JUDE AGBASO, EFCC AND IMO STATE

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In 2011, Jude Agbaso, a young man was made deputy governor of Imo state via the political connection of his elder brother Martin Agbaso. Jude had no idea about governance. He knew nothing about politics. He had never held or managed a public office. Those who foisted him on Ndi-Imo painted him as a credible face. We were told that he was Mr. Integrity, that he carried the banner of Mr. Incorruptible.

We believed them and listened when he spoke. When he was given an extra role of commissioner of works of the state, we clapped.

In February 2013, Imolites woke up one morning to hear that the same Jude has received bribe monies totaling N458 million from a construction company. We were “shock- struck”. There are things that happen, and you will be dumb-founded, you will be filled with so much shame that your eyes will close in indignity. That was how many of us who believed the Mr. Integrity story of Jude Agbaso felt.

We gathered that due to contractors abandoning road projects in Imo State, the Imo Joint Committee on State and Local Government Projects went into investigation to find out why.

In the investigation, it was discovered that Jude Agbaso was involved in a N458 million bribery scam. Acting on the report of the Project Monitoring Committee, the Imo House of Assembly set up a Special Adhoc Committee for further investigation. Mr. Joseph Dina, MD of J-PROS International Nigeria Limited confessed that he gave Agbaso a total sum of N458 million on request as kickbacks for the reconstruction of the Sam Mbakwe road in Owerri which was awarded for N1.5 billion. Dina revealed the phone number with which the deputy governor made the request and the account numbers.

Ndi-Imo all over expressed their displeasure with Agbaso. His action was seen as an anti-poor and self-serving conduct. He was immediately noted as a fat cat that sees public office as his gold mine, to plunder and leave the rest of us in pitch darkness. Calls for him to face the full fire of the law started coming from the people of the state. Twenty three members of the 27-member Imo State House of Assembly impeached him on March 28, 2013. Corrupt enrichment is neither legitimate nor part of the tasks that voters hire a governor or deputy governor to discharge.

A governor or deputy governor who is discovered to loot the public treasury always face the ire of taxpayers. Everybody condemns corruption. Corruption is like a tax. It differs only in the sense that the payment does not end up as public revenue.

It deprives government of revenue required to provide productive public goods. It is more detrimental to growth than excessive taxation. There can be no justification for collecting such an outrageous amount of money as kickbacks for reconstruction of a road in a state where 60% of her citizens live on less than 600 naira per day, in a state that has almost 10,000 children on the streets-children without parental care, without shelter.

Last week, I read several newspaper headlines and commentaries that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared the Emekuku born “thieftain” Jude Agbaso not guilty over the bribe scam. Honestly, there are reasons why I have stop to believe anything that comes out of the EFCC. I stop to believe the EFCC because I notice that the agency encourages corruption by working as a “protector-general” for men who are Nigeria’s biggest and most mindless crooks. I notice that the agency conspires with Nigerian fraudsters while pretending to be probing them. They use rhetoric’s to spare corrupt public officials from serious prosecution, public officials who by their treasury looting have done infinitely harm to Nigeria just like Boko Haram.

There have been countless number of arrests and investigations involving millions and billions of naira but unfortunately at the end of such investigations EFCC will always come out that there are no evidence to find the accused guilty of fraud whereas there were evidences before the invitation of EFCC and at the beginning of the trial.

I regard the Agbaso’s wholesale clearance by EFCC as a joke to make people laugh. They are just trying to practice the trade of Julius Agwu on stage. In a country without real means of entertainment due to power blackouts, this EFCC’s clearance of Agbaso is indeed another Julius Agwu’s crack ya ribs.

Do they think that Imo people are brain dead? So they expect Ndi-Imo to swallow this concoction that Agbaso is free of the bribe scam. So they expect us to believe that our respected Chief Judge Ben Njemanze’s probe panel and the 23 out of 27 members of Imo House of Assembly erred in declaring Agbaso guilty.

Why should we believe EFCC’s false assertion that it couldn’t find any indictment on Agbaso when we know how the Bankole-EFCC story ended. There is insincerity in EFCC’s fight against corruption in Nigeria. This is an agency that could not tell us till date what happened to more than $12 billion in additional revenues that Nigeria earned from oil sales during the first Gulf War. Babangida who stole or took or kept them is still alive.

This is an agency that could not address till date the scandal of June 12, 1993, when a stellar election was annulled for reasons that nobody has articulated. This is an agency that could not address till date the scandals of the Sani Abacha years, including billions of dollars taken away from the Central Bank, the debt buy back scam, and deals in which the dictator, his family and friends imported toxic fuel into Nigeria.

This is an agency that could not prosecute till date the Obasanjo-era scandals and scams, including Obasanjo’s Transcorp shares, the contract for the Abuja stadium, the billions of dollars wasted on so-called power projects, the shadowy process through which oil blocs were handed out, the absence of accountability in the management of Nigeria’s oil sector, and Pentascope. Then there are the Siemens and Halliburton scandals whose stench touched a huge number of Nigerian officials.

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This is an agency that could not open the files that Obasanjo and Atiku made available to the press during the third term roforofo fight. Every day in the newspapers we saw original copies of looted funds by Obasanjo and Atiku. What about the files of all the corrupt governors that EFCC promised to prosecute when the immunity shield was over in 2007.

What about the N55m bribery scandal of ex -Senate President, Adolphus Wabara and ex-Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji . What about when the Senate probed the land allocations in Abuja under Obasanjo’s presidency and revealed nauseating, pervasive acts of corruption by those in charge.

Just last year, we were told how big men and women, oil marketers were stealing, with the aid of politicians, billions upon billions of our oil money through fictitious subsidy payment .We know where this story ended. What about the pension probe, the Securities and Exchange Commission probe and the two bullet proof BMW car cases involving Stella Oduah, the Minister of Aviation. What has happened to all these exposed corruption cases?

All the above mentioned reasons and many more have made me lost faith in the EFCC. I say a big kudos to the Imo House of Assembly for removing Agbaso. The House did well to appoint a credible deputy governor in the state, Prince Eze Madumere , to continue with the affairs of the state. Unless Nigerians establish the principle that a thief is a thief, regardless of his rank, and susceptible to the punishment set out in the criminal code, we run the risk of nurturing a generation of citizens who embrace the idea that it’s noble to steal everything in sight.

Kenneth Uwadi, Mmahu-Egbema, Imo State, Nigeria

 

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