the first punch when it asked security agencies in the country to invite, arrest, interrogate and prosecute Atiku over what the party described as AtikuGate.

Referencing a video clip made by one Michael Achimugu, said to be a former aide of Atiku, the APC PCC said Atiku as vice president between 1999 and 2007, colluded with his then boss, President OlusegunObasanjo, to operate an illegal account tagged, “Special Purpose Vehicles” (SPVs).

One of the spokespersons of the PCC, Festus Keyamo, accused the PDP-led administration between 1999 and 2007 of running a criminal enterprise, describing the era as the “SPV Years.”

“Those SPVs were companies Atiku admittedly registered upon assumption of office as Vice-President (with the approval of President OlusegunObasanjo) using “trusted allies” as shareholders and Directors. The purpose was to divert government contracts to these companies as “consultants” and then paid monies into these companies and used those monies to fund the PDP and their private businesses and family activities,” Keyamo said.

The APC PCC also gave 72 hours ultimatum to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices andOther Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau  (CCB) to arrest, interrogate and prosecute Atiku for what it termed; offences  against Code of Conduct for Public Officers, Offence of Money Laundering; Offence of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation; and offence of conspiracy.

Responding, the Campaign Council of  PDP  described Tinubu as a ‘convict’, who should not be in the presidential race, adding that Tinubu’s alleged  $460,000 drug money forfeiture was evidence of a crime.

The spokesperson of the PDP campaign, Kola Ologbondiyan, said since Tinubu has opened up on the allegations of corruption on his own, the PDP campaign was prepared to help him to fill the gaps he wanted closed.

He  challengedTinubu to explain to Nigerians how billions of naira belonging to Lagos State and meant for the welfare of the people, reportedly found its way into Soft Alliance and allegedly ended in bits and pieces in foreign currencies into domiciliary accounts allegedly owned by him in commercial banks. 

Ologbondiyan said: “In the days ahead, our campaign will not hesitate to furnish Nigerians with a compendium of corrupt practices as well as the list of SPVs used by the APC Candidate to loot public funds in key government agencies thereby depriving Nigerians the benefit of our national patrimony.

“Now that Tinubu’s evil diversionary scheme against AtikuAbubakar has failed and Nigerians have seen that there is no iota of truth in his allegation against AtikuAbubakar, our Campaign demands that Tinubu should tender an unreserved apology to AtikuAbubakar, he should listen to the voice within and withdraw from the Presidential race.”

Legal fireworks

Making real his threats, after the expiration of the 72 hours issued to the anti graft agencies,  Keyamo approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, for an order compelling three anti- corruption bodies to arrest and prosecute Atiku over allegations bordering on misappropriation of public funds.

The anti-corruption agencies which were sued alongside Atiku as 2nd to fourth defendants include; CCB, ICPC and EFCC.

Keyamo told the court that the legal action was triggered by the refusal of the anti-graft agencies to honour his petition against the former Vice President as well as Atiku’s refusal to make himself available to the agencies for investigation of corruption allegations.

In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/84/2023 and filed on his behalf by one Fetus Ukpe, Keyamo submitted that the defendants are duty bound to investigate and prosecute anyone who has been accused of corruption in the country.

The plaintiff said based on Achimugu’s revelations he immediately wrote to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants drawing their attention to the facts and urged them to act in accordance with their statutory powers and duties.

“The plaintiff further avers that after submitting the petitions, he observed from all indications that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants are unwilling to investigate this matter.

“The plaintiff avers that till date, the 1st defendant has not made available to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants, for the purpose of aiding their investigation, information available to him in respect of a certain bank account belonging to a company named Marine Float and other accounts of two undisclosed companies.”

He therefore prayed the court to declare that Atiku “is under a legal obligation to make available to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants, for the purpose of aiding their investigation, information available to him in respect of a certain bank account belonging to a company named Marine Float and other accounts of two undisclosed companies, which information he disclosed to a certain close aide of his called Michael Achimugu, as to how the said accounts were used as a “Special Purpose Vehicles” to secretly divert and misappropriate public funds between 1999 and 2007 when the 1st Defendant served as Vice President of Nigeria.”.

Keyamo further prayed the court for a mandatory order compelling the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants to invite and/or arrest, investigate and (if found wanting) prosecute the 1st defendant.

He submitted that if the court does not grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiff, a grave crime and/or infraction of our laws would have gone undetected. No date has been fixed for hearing.

Another lawyer, ObunikeOhaegbu, has also petitioned the EFCC, ICPC, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (NDLEA) and the CCB to arrest and interrogate  Tinubu and Obi, over their alleged involvement in corruption.

Ohaegbu, a member of the PDP in a petition addressed to EFCC, ICPC, CCB, IGP and NDLEA, dated 19th January, 2023 and made available to journalists  insisted that Tinubu and Obi should also be arrested and prosecuted for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

In addition, he pointed out that Nigerians deserve to know the truth about the alleged connection between 70 years old Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos State and 85 years LamidiAmodaSangodele from Iragbiji in Osun State.

The petition read: “Nigerians deserve to know if both are one and the same person. That would also clear some issues concerning the Primary and Secondary Schools he attended and consequently resolve the puzzles surrounding his schools certificates.

“Investigation on the allegation of conviction of drug related crimes in the United States also needs to be made and Nigerians promptly informed of steps taken to investigate the allegation. The Nigerian voters deserve to know if he actually forfeited the sum of $460,000 to the United States of America for his convictions on narcotics trafficking and money laundering in the United States.

“The maintenance of Domiciliary Accounts while serving as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria despite the express provisions in the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. These concerns are more worrisome as there are strong allegations that the accounts through which monies were forfeited in the drug prosecution case in the USA remained active even when he was the Governor of Lagos State.”

On Obi, Ohaegbu challenged the anti-graft agencies to investigate allegation of allocation of Anambra State land to a company allegedly belonging to his family, SABmiller Nigeria Ltd, the producers of Hero beer and the investment of over $20 million equivalent to about N13 billion in the same company when the company allegedly had financial challenges to start productions.

The petition added: “Allegations that choice lands were appropriated from the state and given to the Shoprite Conglomerates in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi because he had family investments in the company.

“The allegations of money laundering published on the Pandora Papers on October 4th, 2021. The allegations of mass murder of 25 bodies found in Ezu River between January 19th, 2013 and January 20th, 2013 and other human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated in the state when he was the governor using the notorious Nigerian Police Department known as SAARS with office in Awkuzu, Anambra State which has been scrapped.

“The allegations of the appropriation of the funds meant for the 21 Local Government Areas in Anambra State for eight years without proportionate investments in the various Local Government Areas through the unconstitutional appointments of Caretakers for the local government in the pretense that a court restrained the conduct of the Local Government Elections but suddenly vacated the restraint few days after his successor was elected.”

He said all the agencies petitioned should ensure prompt action and prosecution of these candidates, saying this would assist in strengthening Nigeria’s democratic institutions.

 “If you fail, refuse and/or neglect to act, I shall be filing a joinder in the proceedings that would be initiated by Mr. Festus Keyamo, to compel you to act”, Ohaegbu warned

As it stands, Atiku, Tinubu and Obi who are the leading candidates in the February 25 presidential election have one corruption allegation or the other levelled against them and Nigerian voters may have no choice but to choose one of them.

While no dirt has been dug up against the presidential candidate of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr. RabiuKwankwaso, the former Governor of Kano State, however, does not enjoy the nationwide acceptance like the trio.

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