Petitions Against Amaechi, Fashola Not Genuine -Prof. Sagay | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Petitions Against Amaechi, Fashola Not Genuine -Prof. Sagay

Posted: Dec 26, 2015 at 10:03 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Head of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, in this interview he speaks about petitions against some ex-governors and activities of the anti-corruption body- President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight

You recently denied an interview published in a national daily, where you were reported to have described the President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war as insincere. What was your reaction to the publication?

Actually someone gave me a call around 9.30pm on that night, so I didn’t actually see it. When I got the call and the gist of it, of course, I was stunned because I did not grant any interview to anybody. And if I had granted an interview, what I was reported to have said would have been the opposite of what I would have said. My relationship with the Buhari government is very solid. I hold him in high esteem and I think that his struggle against corruption is sincere, concentrated and committed. So all that was reported in the publication was rubbish, and what was reported about the judiciary was also nonsense. I admire the judiciary and I want to encourage them and help them so they can perform better under the very difficult circumstances they are in. The same thing applies to the All Progressives Congress, which is a party I admire. This is the first time that I will associate with any political party. It is because I admire the APC government. So all the things the report said about the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and Lagos State are absolute lies. Nobody ever interviewed me and those were the opposite of what I would have said.

What action would you take following this?

I was planning to take an action. In fact, I had already got a counsel who was going to file action. But the following morning, I got information the newspaper had disowned the report and sacked that reporter. I heard the editor had been put under suspension and that the newspaper is also going to apologise in their issue. With that, the question of going to court does not arise.

Do you think this is capable of damaging your relationship with the President?

Absolutely unlikely! In fact, I think it will strengthen it because I now see and I think he too will see that our involvement – my committee and his government together in this struggle – is having a very telling effect.

Has the presidency contacted you about the interview yet?

Yes, the presidency has contacted me, not directly, (but) through my committee. We have been in touch with each other and the presidency has known the true position since Sunday night and it is not worried at all. All it is worried about is the state of the Nigerian press, and not the state of the fight against corruption, which is ongoing and not going to be distracted.

You said it was not the first time that you would be misrepresented.

The last one was with the same national newspaper but it wasn’t as bad as this. That was an actual interview but they distorted what I said. Apparently they had their own agenda and they twisted what I said to favour that agenda. It didn’t represent what I said accurately. They did that before and I cut them off because of that.

From the comments that followed the interview and what some others have said, it appears some people were in favour of what you were claimed to have said. It seems to represent the view of some Nigerians and the situation on ground, is this a pointer that people have seen the anti-corruption war is not sincere enough?

No! No! No! What is happening is that corruption is fighting back. All these people you said approved of the fake interview were the people who are connected with corruption one way or the other. Some were beneficiaries either directly or indirectly and they were happy with the existing rotten system under which the whole country was crashing down. So when they thought I made that statement, they thought ‘our fortunes are being revived, corruption is on the rise again’. But it was just for a short period, until I shut it down.

But some people and the PDP have described the fight against corruption as selective. What do you say to that?

I have always reacted by telling them this: when a farmer goes to harvest fruits, the first set he brings out is the low hanging ones. These are the ripe ones that he can pluck with his hands without having to climb the tree or use a ladder. The PDP’s corruption of 16 years constitutes low hanging fruits which have weakened our faces and bodies. They cannot hide and we cannot hide from them, so we have to deal with them first and that is what is happening. PDP’s corruption is the worst, the greatest, the most frightening this country has ever seen and the most obvious and we are going to deal with it. We are not going to go to esoteric things like going to look for what (Ozumba) Mbadiwe did in 1962 or (Tafawa) Balewa in 1960. We are not going to go there first; we will go to the obvious ones. The heavy ones, the ones that involve billions and billions of dollars right under our noses and wrecked this country in the last 16 years.

Is that an assurance that the anti-corruption war will not leave out anyone found to be corrupt irrespective of their party or closeness to the President?

Any case where there is obvious corruption, a palpable case, prima facie, strong case, we will follow up. Particularly, one of the agenda which this federal administration has is the recovery of stolen resources. So most of these people still have those resources in banks and under their beds and so on, we have to recover all those for the benefit of the social welfare of Nigerians, in addition to the pursuance of prosecution and imprisonment.

People say that this government is taking the anti-corruption fight too seriously at the expense of real governance. What do you say to that?

You know that is nonsense. Governance has been going on at all levels. Before ministers were appointed, there were permanent secretaries working in those ministries, which were being overseen directly by the presidency. Now that there are ministers, they are working in their various areas like education, power, transport, sport. You have seen the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, with all the plans he has unveiled for the future of this country. You have seen the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, with the plans for the railway and so on. They are all working. Every one of them is working. So governance is going on. What the President has done is to set up various bodies doing the jobs; the President is not directly fighting corruption. He is inspiring and appointing the people who are doing it. The people doing the job are my committee and the anti-corruption agencies, which are the executive agencies against corruption like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, and so on. Those are the people carrying the anti-corruption fight forward. He is not wasting his time with the day to day appointments in the areas where he has appointed capable people, and everybody is working.

Now that you even mentioned Fashola and Amaechi, some people criticised the presidency for appointing them as ministers when they had not satisfactorily dealt with the petitions against them. How do you react to that?

You see; if the PDP says something is good, know that it is bad. If the party says something is bad, know it is very good. PDP is the most corrupt institution this nation has ever seen. The President is a very intelligent man, knowing they were trying to deprive him of the best hands to run his government, he quietly allowed the PDP to fool itself. After it had finished fooling itself, the President went and took the best and the best, which are the likes of Fashola, Amaechi, Dr. Chris Ngige, and the others. The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, was the best minister in Shehu Shagari’s government at the time. The President picked a galaxy of stars as his ministers and we are going to see results. So he did the right thing. He knew those people were up to mischief, so he just quietly let them fool themselves and at the end, he did the right thing. They will do great things for this country.

But a lot of APC members today joined from the same PDP you have described as corrupt. So what difference is there between them?

We have an upright leadership that would not tolerate that kind of indiscipline so they would not have access. We have a leadership that is upright and in very strong control of what happens.

But should the petitions have been ignored?

They should be discountenanced. They are rubbish; they were done out of what Nigerians call ‘bad belle’ to prevent this government from performing well and it was a vindictive action against innocent Nigerians who have served this nation very well. There are very wicked, thoroughly despicable characters, who do not deserve anything positive in this country. There were some characters behind it who wanted to drag the country down and prevent Buhari from giving the best government that Nigerians deserve.

Fashola allegedly spent N163m on two boreholes in Lagos among other allegations. So if such petitions are not investigated, how do we know that the allegations are spurious or sponsored by the PDP?

We are talking of people’s records; these are people with solid records. And if you look at the whole environment and atmosphere, they were about to be made ministers and a group of very corrupt people wanted to stop them. That’s all. This was because they didn’t want people of high capacity, ability and commitment to be in this government. It was an attempt to scuttle their chances to become ministers; that was the main purpose behind it. You cannot investigate every person based on an allegation that was made; there must be a basis. There must be some level of prima facie, evidence and so on. In these cases, they were just mere allegations. Even if you say the person spent a lot of money putting up a building, you are still a long way off from establishing that corruption took place. Have you looked at the quality of the building or if there was misjudgement in terms of paying more than necessary for the construction of the particular facility? That does not mean that the person is corrupt. It does not mean so. Maybe it was poor judgement on a particular occasion. The point I’m trying to make is that there was so much remoteness and implausibility in the allegations being made that they were not worth investigating. If you look at what is being investigated now, they are cases that are so obvious. When you are talking about money being taken by people on particular dates and they are not even being disputed. So there is a lot of difference between what is happening now and the venomous and hateful accusations against those great achievers.