BY RITA SAMUEL
The vigorous anti -graft war waged by President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria deserves pity from any discerning mind. In spite of Mr. President’s determined and concerted efforts to stamp out the monster of corruption from the system, it mutates into more intricate and deadly forms.
Sometimes, persons or institutions officially mandated to checkmate the menace of corruption end up enmeshing in it. The fuss surrounding the discovery of alleged N2.5 billion fraud at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the investigation of same by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has exuded the angles some Nigerians regale in drinking from the chalice of corruption.
The case of the alleged N2.5 billion fraud , as so far x-rayed by the EFFC, clearly and unambiguously indicted former Director -General of NEMA, Mr. Sani Sidi Mohammed and some six directors who are believed to have conspired with him to perpetrate this sleaze. The number of suspects has kept multiplying.
EFCC’s preliminary investigation established a strong case against the former DG and the directors. The anti-graft agency therefore submitted a report on the case to the Office of the Vice President on March 1, 2018. The Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo who statutorily chairs the NEMA’s Board of directors, caused a deliberation of the report and the Board endorsed the prayers of EFCC to suspend the tentatively indicted directors for a thorough and conclusive investigation. And this is normal procedure anywhere.
The EFCC succinctly stated, “ This is the only way the commission can have unfettered access to all the necessary documents that will aid our investigation. It is therefore recommended that the Officials who are already indicted in the case be placed on suspension pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
But the suspension of the directors rather sparked insidious quest for vengeance on the leadership of the current NEMA DG, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja. The move expended the dragnet of witch-hunt by inventing diversionary tactics and attempting to smear the reputation of Vice President Osinbajo, NEMA board members and the new DG.
The heart of anyone would bleed for the extent this clan of odious Nigerians allegedly feasted on public funds. Sani Sidi Muhammed’s gang of alleged looters committed very serious acts of corruption on Nigerian people by competitively siphoning and diverting public funds. The officials allegedly incorporated fake companies, secured fake weigh bills , created imaginary IDP camps and awarded frivolous contracts to personal companies in patronage.
Also, they allegedly diverted food and relief materials designated for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the North-East to Chad and Niger Republics. NEMA funds were also diverted into personal accounts of directors and payment of frivolous emoluments claims by the Directors and some NEMA officials.
There were suspicious deposits of funds into domiciliary accounts of top directors and other funds were traced to fixed deposit accounts, where both the principal sum and accruing interests were later withdrawn by the depositor. The EFCC has also established that funds were in some cases transferred into accounts of family members among other weighty allegations.
Prior to the exposure of these scams, some officials, felt the current leadership of NEMA under Engr. Maihaja had blocked their access to skullduggery as done in the past. They therefore transmitted to the NEMA board a frivolous petition claiming all manner of misdemeanors.
The grand plot was to hook and rattle the incumbent DG, Engr. Maihaja before the NEMA Board. But his transparent leadership of the agency bailed him out. Rather the petitioners were consumed by the same bobby traps set for Maihaja. His enemies were put to shame, as the Board rather found six directors guilty of complicity in the fraud and recommended their suspension for proper and unfettered investigation for a possible trial.
Unrelenting, the same gang indicted by the preliminary report of the EFCC for allegedly embezzling a whooping sum of N2.5 billion, decided to pass the ball of tricks to the House of Representatives. The House’s belated probe of Maihaja by initiating another probe smacks of some instigative and vindictive influence.
Thus, the adhoc House Committee ignored the weightier case hanging on the necks of the former NEMA DG and the six directors. Instead, it summoned and drilled Maihaja on laughable allegations. The interrogative sessions just dwelt on finding loopholes to nail Maihaja, as if they have transmuted into lawyers for the indicted persons.
Nigerians are still excitedly watching this inexplicable drama and how House of Reps appeared from the blues with claims of a probe to commence investigation of a matter that the EFCC, a competent agency with the sole mandate to probe fraud cases has gone far with.
It appears the shadows of the former DG are still influencing the indicted directors, his comrades in financial crimes to rock the boat through arm-twisting and blackmail. He is reportedly adept in the art of pressing buttons, a game he perfected while serving as DG, and it is no surprise that he dreaded EFCC, but has passed the ball to his midfielders in the House of Representatives. It is worrisome that the EFCC investigation is undermined, whilst parliament has activated media trial of non -indicted persons.
It’s difficult to establish any genuine motivation for the abrupt intervention of the House of Representatives in the ongoing probe. One can only perceive an attempt by parliament to drink from the chalice of corruption. It is likely, a web of blackmail contrived by the former NEMA DG and his tormented directors, what Nigerians have come to know as corruption fighting back.
But the wisdom of the new NEMA DG, Maihaja in managing the affairs of the agency and his innocence is beyond being trapped by such naïve evil plots. What is being bandied in the air about him in the guise of investigating him for corruption is akin to seeking the vengeance of the gods.
But Maihaja would certainly come out unscathed, as he has done because he has done his enemies no wrong and flaunts unblemished records and excellent performance. Sani Sidi and his soul mates can decide to either roast themselves in the furnace of EFCC or free their embattled souls if they are indeed innocent.
Samuel is an editor at TheNigerian News, London.