Mixed Reactions Trail FG’s Recovered Loot | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Mixed Reactions Trail FG’s Recovered Loot

Posted: Jun 8, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Augustine Adah

Lagos -The decision of the federal government to release the list of recovered loots without disclosing names of those involved has generated mixed reactions from Nigerians. While some people support the decision of government to omit names of those involved because of legal implications, others criticised the government for failing to disclose names of those looters in its interim report.

Okpe Ugochi a lawyer at Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has described the action of the government to publish the amount recovered without names of those involved as a bad job.

“If you want to fight corruption you must fight it transparently. Government must go further to publish the names of those who were involved so that they can be prosecuted in the law court.” She further stated that disclosing the identity of those involved would ridicule them before Nigerians and would serve as deterrent to others.

Also Augustine Alegeh (SAN) president, Nigerian Bar Association, said it was important for President Muhammadu Buhari to fulfill his promise by releasing the names of looters for citizens to gain closure.

He said: “It is also important that we know the quantum of recoveries made from various persons so that it will be something that is known to every Nigerian and there would be no challenge. How did you arrive at the figures that are out there if you don’t put not just names but reasons (to the recovered loots)?

However, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has slammed those criticising President Buhari for publishing the list of recovered loot from corrupt politicians. He described the criticisms that trailed the published list of recovered loot as the height of insanity. Keyamo said those faulting the President were both friends and families of the looters or their political associates. After the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, released the details of the loot in a statement on Saturday, many Nigerians criticised the President for not naming the looters as promised on May 29.

But Keyamo, in a series of tweets on his official Twitter handle on Sunday, said he expected that the recovery of the loot would generate appreciation rather than condemnation. He said, “Trace the history of those who are very angry now on Twitter; they are friends, relatives or political associates of the thieves. It is simple. “One can constructively criticise a government on different issues, but to oppose a government for recovering monies belonging to all of us, I don’t get it. “I thought that on the aggressive recovery of loot, partisanship would be put aside, and everyone would come together and say thank you to the Federal Government.“A robber robs a neighbourhood. A man pursues him and recovers the loot. You come out and fume at the man for tackling the robber too hard. This is insanity.

Speaking on the issue, Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo has stated that naming the government decided to soft pedal on releasing the identity of looters in order to avoid jeopardising investigations. ” Releasing the names of persons from whom the federal government has recovered looted funds and assets may jeopardize ongoing investigations, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has said. While the government released a list of sums of monies and assets already recovered in the last one year, names of individuals involved were not included. “We have released the list of recovered loot, we know people are are asking for the names, but releasing the names may jeopardize ongoing investigations,” the Vice President said today at the Presidential Villa during a meeting with a delegation of the European Union led by the EU Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr. Michel Arrion

Similarly, Femi Adesina, special adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, disagreed with those who were unhappy with the President’s decision not to mention the names, adding that making the names public would deter persons who had the intention of returning funds from bringing them forward. His words, “Well, the president said he will mention names, but even if he erred, it’s better to err on the side of caution. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. It (naming those who returned stolen assets) came up and legal opinion was that it was premature to mention those names. “So, for me I think it’s a demonstration of strength for the president not to have mentioned those names again, contrary to what he said earlier. It shows that he buys into the opinion of other people. Legal minds came up to say: ‘Don’t mention these names of these people yet’. It would have implications if you do so, and he bought into it. “I think rather it’s something that we must commend and applaud rather than condemn. These recoveries were made from May 29 last year to May 25 this year.

A large number of them are fresh loot, outside the Abacha loot.” The presidential spokesman went on to state that if the president had gone ahead with his earlier plan and it backfired, it would have amounted to a major distraction for the government. According to him, “What if at the end of the day the court decides that those people are not guilty and that the money should be returned, then you will have legal cases on your hands and that will constitute distraction to the government. “At the end of the day, we will lose monies that would have been recoverable for the country. What of the situation of those who want to return monies… because the government has been precipitate in mentioning names, those funds will not be returned to the coffers again. “I think it is better to err on the side of caution and that was why eventually the president agreed with those who said the names should be withheld.” He further stated that the recovered funds could be used to make up for the deficit in the 2016 budget, which has over two trillion naira deficit. “If you look at the 2016 budget, you will see that it anticipated this eventuality. There is a provision, I think about N380 billion which say would be provided for from recovered funds. So the budget anticipated this. “When he visited the UK in February, the president said much of the money that would have been borrowed to fund this budget may not be borrowed again because of recovered funds and monies that were housed through the Treasury Single Account, TSA,” Adesina said.

Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has described the disclosure of the returned loot as a good start and equally commended government for rendering a transparent account of recoveries made so far. He urged the federal government not to relent in its effort to recover more loot because if properly utilised could stimulate the economy and create jobs for teeming youths in the country