23rd August, 2023
By Fredrick Nwabufo
In these parts, public office comes with boisterous carnivals, elevated expectations, thrills, and frills. The exigency, delicacy and sensitivity of this office is sometimes lost in bouts of revelries and in the pursuit of temporal nothings. It is an office where a few have made a good name for themselves; it is also a station where a multitude have come tumbling down from grace.
Every administration since 1999 seems to have its own heroes and villains – depending on the leanings or dialectical disposition of the objurgator, disputant or interrogator. The classing of heroes and villains on disparate sides is in the conviction or view of the opinion-holder. One man’s hero is another’s villain; and the other’s villain is another’s hero.
Diezani Alison-Madueke, former minister of petroleum resources under the Jonathan administration, is often held as a villain of that administration. But some people may not agree. In fact, there have been protests by some groups against her prosecution by the EFCC. Here, the voltage of outrage towards any alleged offence by a public officer is measured in ethnic and religious volts. Offences are ethnicised according to the bearings of the alleged offender.
The EFCC alleged that the former minister of petroleum resources pilfered over $153 million; bought N14 billion worth of jewellery and acquired over 90 properties in Nigeria. The agency was able to successfully secure forfeiture orders against some of the properties but was not able to bring her to trial in Nigeria.
On Tuesday, the UK National Crime Agency said it had charged Diezani to court for fraud. The NCA said Diezani is suspected to have accepted bribes during her time as minister for petroleum resources, in exchange for awarding multi-million pound oil and gas contracts. The NCA alleged she benefitted from at least £100,000 in cash, chauffeur driven cars, flights on private jets, luxury holidays for her family, and the use of multiple London properties.
According to the agency, her charges also detail financial rewards including furniture, renovation work and staff for the properties, payment of private school fees, and gifts from high-end designer shops such as Cartier jewellery and Louis Vuitton goods.
Andy Kelly, Head of the NCA’s International Corruption Unit (ICU), said: “We suspect Diezani Alison-Madueke abused her power in Nigeria and accepted financial rewards for awarding multi-million pound contracts. These charges are a milestone in what has been a thorough and complex international investigation. Bribery is a pervasive form of corruption, which enables serious criminality and can have devastating consequences for developing countries. We will continue to work with partners here and overseas to tackle the threat.”
It is, perhaps, Diezani’s long date with destiny.
Abuse of power. This is the cardinal malfeasance of Diezani as alleged by the NCA. The ingredients for abuse of power are always abundantly available. Just one act of indiscretion or indiscipline, and a public officer plunges into the whirlpool of eternal opprobrium.
But where are other former senior government officials accused of similar offences? There will always be the principal villain in any story. So, it is pertinent that public officers take heed lest they become the guilt-sponge of any administration.
Abuse of power. Abuse of office. This is a slippery slope where many public officers fall.
Godwin Emefiele, suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, is accused of abusing his power as the head of the apex bank by veering into politics. Although Emefiele denied that he intended to contest for the 2023 presidential ticket, the undertow of his resolve was obvious.
Emefiele’s ‘’naira-confiscation policy’’ in the build-up to the elections has been alleged to be a political gambit. Citizens and businesses endured untold hardship and suffering owing to that policy.
In February, the DSS filed charges bordering on terrorism financing against him. In June, he was taken into custody and charged to court in July. Fresh charges have now been brought against him. The charges border largely on abuse of office.
But was Emefiele working alone? Was he pulling the strings all by himself? Where are those whose bidding he was doing? Where are those he was working with? Where are those he was working for. Emefiele’s torment should be a cautionary example for everyone.
It is important for public officers to be wary and maintain the highest level of discipline and integrity, recognising the fact that they could become the principal villain or the repository of the sins of any administration. Any wrongdoing could culminate into becoming the cynosure for the misdeeds or perceived transgressions of any administration.
-Nwabufo aka Mr One-Nigeria is a media executive.