President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the prosecution of persons who have stolen public funds would begin in a matter of weeks.
This is just as the National Peace Committee headed by former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) cautioned the president to adhere to the rule of law in his war against graft.
The committee also dispelled speculations that former President Goodluck Jonathan had approached it to intervene as Buhari goes after corrupt officials under Jonathan’s government.
Fielding questions from journalists after the committee met with the president at the State House in Abuja yesterday, the coordinator of the committee, Bishop Matthew Kukah, said his group was at the Presidential Villa to update Buhari on the committee’s activities.
When asked to confirm reports that Jonathan sought the intervention of the committee, Kukah replied: “Anybody is free to come to our committee but President Jonathan never by telephone or another means talked to the committee. We went to see him, but that was after we had already seen members of political parties, members of civil society, and we plan to see the speaker because we couldn’t see him yesterday.
“This is a planned series of intervention essentially just to hear out everybody and I think the good news is that Nigerians are committed to a new nation, they are committed to ensuring that the gains and blessings God has given us come to fruition.”
Asked why it had become necessary for the committee to intervene, he said: “This is not an intervention, it is not a hearing out process. When we had the elections, it was like a wedding, now the reality of government is the marriage and people need to be encouraged.
“We need to reaffirm that this is our country and the only thing we can collectively be opposed to is injustice, iniquity, corruption and in that regard we all had one single conversation.”
He said Buhari had also reaffirmed the need for the committee to continue and that the international community also welcomed the contributions of the committee.
“Essentially we are not policing, but when the need arises for us to help to build confidence and in the process build bridges,” he said.
He observed that the committee did not think that the war against corruption was heating up the polity.
“In our conversation with President Jonathan and members of the parties, I don’t think any Nigerian was in favour of corruption or was against the president’s (Buhari) commitment to ensuring that we turn a new leaf,” he added.
However, Kukah said that the committee was concerned about the process, adding: “It is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws everybody is innocent until proven guilty.”
“Again, our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody, the former president’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular and I think that Buhari himself appreciates that. So our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done,” he said.
During the president’s meeting with the committee, Buhari informed its members that the prosecution of persons who have stolen national resources would begin in a matter of weeks, declaring that his administration was irrevocably committed to doing all within its powers to break the vicious cycle of corruption, unemployment and insecurity in Nigeria.
“Nigeria has to break this vicious cycle before we can make progress,” the president said, adding that his administration was diligently getting facts and figures pertaining to the nation’s stolen funds before proceeding with the prosecution of identified culprits.
A statement by the president’s media aide, Mr Femi Adesina, said Buhari told Abdulsalami and members of his committee that the federal government under his leadership would not only ask for the return of stolen funds that had been stashed in foreign banks, but would also ensure that those who stole the funds are put on trial in Nigeria.
The president also said that as part of actions to address the national problems it inherited, his administration was reorganising Nigeria’s revenue generating institutions.
Buhari explained that a treasury single account had been established for all federal revenue to ensure greater probity, transparency and accountability in the collection, disbursement and utilisation of national funds.
“We have really degenerated as a country. Our national institutions, including the military, which did wonderfully on foreign missions in the past, have been compromised. But we are doing something about it. The military is now retraining and morale has been resuscitated.
“As Petroleum Minister under Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1970s, I could not travel abroad until I had taken a memo to the Federal Executive Council asking for estacode. Now, everybody does what he wants.
“That is why security-wise and economically, we’re in trouble,” Buhari said.
According to him, those who have stolen the national wealth “will be in court in a matter of weeks and Nigerians will know those who have short-changed them”.
Abubakar and members of his committee urged the federal government to be guided by the rule of law in its fight against corruption.
Members of the National Peace Committee who accompanied Abubakar on the visit were Kukah; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar II; John Cardinal Onaiyekan; President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; and Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.
Others were Justice Rose Ukeje (rtd), Prof Ameze Guobadia, Vanguard Newspaper Publisher Sam Amuka, Mrs. Priscilla Kuye, Senator Ben Obi, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, and Dr Arthur-Martin Aginam.
The National Peace Committee, formed before the 2015 general election and played a dominant role in ensuring that there was peace before, during and after the elections by mediating between former President Jonathan and Buhari, was granted permission by the president to transform to the National Peace Council.
Culled from: http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/buhari-trial-of-looters-of-public-funds-imminent-abdulsalami-others-adhere-to-the-rule-of-law/217274/