In this interview, the Chairman of the of Presidential Advisory Council on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, spoke on the stalled bribery corruption investigation against the Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, and the NYSC certificate saga of former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun. It’s a riveting read:
You reportedly said the Kano House of Assembly cannot investigate Governor Ganduje. Why can’t they?
They cannot because by the provision of the Constitution, their powers of investigation are limited. They can only investigate funds that have been disbursed by any administrative or other body which was appropriated by the House.
In other words, it must be funds which were appropriated under the budget of the House, which are now being operated by other functionaries. In those circumstances they can probe such functionaries for their administration of those funds.
Outside that, they cannot. So, the case at hand for example, I hear is that of a private contractor who supposedly bribed the governor. In that situation, the Kano State House has no jurisdiction at all.
Is it simply because the funds involved were not state funds?
Yes. Because the funds were not appropriated by them in a budget. What they are supposed to do is to see how the funds that they have appropriated in the budget are being used, whether they are being used diligently (judiciously).
That’s where they have oversight powers. Check Section 128 Paragraph 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The powers of the State House of Assembly in this regard are clearly stated there. For the National Assembly, check Section 88.
What options are open to get to the bottom of the matter?
The Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) have the jurisdiction to investigate such cases. And they can only investigate; that’s all. They cannot charge.
They can investigate and prepare a report which they will keep. And if the report implicates the governor they will have to wait for him to leave office.
The Executive Order (E06) banning 50 politicians from traveling has generated a lot of comments. Was there any need for such order in the first place, since the cases are still in court and it would ultimately be up to the courts to grant any travel requests, if such requests are made by the affected politicians?
Yes, there is a justification for the restriction of movement. Because some of these people who have looted huge sums of money, do not only have them in this country, but have also transferred them abroad.
They will escape from the country to go and enjoy what they have abroad. And once they do that, they don’t care whatever action you are taking in the country.
They will just turn a deaf ear to it and make sure that they are secured in their new locations, enjoying the loot that they have transferred there. It is to prevent that sort of thing from happening that that order was passed.
Amongst other things, to preserve the resource that has been looted. Also to prevent people from escaping so that they will avoid prosecution. And if your name is on that list, you can always go to court for an order to be granted against the government to remove your name. You can do that.
“We have had cases as I’ve said, in which people escaped before anything could be done. So, it is just to avoid that. But ultimately, the court has the last say. Let me add something which is not within you question, but which gives an idea on some of the factor motivating the government on this matter.”
Then, shouldn’t a travel ban order be for the court to decide on rather than the executive issuing it?
In a sense, it can be both. But where the matter is urgent, the executive has the power to do so, pending when all the resource can be secured. We have had cases as I’ve said, in which people escaped before anything could be done.
So, it is just to avoid that. But ultimately, the court has the last say. Let me add something which is not within you question, but which gives an idea on some of the factor motivating the government on this matter.
We have observed that where bail is granted to any person charged for looting, the case lasts forever. It is frustrated with deliberate extension by frivolous applications and it goes on and on in an endless process.
But where bail is refused, the case ends within three months, because the accused is anxious for the case to be concluded so that he can get his freedom, even if it means by plea bargaining, in which case, he is going to give up a lot of the properties he has acquired to get a very lenient terms.
We’ve known cases in which the person had to give up over N900bn. And then was sent to prison for nine months which the person spent in hospital, in relative comfort. This is what we have observed.
If these measures are not taken, these looters are encouraged to drag on matters indefinitely, laughing at the whole state in the process and using the state’s money to fight the state.
In his article, Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, said, “the travel ban is a sad reminder of the reckless placement of political opponents on security watch-list and the seizure of their passports by defunct military juntas.” Do you disagree with him?
No. No. I don’t agree with him. As I have said, the situation this government met when they took over was dismal and anybody affected by the order still has the right to go to court to seek redress.
And if there is no justification for it, the court will discharge whatever order has been passed in relation to him. Whatever the order the government made in his case will be discharged by the court. So, there is that freedom; there is that right to seek relief from the court.
Former finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, resigned a few months ago due to allegations that she forged her NYSC exemption certificate. Do you have any regrets saying you would have retained her because she was doing a good job?
Absolutely not. In fact, my resolve in that regard is much stronger now. This lady (Kemi Adeosun) was a hugely transparent and talented person, who brought a lot of benefit to our economy with her many ideas.
She was also very committed to this country and has great integrity. She was in the forefront of the fight against corruption. Now, what is her offence? That she got employed in the public service without youth service. Fine.
But what are her circumstances? She never grew up in this country. I am not even aware she knew about youth service. She was well over 30, the normal age at which one is entitled to NYSC exemption certificate, before she came here.
The argument against her is that she graduated under 30. Yes. But she was well over that age before she came and she didn’t quite know. When it was first raised, she consulted people and they told her, never mind.
You are entitled to NYSC exemption certificate and offered to process it for her. She gave them all the information about herself, they processed it and gave her a letter, indicating that she has been exempted, which she believed in in good faith.
Morally she has done nothing wrong. On the contrary, she has been of great benefit to this country so that it’s a great loss. I feel Nigerians tend to be blood thirty at times. This is a case of blood thirsty Nigerians, simply baying at an innocent person and making this country lose the service of a very talented and committed public servant.
So, I have no regret. In fact, I’m very saddened by it. I am not too happy with the federal government for succumbing to this illegitimate pressure by the PDP and their sources, just to attack for the sake of attacking in other to cover up for their own corruption and their mis-governance.
I am not too happy with the government for allowing her to go. If I were to be in that position I would never ever allowed her to go. I would just have ignored everything and allow her continue, because she was doing a great job.
“This lady (Kemi Adeosun) was a hugely transparent and talented person, who brought a lot of benefit to our economy with her many ideas. She was also very committed to this country and has great integrity. She was in the forefront of the fight against corruption. Now, what is her offence?”
It’s not about the PDP, it’s about the law of the land. There are some who even believe she should have been tried for forgery could.
I think that is extreme. That is why I said Nigerians are blood thirsty. She is an innocent person. She is an innocent person. I told you she was not familiar with all that. She came here well over 30 and just went straight to do her job.
This was raised and she then got a consultant who did a shoddy job and gave wrong impression to her which she believed in. You know in our law, in criminal law, we have the actus reus and mens rea. Actus reus is the actual criminal act. Mens rea is the state of mind of the person committing a crime.
And unless the two are present in any activity of the charged person, he cannot be convicted. This lady had no mens rea at all. So she is innocent. And I think she has been oppressed by the people of this country, in spite of her innocence.
“She came here well over 30 and just went straight to do her job. This was raised and she then got a consultant who did a shoddy job and gave wrong impression to her which she believed in. You know in our law, in criminal law, we have the actus reus and mens rea. Actus reus is the actual criminal act. Mens rea is the state of mind of the person committing a crime. And unless the two are present in any activity of the charged person, he cannot be convicted.”
Is there ignorance in law?
Not ignorance in law; ignorance of the fact. Ignorance of the law is no exemption. She was ignorant of the fact that she needed that certificate and more relevantly, she was ignorant that the certificate she was given was not genuine.
So with that situation, she is not liable because she did not have the intention. She had not mens rea. She was an innocent person unjustly punished for doing no wrong.