May 19, 2022
  • May 19, 2022

Get more convictions to tame corruption

By on March 4, 2022 0

The recent sentencing of a former Minister of Water Resources, Sarah Reng Ochekpe, along with two others, was a milestone in Nigeria’s fight against corruption. Their conviction on the two counts against them was secured on February 22, 2022 by the Gombe Zone Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The other two convicted are Evan Leo Sunday Jitong and Raymond Dabo, who respectively served as deputy campaign manager of the Goodluck/Sambo 2015 election campaign and former acting chairman of the PDP in Plateau State. Ochekpe served under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

EFCC spokesperson Wilson Uwujaren said the trio were found guilty and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment each by Judge HM Kurya of the Federal High Court in Jos, Plateau State, for an amended three-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering. He said: “They allegedly received the sum of 450 million naira from Fidelity Bank via wire transfer and cash by some oil companies and former Oil Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the election. 2015 presidential election.

Investigations by the EFCC showed that on March 26, 2015, the sum of N450 million was withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by the Jos Main Branch of Fidelity Bank and handed over to the accused in cash, after which they signed for collection. . Although the defendants claimed to have handed over the money to the late Senator Gyang Pwajok, the 2015 Plateau State DPP gubernatorial candidate, they were unable to provide any evidence to support their claim.

Count one of the counts which reads in part: “That you, in March 2015 in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this honorable tribunal, without going through the financial institution, conspired among yourselves to accept cash payment of the sum of Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N450,000,000) from a Annet Olije Gyen, Chief Operating Officer, Jos Branch of Fidelity Bank, which amount exceeded the amount authorized by the law and has thereby committed an offense contrary to the provisions of section 18(a) ), section 16 (1) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 (as amended) and punishable under pursuant to Article 16 (2) (b) of the same law.

While the defendants were found guilty on the first count, bordering on conspiracy to accept over-threshold cash payment under the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2012 (as amended) and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with the option of a fine of N2,000,000 (two million naira) each, they were found guilty of the second count and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with an option of a fine of N2,000,000 (two million naira) each. The sentences must be executed consecutively. The court, however, released them and acquitted them of the third charge, which borders on withholding funds.

The conviction of Sarah Ochekpe and two others charged with conspiracy and money laundering is a welcome development that should deter public officials from abusing the privileges of office. Yet this is a remarkable precedent, even when a convicted official chooses the option of a fine rather than imprisonment. At least the shame will remain with them for eternity. The mere published fact of being a suspect in a corruption trial is embarrassing enough for anyone, let alone someone who has served as a minister in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This humiliation is serious enough to prevent anyone from taking advantage of future opportunities that come their way, that is, if any. It is indeed a lesson for other public officials who may be engaged in corrupt practices or other acts that are not in the interest of the people, that one day the law will catch up with them.

We urge the EFCC to prosecute all those who have been indicted in corruption cases and bring them to fruition. Nevertheless, the length of time it took for the EFCC to obtain the conviction of the defendants in this case, as in many others, is worrying. Prosecutors from the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies nationwide are encouraged to prepare and file charges against suspects in order to expedite the trial. This would require thorough investigation, well-prepared charges and strategic presentation of prosecution witnesses. Given the scale of corruption cases reported in the media, the convictions obtained so far by anti-corruption agencies are comparatively lower than public expectations. Some public officials convicted in the past include former Governor Joshua Dariye, former Governor Jolly Nyame and Farouk Lawan, a former member of the House of Representatives..

While we urge the government to withdraw all national honors previously awarded to a public official convicted in a corruption case, we advise that thorough checks be carried out before awarding such honors in the future. Public officials must obey financial regulations and refrain from abusing public trust.