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Is bill seeking amnesty for looters helpful to anti-graft war?

  • Mr. Sunday Babalola (A former Kwara State PDP governorship aspirant)

It depends on what the bill is saying. If the bill is asking them to take the looted money away without refunding a substantial part to the government, then that is wrong.

But if the bill allows them to refund a substantial amount of money from their loot, then I think it could be permissible. For example, when amnesty was granted to Niger Delta militants, they were asked to drop their guns, which was basically what they had as their major weapons. But in this case, the weapon of looters is their pen which we cannot ask them to drop; their weapon is also the money they have looted, which they are using to fight the society. From all the corruption cases that had been decided, they used their money to fight the government and society.

Corruption actually is fighting government that is waging war against it. That being the case, I think the idea of amnesty for looters is welcome if they can return a substantial part of their loot. But there must also be conditions, which should include: such people cannot contest for any elective position or take government appointment within 10 years after returning the money. I will support the bill if these conditions are included in it.

Most of the high profile corruption cases instituted by Federal Government’s anti-graft agencies have been failing.  That is the reason I am supporting the bill. That is also why I said corruption is ruthlessly fighting back and they are using the money they have as a major weapon to fight the government. The people who are involved in the anti-corruption war are human beings; the corrupt people actually believe that everybody has a price.

I even doubt it if the National Assembly will pass the bill because some of the members are facing charges over alleged corruption. They may not accept the conditions I suggested. They will not concede to the conditions because majority of Nigerians depend on government patronage. About 90 per cent of businesses and actions of politicians depend on government patronage, so they cannot allow themselves to be out of government for any reason. I doubt if the bill will be passed.

  • Bamidele Faparusi (A former member of the Federal House of Representatives)

Ihat bill seeking amnesty for treasury looters will not help the anti-corruption war in any way.  It will encourage looting because looters will know that there is a law protecting them. The idea of providing amnesty for looters should not be entertained because it will embolden the looters to become more daring.

If such a bill sails through, looters will have a law protecting them. The implication is that they already have legal backing to continue to loot the treasury and this will spell doom for the nation. We are still battling to overcome the huge problems which the looting of the past created; passing such a bill will make looting a legal activity.

The idea of allowing looters to invest their loot into the economy does not make sense at all. In the first place, the stolen funds do not belong to them and you can only invest your money. You cannot decide to steal public money and say you want to invest it. What are you investing? Is it your money?

What I expect the law against corruption to do is to give light punishments to any looter who voluntarily admits that he has stolen and does not waste the time of the court and the resources of the government to prosecute him or her. If a looter says, yes, I stole public funds and I am ready to refund it, then such a person should be given, let’s say, between six months and two years’ prison term. That is if the looter is ready to forfeit everything he or she has stolen and does not waste the court’s time going through the rigour of trials.

This will be helpful to the nation because not all corruption cases that go through trial are determined in favour of the government. So, if any looter is ready to forfeit his or her loot and is ready to save the time and resources of government, the punishment for such an offender should be light. But the proposal that looters should be given amnesty will not help in the war against corruption. It should be thrown out.

  • Dachung Bagos (Convener, Plateau Youths G-17 Peace and Progress Forum

The bill seeking amnesty for looters in Nigeria as recommended by some legislators is dangerous and harmful to the anti-graft war of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Passing such a bill will not only encourage corruption, it will give room for public office holders to defraud the country.

I sincerely want to recommend that the House of Representatives should not entertain such bill. Looters should be made to face the full weight of the law in line with our constitution.

I disagree with those advocating amnesty for people who have criminally looted our common patrimony dry. In fact, I am even advocating the removal of immunity clause for governors and other public office holders so as to reduce corruption. We must, as Nigerians, support President Muhammadu Buhari to recover most, if not all, of our stolen wealth aand prosecute the looters.

  • Mr. John Ihua (Rivers State Coordinator, International Human Rights Protection Initiative)

Nigeria is a funny country. The bill will not be helpful and can never be used to fight corruption. How can anyone think of granting amnesty to treasury looters? How can somebody think of freeing a looter? It is just like passing a bill to set a high profile kidnapper or criminal free. This is dangerous for the anti-graft war in this country. It is a huge threat to the fight against corruption and crime. I don’t think that the people who are making this move really understand what corruption is because if they understand the meaning of corruption, nobody will contemplate to free a looter without adequate punishment. Our lawmakers should look for more important bills to discuss. Such a bill will only empower and encourage would be looters. Those who are behind this must be corrupt; if not, they cannot come up with such a bill.  It will encourage people to loot because they know that they will be granted amnesty.

The fact is that the people who are in this advocacy may be afraid of their past; that is why they are pushing for it.  They are making this move so that they will be free from their past. But I think it is time for our leaders to begin to bear the brunt of what they have done.

  • Dr Yunusa Tanko (National Chairman, National Conscience Party)

This bill will obviously not help the anti-corruption war; sponsors of this bill are simply looking for a license to steal. We are not addressing the fundamental problems of this country; we are always trying to build castles from the top, not from the basics.

Countries that have been able to excel in the fight against corruption took care of the fundamental needs of their people. I give you a simple example: you employ an accountant into the civil service for example and you pay him less than N100,000 monthly only to saddle him with the responsibility of administering N1bn and that N100,000 you are paying him cannot pay his children’s school fees or pay his rent. Also, he cannot conveniently feed his family from it; tell me what message are you sending to him?

What government needs to do is to meet the fundamental needs of its people; at least 50 per cent of its people. We are not taking care of section 2 of the constitution which speaks about the reason for the existence of government; that to my mind is a recipe for corruption.

Arresting people and dumping them in jail will not solve the corruption problem in this country. Talking about amnesty for treasury looters is a mockery because even the plea bargaining is already an issue we are battling with and now some people are talking about amnesty. It is unfair and an insult on the collective sensitivity of the Nigerian people. The bill should have no place in our statues; it should be thrown out.

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