A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, wants the federal government to properly fund the prosecution of the war against corruption.
Mr. Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, believes the war against graft, as its being prosecuted is lacking a proper strategy.
In an exclusive interview with our judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, he said the government would require at least N5 billion to prosecute cases.
He said, We must have a strategy on tackling corruption, and its not just about court cases. Once that strategy is in place, then you unbundle the strategy and unpack it and make sure that it fits into whatever relevant packet.
From the judicial arm and prosecution, the government has to fund corruption cases. I expect the government to put down at least N5 billion. You just cant pay lawyers N30,000 and expect that they fight corruption cases for you.
You must fund prosecution, it is key. It is beyond the Ministry of Justice. They need outside assistance. So you must be prepared to put down the budget to fight those cases, you must strengthen the prosecutorial process.
The Presidency has said the conviction of Justice Walter Onnoghen by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false assets declaration is “a major victory for the anti-corruption policy of the Buhari administration”.
In an emailed statement to journalists, hours after the CCT’s ruling, the Presidency said the outcome of the trial “demonstrates clearly that the law demonstrates clearly that the law is no respecter of persons, titles, social or political connections”.
The Presidency made no reference to the rejection of the CCT’s judgment by Justice Onnoghen, who has also filed a notice of appeal.
It, however, stressed that the essence of the rule of law is to hold everyone accountable equally before the law, regardless of their high or law status in the society, and defended the war against corruption, insisting it is all encompassing and is not designed to persecute anyone for political or other reasons.
“The rule of law would lose its meaning and validity if only the weak, the poor and powerless are punished for their violations of the law. Countries succeed because the rule of law is evenly upheld and enforced,” it said.
“The war against corruption would go nowhere if the high and mighty are spared because of their influence and connections. You can’t fight corruption by allowing impunity because the rule of law cannot function where impunity is tolerated.”
Also, the Presidency said that “the conviction of Justice Onnoghen should send a clear message that the dragnet against corruption will be spread widely to hold public officials accountable, whether they are politicians, Judges, civil servants or holding positions of public trust”.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday drew the attention of world leaders to conflicts around the world and their devastating effects.
The President called on leaders to take urgent action to bring the conflicts to an end, warning that the situation has become worse than it was last year.
He made the call while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Beyond the conflicts, especially in the Middle East, and the Rohingya crisis, President Buhari drew the attention of the world leaders to the effects of climate change and the need for concerted efforts to check corruption and stop illicit financial flows.
The President said Nigeria supports efforts by the United Nations and other partners to protect the dignity of the Rohingya and to help restore peace around the world.
He commended the government and people of Bangladesh and other countries that have come to the aid of the Rohingya.
As for the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and other countries in the Middle East, President Buhari urged the UN to push for dialogue and peaceful solutions.
He praised Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Germany, Italy, and France for hosting the millions of refugees fleeing these brutal conflicts.
Beyond calling for action to end conflicts and bring peace to the world, President Buhari rebuked the abuse of power, which has caused or worsened conflicts.
“The deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza is an appalling result of the unrestrained use of power,” he said. “We urge both parties (Israel and Palestine) to engage in the use of dialogue.”
He drew attention to the strides made by the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia to end years of political conflict and implored other leaders to draw inspiration from them and what they achieved through dialogue.
Touching briefly on corruption, President Buhari said it was important that the international community help countries in repatriating funds back to the countries of origin.
The Presidency says President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated his preparedness to give tutorials on how to fight corruption in Africa.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, disclosed this on Wednesday in a statement titled ‘How President Buhari Will Fight Corruption In Africa’.
Read the full statement below:
Africa’s bid to stem widespread corruption took a decisive turn on Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when the African Union, AU placed on President Muhammadu Buhari, the task of championing the war throughout the continent.
Obviously, the choice is not for nothing as the opposition – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – back at home claimed in their deeply disappointing reaction to the inauguration of President Buhari as the continental anti-corruption champion for the year 2018.
As a matter of fact, a section of politicians and some economists have been quick to pronounce the war against corruption in Nigeria a failure because those people are the greatest losers wherever the ordinary citizens make a gain.
The PDP, in particular, has come to signify the face of corruption in Nigeria and they have not hidden their efforts to shrink the achievements of the Buhari Administration. They are bent, as it clearly seems, on crushing all hopes of ridding this country of the scourge of corruption.
As the President keeps saying, in 16 years that the party held sway, we solely relied on oil, the price of which was as high as US$140 per barrel. Government simply squandered oil revenue through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and salaries.
This was done rather than growing the economy through capital investment in assets like seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing as this administration is currently doing.
Nigeria did not record a single major infrastructural project in the 10 years preceding the Buhari administration. In short, the money was mismanaged, spent largely on what was not needed and no savings were made. They compounded the problem by borrowing heavily and failed woefully to pay contractors and international oil companies.
The last two years of this administration have revealed the massive and unrivalled level of corruption in which the PDP and its leaders at the highest level thrived so it mustn’t surprise anyone really that they have chosen their obstructionist role rather than lending a helping hand in the fight against corruption.
By a rough estimate, the amount of money including the value of estates recovered (or in the process of being recovered) from a single woman (Madam), by virtue of being close to power can pay for the construction and equipping a cancer treatment hospital for each of the six geopolitical the Federation, and still counting.
So, if you have noticed, the barbs came out in the last few weeks ostensibly to cast a pall on this continental honour to President Buhari and to Nigeria which, in terms of added significance had the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Anthony Gutierrez, at hand giving full support.
Indeed, it is both a tragedy and an opportunity that this honour on Nigeria and our leader is in its timing, is coming amid heightened criticism of his well-recognised efforts to purge the country of bribery, corruption and illicit cash outflows that have become so entrenched to the point of forming a strong a normative social practice.
To help Africa lead this fight, leaders of the 55 countries making up the African Union (AU) leaned on President Muhammadu Buhari who swept to power in 2015 vowing to get to grips with graft and unbridled looting of public resources which is undermining the Nigerian economy.
In its two-and-a-half years in office, the administration has made significant strides in its efforts to identify and block loopholes through which oil revenues are stolen; payrolls are populated with ghost and non-existent workers and devised ways of blocking criminals as well as corrupt businessmen and officials from laundering illicit wealth.
As aptly captured by retired Ambassador Usman Sarki, the former Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, “this well-deserved laurel on Mr President’s brow demonstrates the close affinity between domestic policy and foreign policy, particularly in matters that have transnational and global significance like fighting corruption.
“Through concerted advocacy and demonstrable leadership shown by Mr President, the world and Africa have now come to accept the fact that Nigeria is making progress in the anti-corruption front. This positive achievement is now acknowledged as an example of best practice for others in Africa.
“The African Union’s selection of this subject as the theme for this year’s summit meeting is not only of symbolic significance. The AU has come to recognise that corruption is an egregious problem that has fostered many ills all over the Continent.
“Appointing an Anti-corruption Champion is appropriate and timely, and an indication of the prioritisation of the fight against the scourge by all of Africa. This is the logical outcome of many previous initiatives by the AU, such as its high-level panel (jointly with UNECA) on illicit financial flows (IFF) from Africa that was chaired by H.E. Thabo Mbeki.
“Giving this honourable task to President Buhari is, therefore, recognition of his mettle and reinforcing the evident commitment that he has shown to eradicating this evil in Nigeria. While Mr President can be trusted to guide by example and provide the needed leadership, it is also important for others to support his efforts.”
As widely-reported in his speech on the launch of the African Anti-Corruption Year dubbed Project 2018 on the theme, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s Transformation,” the President showed a clear understanding of what the task entails and showed a readiness of the rare type to take on the assignment diligently. In his words: “I promise that I and my government shall do our very best to ensure that the anti-corruption agenda receives the attention it deserves.”
He made it clear that corruption is indeed one of the greatest enemies of our time; that it runs completely counter to our shared values as Africans of justice, the sense of fairness, law and order and equity and equality. Corruption, he said, rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of patronage where the resources are shared out by a small elite, while the majority are trapped in poverty.
When it comes to tackling corruption, President Buhari noted that the Continent has made significant strides in putting in place legal and policy frameworks, notably the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).
However, the adoption of legal and policy frameworks on their own have not had the desired success in tackling this evil. This, he noted, is one of the driving reasons why the AU has designated 2018 the African Anti-Corruption Year. The idea is to scale up the efforts during 2018.
Notably, 15 years after the adoption of the AUCPCC, 2018 provides a good opportunity to take stock of the progress made so far, assess what still needs to be done and devise new strategies that appropriately address new corruption challenges.
While the continent has seen sustained socio-economic growth over the past two decades, public confidence has been corroded by a concentration on near-term priorities and payoffs, propelled by corruption. We see the negative impacts of corruption in governance through the creation of political and business cartels that serve narrow interests.
The President noted, “let us not view the fight against corruption as an end in itself, but rather as an instrument in the fight to eliminate poverty and restore justice, order and dignity to our societies.
”In particular, he recognised the leading role that the media can play in this fight: “you the media have a strong role to play in public sensitisation and awareness and requesting and publishing information to increase transparency to hold public institutions and governments to account.”
In expounding on the theme, he expressed the view that corruption has an especially devastating impact on marginalised communities notably youth, women and children. “The effects of corruption breed unequal societies that render vulnerable groups susceptible to human trafficking and displacement, recruitment into armed groups and militia and it deprives them of opportunities to develop their livelihoods.”
To this end, he announced that the AU would organise a Youth Congress on Corruption to address the specific challenges and impacts that corruption has on our emerging leaders. Engaging young leaders is especially important in developing a new attitude to transparency and accountability.
According to President Buhari, the manifestation of corruption in Africa is also a reflection of the need for stronger leadership and oversight institutions. “Tackling corrupt acts and greed require a reorientation of our attitudes and perceptions to corrupt practices. Changing the state of play requires retraining and education as a means to instil better and more transparent values”, he said.
He then announced that as part of the activities during the year his leadership would bring about engagements with key actors in the fight against corruption including parliamentarians, the media, the business community and faith-based groups.
“As corruption cuts across every sector in society, we should continue to support consultative dialogue among all actors to forge joint solutions to this menace and we look forward to your support and ideas.”
As we indicated in an earlier statement, the Buhari Administration has so far done very well in asset recovery, asset return and transparent management of returned assets. The government has achieved the highest amounts in the recovery of stolen assets and achieved the highest number of convictions by any administration in the country so far.
To this extent, several measures have been initiated for the strengthening of our asset recovery legislation, investigating agencies and the Auditor-General’s office, including through non-conviction based confiscation powers and the introduction of unexplained wealth orders. The results Nigeria achieved came about as a result of these and other efforts and these are essential steps to initiation of sister African nations in the fight against corruption.
Happily, the anti-corruption Champion, President Muhammadu Buhari, says he is ready and available to give tutorials. This gives the continent a good starting point.
President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to Ethiopia on Friday to participate in the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU).
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement he signed on Thursday.
The highlight of the President’s engagements during the visit will be his statement under the historic theme for the AU Summit, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”
This is the first time in the 54-year history of the AU that anti-corruption will be made a theme of the gathering of the regional leaders.
On July 4, 2017, African leaders unanimously endorsed President Buhari to champion the fight against corruption on the continent.
The endorsement, which took place during the 29th Session of the AU, was in recognition of his personal commitment and acclaimed anti-graft drive at the domestic level.
The President Buhari had also accepted his nomination on July 25, 2017, in a letter to President Alpha Conde of Guinea, the out-going AU Chairperson.
While thanking his colleagues for the honour, the Nigerian leader reiterated his “commitment to contributing towards our collective efforts to strengthen good governance and development on the continent.”
Apart from anti-corruption, other issues lined for consideration by African leaders and their delegations include peace and security (transnational terrorism); institutional reforms of the continental body; free movement of persons; climate change; trade; aviation; education; gender and development.
On the sidelines of the event, President Buhari would hold bilateral meetings with some of his colleagues on issues of common interests.
He would be accompanied on the trip by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; and the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazau.
Others are the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika; the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; and Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, says he knew the trial of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal will amount to nothing.
Governor Fayose said this on Wednesday after the CCT dismissed all the 18 charges bordering on false assets declaration against the Senate President.
“You will recall that (in) my predictions for 2016, even before Bukola Saraki was charged, I said Bukola Saraki will be tried and it will end up in nothing. It will be like an exercise in futility because this government is known for vendetta; they have nothing to offer,” Governor Fayose said.
The governor took a swipe at the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government by adding, “If you see the trend, they lose all the cases. At the end of the day, they come back and blame the judiciary because what you start with vendetta will end up in the midst of nowhere.”
Earlier, the governor had said in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Mr Lere Olayinka, that the verdict of the CCT meant victory for Nigerians over tyranny.
The governor, who accused the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government of trying to suppress political foes, insisted it was not serious about fighting corruption.
“I have maintained that the government of President (Muhammadu) Buhari is not fighting any corruption. Rather, what is being done is hiding under anti-corruption fight to persecute, humiliate, harass and malign perceived political enemies,” he was quoted as saying.
According to him, the trend is for the government to make a lot of noise in the media when levelling allegations against people and failing to prove the claims in court.
He said, “Look at all the noise they made when they started Senator Saraki’s case, it was as if he will be sent to jail the following week. But when it was time for them to prove their allegations, they could not.
“Even the case of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), that they said stole $2.1 billion arms money and that destructive weapons capable of disrupting the peace of any city in Nigeria were found in his possession, why are they the ones seeking secret trial while Dasuki that they accused is insisting on open trial?”
He urged the Senate President to see the victory as a challenge to him and the entire members of the National Assembly to always stand up to defend the rule of law and fundamental rights of Nigerians.
The Federal Government has amended the charges against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The amendment involved the reintroduction of a charge that had been earlier removed from the charges against the judge.
In the reintroduced charge, Justice Ngwuta is alleged to have given false information the Nigerian Immigration Service concerning his diplomatic passport with the purpose of procuring another one.
The judge, however, pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges against him, including the reintroduced charge.
During Tuesday’s hearing, two witnesses testified against the judge.
The first witness, Mr Tarimola Alao, an investigative officer with the Department of State Services, told the court how he took the statement of Justice Ngwuta a day after he was detained by the DSS.
When asked if his action had any bearing on the charges against Justice Ngwuta, the witness said his job was just to take the statement made by the judge after his arrest.
The next prosecution witness, Mr John Utazo, who is also a detective with the DSS and led the search of the judge’s residence, said during the search, a wardrobe that was chained with padlocks was discovered by the DSS team.
He said when the padlock was opened, he and his team discovered several bags filled with foreign currencies.
He added that his team found documents related to building plans and landed properties belonging to the judge.
The witness’ testimony was, however, stood down to enable the prosecution return with evidence from the search.
The case was subsequently adjourned to Wednesday, May 17, 2017.
The Chairman of the Senate’s Ad-hoc Committee on Humanitarian crises in the North East, Shehu Sani, has said the suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, will not stop its ongoing investigation of the PresidentialInitiative on the North East.
“I believe we still have a job to do. There are 25 companies that we are investigating and because the SGF is suspended, it doesn’t mean we have come to the end of our investigation,” Sani said in an exclusive interview on Channels Television programme Politics Today.
“Certainly, when we are back to the plenary, we are going to continue our investigation.”
The Senate had, based on the recommendation of the Sani-led committee, in December 2016 called for the removal and prosecution of Lawal for corruption.
The failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to promptly act on the Senate’s call had led the Senator to criticise the President.
Sani, who represents Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the Senate, had accused the President of ignoring allegations of corruption against members of his cabinet.
Following the suspension of Lawal, he however said the President had revived the anti-corruption war and given Nigerians reasons to believe.
He said, “Now, it is very clear that the President has heed the call of Nigerians for him to do what he needs to do. He has done it and it is clear that he is now ready to fumigate the lice and the bedbugs within the throne of power.
“I believe we are making a headway now. People now will tend to believe when we say we are fighting corruption that it is not for people in the opposition or for people very far from the circle of power.”
Sani also said that while the Senate would continue its investigation separately as an independent arm of government, it would consider requests by the Presidency’s investigative committee led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
A Federal High Court in Abuja, has heard how 752,00 dollars was paid into a special account belonging to former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
According to a release from the EFCC, a prosecution witness, Fatima Daku told the court that the money she credited into Badeh’s “Visa Gold account” was brought to the bank by his ADC and orderly.
While being led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), she told the court that Badeh’s ADC, Tom Gani, and his orderly, whose name she didn’t know, were the ones that usually bring the dollar cash to her at the bank for onward payment into Badeh’s account.
“I can’t remember the name of the orderly, but I always handed over the customer’s copy of the deposit slip to them, and kept that of the bank,” she said.
She further told the court that upon a request from the EFCC in May, indicating that Badeh was under investigation, the Internal Audit of the bank furnished the anti-graft agency with the requested documents relating to the account, including certificate of identification, vouchers, statement of account and other relevant documents. The document was subsequently admitted in evidence as G1 – G14.
Defence counsel, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who took time to go through the various tellers in the exhibits, noted that the name of Badeh was not on the tellers, but instead, they had the name of Daku on them, with the exception of one or two, which “self” had written at the space for depositor’s name.
Taking her up on the tellers, Olujinmi alluded to the fact that “self” implied the person who was filling the teller, which in the instance was the banker. He argued that the said cash deposits could not be directly linked to Badeh.
Daku, under re-examination by Jacobs, was asked to make clarification on why she put her name on some of the tellers and “self” on others. The question was objected to by Olujinmi, who argued that “re-examination was not meant to be an opportunity for the prosecution to recoup.”
Quoting from Section 215 of the Evidence Act, Jacobs, however, insisted that the question was in order, as long as it is to enable the witness make clarifications to comments made during cross-examination.
Justice Abang, after listening to both arguments, overruled Olujinmi’s objection, ruling that a witness under re-examination, can be allowed to make clarification about statements made earlier, noting that the account name was Alex Badeh, though Daku’s name was on some of the tellers, and “self” was on others.
Daku, however, explained that “self” meant owner of the bank account, adding that: “As relationship manager, I filled in the teller of June 13, 2013 for the payment of the $50,000 in the account, and credited it with the money, but the two officers were the ones that brought the money.”
She explained further that though several of the tellers had her name, and Badeh never came personally to make the deposits, “the money did not belong to me, and they were brought to the bank by the two officers”.
Daku had on November 14, 2016 told the trial judge that she opened the account for Badeh between 2012 and 2013 was subsequently credited with about $752,000. The account, according to her, could not be operated over the counter except in case of cash deposits.
The former defence chief is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, along with his company, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited.
He is standing trial on charges of abusing his office by withdrawing 1.4 billion naira from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force to purchase properties in choice areas of Abuja between January and December, 2013.
Trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, has adjourned to November 22, 2016 for continuation of hearing.
Voluntary return of looted funds or option of plea bargain is not deterrent enough for persons indicted to have looted Nigeria’s funds in the war against corruption, a group, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, said on Friday.
Giving instances of persons that they want to face punishments, the group claims that the former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr Abdullahi Dikko, had returned one billion Naira to the Federal Government and insisted that voluntary return of loot was not enough.
‘Go And Sin No More’
In a statement, the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Mr Debo Adeniran, said: “It is very imperative for Nigerians to understand the details of what constitute the ‘plea bargain’ being offered to some suspects of corruption or the ‘go and sin no more’ attitude which is apparently being applied as in Dikko and some other suspected corruption criminals’ cases”.
Out of the 480 million Naira he has returned 100 million Naira to the Federal Government.
The ex-Custom boss has been under investigation by the EFCC for allegedly diverting about 40 billion Naira during his administration as head of Customs between August 2009 and August 2015, while Obanikoro’s case was about his alleged role in the diversion of 4.7 billion Naira from the imprest account of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Mr Adeniran expressed dissatisfaction with the developments given the gravity of the crimes in question.
He said: “Our Coalition has always insisted on punishing culprits of corruption to serve as deterrent to other corruption criminals and the potentially corrupt persons in the country.
“The non-application of punitive measures against persons guilty of corruption would make the whole anti-corruption war a huge joke, a waste of time, energy and resources.
“We are aware that part of the conditions for plea bargain, given to accused persons, who are penitent, are forfeiting of properties and pleading guilty. We acknowledge the necessity to differentiate between penitent corruption criminals and recalcitrant ones, but we insist that the return of loots is not far-reaching enough if the war against corruption will achieve enduring success.
“Our position is that, it is correct to treat those who admit their guilt voluntarily and those that make the state to expend resources energy and time before their conviction is achieved differently, we agree to that extent.
“But our position is that those that opt for plea bargain should nonetheless not be allowed to go scot-free; they should hence be stripped of all their properties and monies as well as honours that could have been bestowed on some of them – they should be made to start life anew. All of their material possessions should be deemed as proceeds of corruption and therefore confiscated by the state. Then they can be told to ‘go and sin no more'”.
‘Jail According To Loot Size’
Continuing, he said: “As for the recalcitrant ones of should of course be made to face the full constitutional and judicial consequences of their crimes. They should be put in jail according to size of their loots, even up to life imprisonment”.
The CACOL is also suggesting life imprisonment for convicts that stole any amount above one billion Naira, insisting that they should be made to work diligently for their own upkeep via whatever skills they possess previously or has been able to learn behind the bars.
“They should be used as objects to educate the young, the youth and all when they go on excursion to the prisons, seeing former corrupt leaders in such situation will certainly serve to deter the potentially corrupt,” the group highlighted.
It further advised that whatever assets traced to such convicts should be deemed to be proceeds of corruption and confiscated by the Nigerian state.
The trial of a former Chief of Defence Staff in Nigeria, Alex Badeh, continued on Wednesday at a Federal High Court in Abuja, with a witness testifying against him.
At the hearing, the eighth prosecution witness told Justice Okon Abang how Mr Badeh laundered funds removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force, using four different accounts operated in the name of Iyalikam Nigeria Limited.
The witness said Mr Badeh became a co-signatory of the company’s account in January 2015.
A cross-examination by Badeh’s counsel, Akin Olujimi, further revealed that he was a signatory to Iyalikam Nigeria Limited and that the witness received instructions to transfer funds to various accounts.
After the witness’ cross-examination of Wednesday, the trial was adjourned to Thursday, November 3, for further cross examination.
Mr Badeh is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside his company, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, for allegedly abusing his office by using money meant for the Nigerian Air Force to buy property in choice areas of Abuja between January and December, 2013.
Nigeria’s former President, Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated his support for freedom of speech for Nigerians, as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
Addressing a gathering of lawyers at a dinner he attended in the United States on Saturday, the former Nigerian leader told the gathering that he was proud to say that his administration never placed ethno-religious interest above the individual values of Nigerians.
“I am proud to say that while we were conscious of the Federal Character, as our constitutional guiding principle, we never placed ethno-religious interest over our individual values.
“Accordingly, we made efforts to ensure that interest groups in the society feel safe and secured in their day to day activities.
“That is why no matter what any individual or group said about me, I ensured that there was both freedom of speech and freedom after the speech,” Dr. Jonathan stressed.
His speech comes at a time that most of his allies are facing corruption charges in different courts, with some of them in detention.
Expressing his support for what he called ‘freedom after speech’ he said: “Under my watch not a single Nigerian was sent to prison because of anything he or she wrote or said about me or the administration that I headed.
“Nigeria had neither political prisoners nor prisoners of conscience because we ourselves ensured that we acted accordingly in all we did.
“You in the diaspora can attest to the fact that there was no Nigerian on exile,” he stressed.
Before he lost his re-run election in 2015 to President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, he was at a time described as the most abused leader, but he told the lawyers that he took a stand to uphold the freedom of speech for all Nigerians.
“Not only did I take a stand to allow people express their opinions without fear, we also enacted the Freedom of Information Act and by that we tore the veil of secrecy covering governance.
“Nigerians deserve to know how their government functions and I ensured that all institutions including the Nigeria bar association were completed devoid of any governmental influence”.
“I don’t believe somebody can just steal $2.2 billion. We bought warships, we bought aircraft, we bought lots of weapons for the army and so on and so forth and you are still saying $2.2 billion? So, where did we get the money to buy all those things?” he questioned while giving a lecture on Youth Entrepreneurship at the famous Oxford Union in the United Kingdom.