Former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro
Prof. Fidelis Oditah (A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Queen’s Counsel)
Does he have immunity? Is he not a Nigerian? Everybody is equal before the law. He should be questioned. Many leaders in Africa have gone to jail for corruption. We should avail ourselves the opportunity to combat corruption by showing people they won’t get off scot-free when they leave office having plundered the state.
There is nothing political about it. If I steal money, won’t I be investigated? Won’t the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission invite me? Is that political? Why should politicians be provided with a life-long immunity from being probed? If he (Jonathan) is probed, some people will say the past president’s can of worm is opened. That is the problem we have in this country. We must make it clear to everyone that no one is above the law. At some point, you must be held accountable for your stewardship. I don’t think quizzing Jonathan has anything to do with politics. It is about cleaning the system and enforcing our laws.
We have outsourced our criminal prosecution to other countries to help us recover stolen funds. America is returning looted Abacha funds, Britain is holding Diezani (Alison-Madueke) and it has jailed ex-governor James Ibori. Who have we jailed? Is there any law that you shouldn’t be probed if you were a political office holder? In fact, that is even a good reason to probe you. So, if Jonathan is suspected to have plundered the assets put in his care as a trustee for the people of Nigeria, he should be probed. He must give an account of his stewardship. If I sent you on an errand and I gave you some money, you should come back and tell me how you spent the money. What is wrong in that?
Femi Aina (A lawyer)
The onus is on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to go where evidence takes them as an investigating agency. However, care should be taken because it is normal for an accused person to blame someone else for their criminal conduct.
The responsibility for the security vote lies with the former President (Goodluck Jonathan) as the Commander-in-Chief; as such, there is nothing wrong if he is invited to provide clarification on some of the issues raised by (Musiliu) Obanikoro and other cabinet members.
It seems the present government is shielding Jonathan from the anti-graft agencies. In view of the series of allegations against those who surrounded him then, such an approach is contrary to the anti-corruption posture of President Muhammadu Buhari. The EFCC needs to move promptly to interview the former President to tell Nigerians the exact order or instruction that he gave to a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, or Obanikoro, so that the matters could move to court as soon as possible because any further delay would erode public confidence if it is not already eroded.
Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi (A Senior Advocate of Nigeria)
I don’t think former President Goodluck Jonathan should be probed by the EFCC because there is no reason for that yet. If any of his ministers have been found culpable of corruption, then they should be probed and prosecuted by the EFCC. But since there is nothing linking Jonathan, I will not agree that he should be probed.
During the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, some of his ministers were found to be corrupt, but that did not make anyone to probe Obasanjo. The same rule should apply here.
Fred Agbaje (A lawyer)
It is long overdue that former President Goodluck Jonathan should be invited and probed by the EFCC. It is for expediency purpose, thoroughness and justice to be done in the war against corruption. He must be invited because the buck stops at his table. His name has repeatedly been popping up in all the allegations.
Whether he gave a written or verbal order on the disbursement of the funds, he should come out to make a clarification on the issues. He should come out and tell us his side of the story because the sums of money involved are gargantuan.
Olukoya Ogungbeje (A lawyer)
Based on what is going on now, I will only implore Nigerians to be patient. We should not continue to jump the gun; we should not continue to hang people and condemn them without giving them the presumption of innocence as allowed by the constitution. I believe that what is going on is not enough to say the anti-graft agencies should invite the ex-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. For God’s sake, what was done at the Federal Executive Council was a unanimous action taken by FEC members, including the ministers. Jonathan didn’t take any decision unilaterally. Look at the money disbursed to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for instance. Jonathan did that in the interest of this nation – to combat Boko Haram. Probably, he didn’t take steps to monitor how the funds were used. But we cannot single out Jonathan for condemnation.
As far as I am concerned, Obanikoro remains innocent until proved guilty. Let them (EFCC) charge him to court if they have found any offence against him. And let them release him on bail if they know that they cannot conclude their investigation within the time allowed by law and then continue to invite him. I can’t rely on the statement he purportedly made in the custody of the EFCC; it is not even a basis to single out Jonathan for investigation or prosecution.
Olanrewaju Suraj (Chairman, Civil Society Network against Corruption)
He has not been directly linked with any of the allegations. Except there are direct links, where you have vicarious liabilities, such allegations are more political than legal. If he could be linked to the proceeds of crime or traces of the misappropriated funds, then he could be called to answer some of those questions. His immunity expired the day he handed over to his successor. If in the course of investigation, he is discovered to have benefited from corruption, he has every reason to answer for such a crime.
It is not enough for any of his (Jonathan’s) ex-ministers to hide under his approval. If you are given a presidential approval to buy a certain equipment, it is expected of you either as a minister or the head of an agency to go through the procurement processes as laid down under the law.
If you breach any of those processes, you cannot expect the President to be held responsible. It is not enough that the money was diverted, but if the former President is found to have also profited from the proceeds of such a diversion or circumvented the provisions of the law in the process of the diversion, then he has questions to answer.
Many of those alleged to have been involved in the diversion of the arms funds only made verbal excuses that they got approval from the former President. It is not enough that the procurement fund was used for bribing delegates with a verbal excuse that Jonathan asked them to do so whereas what was on the paper was an approval for the procurement of equipment. Then the person involved must personally answer the question.