Lest We Forget

a commentary on socio-political developments and institutional policies

Amnesty For Looters!

The Punch Newspaper (Online) of May 23, 2016 carried a news report titled “Senator seeks amnesty for looters”. The Senator in question is the Chairman Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. Till date the honourable Senator has not been reported to deny the statement which he allegedly made to journalists in his Abuja office or claimed that he was misquoted. According to him, “The time has come when we have to think outside the box and my own position is this, it is possible that the government can declare amnesty on stolen money. Let every Nigerian that has taken money out of this country be given amnesty to bring back the money and invest in the country.”

Amnesty for looters?  We are in trouble. Can you imagine his position and the rationale? So jejune and clearly untenable. If for the eight years of previous administration no high profile politician was prosecuted for corruption despite overwhelming evidence, was that not amnesty by other means? Did that make them to stop looting or repatriate part of the stolen funds? If punishment prescribed by law is considered not deterrent enough, then amnesty, which is equivalent of non-prosecution and non-punishment, can not persuade them either. In fact, it is a blank cheque for more stealing!

If a Senator could mull such a fantastic idea, are we then surprised that we are described by some other dwellers on this earth as “fantastically corrupt”? For only a “fantastically corrupt” mind can spew out such a provocative and outrageous suggestion.
He added, “Why are we suffering in the midst of plenty? Amnesty was created for militancy, we should create amnesty for anybody that has taken money outside this country so that they can invest them in the9 country. We can generate a hundred billion dollar in the process in less than six months.”

Did you get that? I would have thought Bovi, Ali Baba, A.Y or any other stand up comedian said that. But a Senator! His reason: “…so that they (the looters) can invest them (the looted funds) in the country”. Can a highly placed person, a Senator, make such a daft proposition? Yes, it is daft and bereft of good judgement!  Who told him that looters are interested in investing in the country? Otherwise why have they not invested the looted funds in the country ever since they have been looting?  Why would they have to loot what ten generations may never finish? Why did they not steal what was just enough to set up a business, say just some tens of million naira? Why did they have to stash away such humongous amount in foreign countries? They have allegedly stolen in billions. The federal government is still counting and adding more, it is still trying to identify the hidden vaults of stolen funds all over the world.

By the way, at what point should looted fund be de-criminalized and “amnestisized”? Before investment or after investment? Would there be a deadline to “invest or be prosecuted”? Wonders shall never end. Is the rationale behind such a “brilliant” idea because those involved are big men or that they stole big? Or both? Or is it that the Senator is proactively preparing a futuristic soft-landing for himself as the Chairman of the lucrative Senate Committee on Gas?
Honestly, if a band of thieves deserves amnesty at all, who more than the other deserves it? Is it the band of less privileged thieves who stole out of necessity because they lack the legitimate ways and means to make ends meet or the band of thieves who stole out of luxury because they are privileged to be entrusted with our commonwealth even though they are well taken care of and sumptuously pampered?  Did the Senator imply all thieves should be granted amnesty, whether big men or common men?  If so, where was he when our judicial systems jailed those who stole to buy food to eat, those who stole to make ends meet, those who stole to pay for their wives’ hospital bills, those who stole to provide meals for their family or pay for their children’s school fees? Or is he pretending that no common Nigerian has been jailed on account of stealing irrespective of such compelling but inexcusable motives? Okay, is it only the big men that should enjoy amnesty because their elephantine loot is investible? Arrant nonsense! If petty thieves could be lynched in jungle justice (ask them in Lagos!), those who betray our trusts deserve no less. 

Lest we forget, every naira that is looted (embezzled) has been appropriated for a particular developmental programme or project. So by their looting of our resources they make constant electricity unattainable, artisans unproductive, potable water unavailable, roads impassable, flood uncontrollable, jobs inaccessible, graduates unemployable, hospitals unvisitable, business uninvestible, workers unpayable, robbery irreducible, happiness impossible, Nigeria unbearable and life undesirable. Now the Senator wants to make our laws inapplicable to looters! Hnmm!

In fact, one begins to wonder whether our leaders actually went to school at all or they just collected certificate at Oluwole (or is it Toronto?).  If they went, were they strictly and only concerned about their narrow and parochial discipline to the utter neglect of the greater and more robust general essence of education, tertiary education especially? Apart from lawyers who deliberately twist logic and distort arguments for (understandably) pecuniary reasons, there is a way that you expect every beneficiary of university education to reason, even when thinking outside the box, pragmatically. And more especially, a Senator, on whom voluptuous resources of the nation are lavished, should not insult the intelligence of the rest of us through ridiculous and mind-bending logic.

Like many of our national political players his pedigree can be interrogated. What credentials, apart from certificates, did they bring to bear on the governance of this great nation? Senator Akpan worked in Lagos at UBA, became Assistant Manager at First Atlantic Bank, Lagos, later Vice-President of FCMB Plc between 2005 and 2007 before he was appointed as the Commissioner for Finance in Akwa Ibom State until 2011, and in 2015 was elected Senator for the Federal Republic. Just like that, a meteoric movement, but is that enough? I am not sure he wrote a single paper or even an article on issues affecting the nation, not even in the area of finance and fiscal issues, his acclaimed area of competence before he forayed into politics, and finally became our Senator.  He is not alone, but symptomatic of the quality of the 8th Senate. What are the personal convictions of our legislators on the issues of law and its supremacy, morality and public conduct, accountability and probity, transparency and corrupt practices, and the other nuances of governance? May be we need an Institute for Leadership, Patriotism and Good Governance for prospective politicians and would-be national leaders.

For Christ sake, the position of a Senator is an awesomely heavy post, his words and opinions are heavyweight and of free freight in the media. Only 109 out of  about 170 million (170,000,000) Nigerians belong to that class at a time; such an exclusive class, such a highly-privileged class and such a heavily influential class. That is why no Senator can afford to make a reckless, careless and ill-digested utterance about the nation, the economy and the politics. Senators are expected to be grave and deeply reflective, men of grace and finesse, men of deep intellect and profound intelligence, men of astute knowledge and grand wisdom, men of robust experience and sublime world-views. Is there any among our Senators?

For the information of those who are giddy about age, who feel the Buharis of this nation should vacate the political scene for the younger generation, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan is a 44-year old politician. How old was Buhari when he was the military head of state in 1984? He was 42 years old.  Even now at an old age of 74 years his convictions on Nigerian issues are as strong, patriotic and unassailable as they were thirty-two years ago. This underscores the fact that sterling public performance is not a function of age but of serious mind and convictions. If your mind is sound, your mind is sound. If President Buhari was the one throwing about such a silly idea would he not be accused of being senile, by the likes of Ayo Fayose, the irascible Governor of Ekiti State? Now, have we begun to have senile young men?

May be like the wise Senegalese it is high time Nigerians reviewed the essence and the existence of our own Senate too. Because of a paltry 16 million dollars, the Senate of Senegal was scrapped to make more money available for the citizenry, especially to tackle the flood menace in that country. Of recent, our hallowed chamber has been seized electorally by some banal people, people of incredible conspicuous consumption, people whose moral values are below the average, and whose mental faculties are also below average. If we do away with the Senate at least Nigerians would be 60 billion Naira (300 million dollars) richer, which is just about half of the statutory transfer to the national assembly in 2016 budget appropriation. We would save enough to spend on other pressing needs. We would also save ourselves the agony of foisted follies!

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