The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, has faulted a former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, regarding the culpability of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the current anti-corruption cases.
Suleiman, who is the spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party Ministers’ Forum, had said in a Sunday PUNCH interview that Jonathan could not be held liable because no stolen funds had been traced to the ex-president’s personal bank accounts.
The ex-minister had said, “All these issues of corruption under Jonathan happened between March and April last year. It was purely an election issue. Nobody has traced any money to Jonathan’s account up till now, but money was traced to Abacha’s accounts.”
However, Sagay told one of our correspondents during an interview on Sunday that although he could not say if there was a case against Jonathan or not yet, the ex-President could be held liable if it could be established that Jonathan made illegal approvals for funds to be paid into other people’s accounts.
He said if, for instance, it could be established that Jonathan gave the Central Bank of Nigeria a directive to pay someone money and the person was not deserving of that money, then the ex-President could be indicted.
Sagay, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, added, “Only the EFCC can say if Jonathan is culpable. Guilt in criminal law requires proof and there must be evidence. So, what I would say is that if a case can be established against Jonathan as regards public funds, then he has a case to answer.
“I don’t know if that has been done. I have not seen anybody who says he was given the money by Jonathan himself although one can say that instructions to any institution that public funds should be released to other people for purposes, which those funds were not designated, is in itself a criminal affair.
“So, it is not only when money is found on you that you have a case to answer. If you are a person in authority, and you issue directives to people under you, who are keeping public funds like the Governor of the Central Bank, and an illegal order is given to him for the release of funds, that, in itself, will raise a case for Jonathan to answer if in fact he issued such an order.”
Another SAN, Mr. Yusuf Ali, said it was too early to exonerate anyone as investigations into corruption that took place under the previous administration were still ongoing.
Ali stated, “The whole process is ongoing. Investigations are still ongoing. Until somebody is convicted, nothing bad can be said about such person. I believe when we get to the bridge, we shall cross it.
“There is no point for anybody to be excited or be happy for now until the whole story is in the open. Investigations are ongoing.”
On his part, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, described Suleiman’s statement as provocative and highly irresponsible.
Ogunye said the fact that a number of persons, who served under the Jonathan administration, were facing criminal trial was enough grounds to charge the former President with conspiracy.
According to Ogunye, Jonathan, as the head of the executive arm, had liability for everything done by his subordinates because the buck stopped at his table.
Ogunye said, “That statement by him is provocative and highly irresponsible. And the reason I say that is that former President Goodluck Jonathan was the head of the executive arm of government at the time he presided over the affairs of the country.
“All the officials that are being held to account and during whose trials, as we speak, Nigerians are now learning about the mind-boggling stealing or looting of public treasury, were answerable to him; they were running his errands and therefore Nigerians expect that being the person on whose table the buck stopped as of the time he was the President, that he would be able to superintend them and ensure that those his subordinates didn’t loot the nation’s treasury.
“It’s too early in the day for any Suleiman or anybody to give the former President or any other member of that administration a clean bill of health. When you are talking about no money has been traced to former President Goodluck Jonathan, what does it mean?
“On his instruction and while he was running for office, people turned our national security vote into a bazaar and they were giving this money out to his allies and acolytes. So, whose errand were those people running when they were distributing the money? Who wanted to become the President then? And based on those revelations alone, he is culpable, contrary to the claims of Suleiman that nothing has been traced to him.
“Can’t the former President be charged with conspiracy? He can, on the basis of those revelations because for what purpose was the money given to those people? On the strength of that alone, a charge of conspiracy can be sustained against the former President.
“For anybody to be annoying Nigerians with such a statement that nothing has been traced to the former President, one wonders what he was thinking. This is not theatrics, we are talking about things that have wrecked this country and then people are engaging in ludicrous polemics.”