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Govt must be cautious but decisive in curbing corruption, says Ikponmwen

Idada Ikponmwen

A former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army and presently a policy and security expert, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen (rtd.), has called on the Federal Government not to allow the socio-economic and political development of the country to suffer while fighting the scourge of corruption.

However, he advised that as the country continued to find it’s footing in fighting corruption and positioning the state economically, it should not be selective and no one should be spared.

Ikponmwen who is also a strategic thinker, an administrator and a politician particularly urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to use the fight as a means of victimization.

He said that the government was caught in between fighting corruption and battling sentiments “I think this is where the challenge to the Federal Government comes, is the FG going to fold its arms and fail to address issues of fraud, fail to arrest all persons mentioned in regards to fraudulent dealing with the Nation’s fund which will point to weakness of the FG or will it be better if it says we must maintain law and order in our country? We must bring to book all those who have defaulted and committed crimes whether by way of embezzlement, misappropriation or whatever means.

“On this basis nobody ought to be spared not even for fear that some Niger-Delta people will see the Federal Government as clamping down on them. These are the questions that come to my mind because it is a very sensitive situation. Sensitive in the sense that government must be able to draw the linking balance between dealing decisively with everybody who commit any form of wrong and also being careful not to give the Niger-Delta elements right thinking or not right thinking the opportunity to unleash more harm on Nigeria’s oil resources and oil facilities.

“What I will suggest is a very sincere, very honest approach to the issue. Criminals must not get away because nobody is above the law and at the same time impression must not be given that government is out to oppress or suppress any community in any part of the nation and in this particular sense, the Niger-Delta.

“I believe that those who have been accused of misappropriation of funds, wherever they come from, must be dealt with decisively. It will be selfish for the Niger-Delta people to expect that anybody from that region should be left to escape the long arm of the law simply because the government doesn’t want to ‘offend’ the Niger-Delta people.”

ON the vandalisation and destruction of government facilities like the petroleum pipeline, Ikponmwen said, “The bottom line is government must be seen to deal very objectively, sincerely and decidedly with the issue of misappropriation, criminal bombing of facility as they arise in the Niger-Delta. Their resources primarily should be for their own good and at the same time the wider Nigerian society has a stake in the wealth and resources of the Niger-Deltan and it is wrong to say that it is only the Niger-Delta that should enjoy the wealth of Nigeria.”

“I believe that those who have been accused of misappropriation of funds, wherever they come from, must be dealt with decisively. It will be selfish for the Niger-Delta people to expect that anybody from that region should be left to escape the long arm of the law simply because the government doesn’t want to ‘offend’ the Niger-Delta people.”

Ikponmwne said the Federal Government need to diversify the country’s economy rather than a mono-economy
According to him, “As a military officer that was exposed to various training, I recall that this issue has been a matter of recurring decimal. The danger on relying on oil and oil related resources alone have been pointed out as a very serious setback so much that people branded it, oil doom rather than oil boom because Nigerians virtually did not see any more need to sustain other means of getting resources for the nation. Things like timber, groundnut, cocoa all of which used to make a lot of money accruable to the nation’s fund. Nigerians no longer see the opportunities; they now regard them as a waste of time because oil money has come to be the quick way out, not only for the government but also for individuals to make money.”

The former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army also urged on the need for the Buhari’s administration to diversify the economy. According to him, the change mantra of the present government must seriously address the need to diversify other means of national resources, adding: “We must go back to agriculture and look at all the former means of generating funds for government and government must be seen to pursue this with all determination and zeal.”

He noted that it would be absolutely unacceptable to sustain the old practice of abandoning other means of the nation’s resources, saying: “With the way those countries that needed our oil have started developing their own, with their reluctance to even patronize us, with the stockpile of oil they have in their country we should know that the gain of oil business being our major direction in propelling and driving our economy is going to fail.”

On allegations that the judiciary was encouraging corruption, he claimed that the judiciary has also been a victim of the system and has even over protected political office holders when it comes to corruption and immunity.

According to him, “We have seen cases in Nigeria how the issue of plea bargain have rubbished the value of our people and the psyche of the nation. A man found to have embezzled billions of naira gets away by paying N700,000 by way of plea bargain.”

“I must also mention the issue of immunity for governors, their deputy and president at the national level; the provision of the constitution hasn’t been read in absolute terms to mean that the governors, deputies and president have absolute immunity. My worry is that from the lower courts to the Supreme Court, this concept of absolute immunity was upheld and I think it was wrong with due respect to the judiciary. The same constitution says government officers should be impeached when there is gross misconduct. The same constitution that says anybody indicted for misappropriation within 10 years should not contest election. This same constitution that provides these safeguard can’t be the same one that provides a shield for corrupt government officers to remain in office.

“The provision of the constitution on immunity has been badly battered by the judiciary. Because the law is what the judiciary says it is the law.”

Ikponmwen who is a chieftain of the APC in the state believed that Governor Adams Oshiomhole has the right to support an aspirant of his choice who should succeed him but insisted that he must not force such persons on the party’s delegates otherwise it would become a negation of what he has been preaching against.

According to him, “We have seen all the missiles flying from one side to the other. They alleged that Oshiomhole is trying to force a candidate on his party and Edo people and yet we have heard government saying it is going to follow party rules and regulation and to produce a candidate that is good for the party. I find it difficult to think that a governor who is a champion of democracy by every pronouncement of his, a governor who is more vocal about relocating godfatherism to the dust bin where it belongs, a governor who wants the best for his people, will want to suppress the party which he heads and to force a candidate of his own choice on people.

“Whether that candidate has a merit or not, I agree that everybody has interest in who rules and that the man who is going to sustain what the present government has done but it is important that not only must party leaders and members work together but they must also convene and convince the wider society that whoever they are projecting is the right person to deal with the problem of the people. Otherwise the people will be going one way and government and the party will be going another direction and as you know the people will always win because that is the power of vote.”