Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 680 - 699)



  680. But have you any assessment of the amount that Nigeria has lost in terms of private investment which has been disinvested out of Nigeria or has in fact not gone into Nigeria?
  (General Mohammed) That we cannot assess. It is too much to assess but we can see it. Quite a number of companies that closed down laid off hundreds of thousands of workers which led to an increase in crime in the country. We cannot assess in terms of amount what that cost us. Certainly it is a big figure.

Mr Robathan

  681. We all applaud President Obasanjo's initiatives and we are delighted to see them. What concerns me is how a country which has been, as you have described it, suffering from all-pervasive corruption moves from a country where people are inevitably complicit in the corruption, even if they are not actually taking part in it, people in the civil service, people in the armed forces; you must know it is going on all around you, moves from a position of basic corruption in politics and government to a position where politics and government become clean? The top of the civil service, the senior generals, must inevitably have been involved to a certain extent. If you are looking backwards of course, talking retrospectively, to prosecute those that have been involved, it must be very difficult for you. How is it that that government is going to move from a corrupt situation to a situation where there are no sacred cows?
  (General Mohammed) In two or three ways. First and foremost to look, identify and recover all that money that has been looted; that is number one; number two: the Anti-Corruption Commission which is in place now, which will punish the taker and the giver; thirdly, the public enlightenment of the society that corrupt practices and corruption days are over in Nigeria. That is how we are fighting it.

  682. But although they are over there is a legacy. Is that legacy being taken on or is there to a large extent a statute of limitations?
  (General Mohammed) The President said that there are no sacred cows. He said anybody who has evidence that X or Y has enriched himself or herself improperly, let him bring the evidence and the President will recover that money.

  683. Is that evidence being brought forward?
  (General Mohammed) We have got some of them and we are pursuing them. That is one we are doing with Abacha now.

  684. As regards the politics, we have heard evidence, not specific to Nigeria I should say, of vote buying in a corrupt society. A politician says, "I might as well get in on this and buy votes" because he can find the money when he gets into power. Do you have any evidence of this in Nigeria?
  (General Mohammed) No, we do not, and in the greatest democracy now, the United States, you saw what happened during the election, so election malpractices can happen everywhere.

  685. That is absolutely true; election malpractices can happen everywhere. What I really wanted to know was whether you are confident that there will be no electoral malpractices in the future in Nigeria. Of course you had an election which brought President Obasanjo into power.
  (General Mohammed) We have done all we can. The previous government that we took over from did all it could and it did well to see that there were no malpractices, and when we took over we conducted several by-elections where we as a ruling party took our seat and we lost, and where as a ruling party the opposition lost. We conducted several by-elections.

  686. On the basis of election malpractices?
  (General Mohammed) On the basis of a free and fair election: one person, one vote.

  687. So civilian politicians now will not come into politics to enrich themselves because they will not be able to. Is that what you are saying?
  (General Mohammed) President Obasanjo made it clear that the days of seeing a government service as a quick way to enrichment are over. Before you get an appointment from his government you declare your assets. Any other thing that is seen coming around you during this period, we will call you and say, "What is happening?" You explain it or you give in. I know at least one minister who lost his job because he did something wrong to us and enriched himself.


  688. So a minister has lost his job. How many people have you charged with corruption?
  (General Mohammed) We have not charged anybody yet to the Anti-Corruption Commission. It has just been formed and they are trying to their act right. The Parliament has just passed the Bill and they are working on it.

  689. And the Anti-Corruption Commission will charge people with corruption, will they? That is its job?
  (General Mohammed) Yes, amongst other things.
  (Prince Ajibola) When they get evidence. When they have petitions from members of the public or through anyone else they investigate. When they investigate they will be charged. In the Anti-Corruption Law we have tried to provide for a time limit for prosecution to hasten prosecution. If you want to go to the normal process it might take longer. In order to know that this is a democracy there is a limit to how you can hasten such cases but we are trying. The Commission has just been set up. It needs to establish all its necessary organs before it fully takes off.

Mr Khabra

  690. You have given us an account of how corruption has taken place, who are the beneficiaries of corruption and the difficulties the country had. Over a long period of time there must have been a corrupt culture built up in all walks of life. You have set up the Anti-Corruption Commission. Have you got enough confidence in the judicial system so that those found guilty will be dealt with properly?
  (Price Ajibola) That is quite a lot of questions wrapped into one. The programme is that which you have been informed about. We can only start from the time that this Government came to power on 29 May 1999. Before then the problem of corruption had really reached a peak because a lot of the military governments made accountability difficult. Because of lack of accountability and transparency and because of the fact that it even engulfed and took in the civilian as well as military personnel, things just went on without any checks and balances. The whole thing became so endemic because there was no accountability anyway and it was one military area changing baton for another one. When this Government took over it set up a new yardstick. The Government took its time to make sure that it looked into a lot of legislation all round the world and as a matter of fact, curiously enough, the structure of the Anti-Corruption Bill and Act that we now have started down in the military area and those who went into our law had to go to places like Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, South Africa and so many other countries to see how they have been dealing with cases of corruption. They came back with this comprehensive law and it is that law now that has been passed as an Act of Parliament. Now that that has been done we have a retired judge of the Court of Appeal as head of that Commission. They must now have the wherewithal to do that job. The appointment has just been made about two or three months ago and they now have to get their courts or tribunals and all those things ready to do their job. The Government continued to express it very clearly and loud that it will not allow for this corruption to continue, that it will not be business as usual. Recently the Government addressed the workers and asked the workers also to co-operate and ensure that this culture of corruption is removed from the fabric of our society. Recently the Government had to deal seriously with our Permanent Secretaries and even had a kind of re-shuffle with the Permanent Secretaries and ordered them to do something. Last night I heard that the President even told all his ministers, "You have had a good day. I am now trying to review and look better into how best to deal with men who serve in this Government." A lot of things are going on to make the public aware of the fact that the Government is seriously battling with this problem of corruption. I think that that will go on apart from not only the legal or judicial aspect of it but the social awareness that this is going on.

Ann Clwyd

  691. High Commissioner, you mentioned that the President said last night to ministers, "You have had a good day". Is that a nice way of saying your entire Cabinet is sacked and, if so, for what reason?
  (Prince Agibola) I am just putting it in a diplomatic way.

  692. Yes, I understand that.
  (Prince Ajibola) I do not want you to land so harshly. I do not want to crash land with it.

  693. Can I ask you directly what are the reasons for sacking the entire Cabinet?
  (Prince Ajibola) I think the President is not all that happy with the situation, so he wants new hands, I think.

  694. But not related to anything in particular?
  (Prince Ajibola) I am not in a position to say anything like that because I do not know. I just heard last night. May I just add, on the judiciary, that the Government is also interested in the judiciary in this fight against corruption.


  695. Have you got honest judges?
  (Prince Ajibola) We want to believe so. By and large. In every society you find one or two bad people. Recently one of the judges was relieved of his duties because of one form of misbehaviour or the other, and the President also had the authorities look into a report that was compiled some time ago about the activities of judges in the past, which was left on the shelf. The President directed the authorities to look into it and the authorities are looking into it. We want to believe that at the end of the day our judiciary is not going to escape this anti-corruption crusade and our judges will come out better. We do have confidence in them the way they are but we are going to improve on what we have.

  Chairman: Because the evidence given to us by Transparency International and others is that one of the areas of corruption is in the police and indeed in the judiciary so we are very interested to hear what action you are taking.

Mr Colman

  696. I was coming back to the Commission. You say that no-one has yet been charged, that it has only just come into place and we should watch this space. How does the Commission relate to the Anti-Corruption Panel headed by the industrialist Christopher Kolade? Are the two working together? Is this something which is in train?
  (General Mohammed) Christopher Kolade was not on the Anti-Corruption Panel. Before Obasanjo's administration General Abubakar, within a period of ten months from when he took over he made so many commitments that by the time President Obasanjo took over he found that if he were to honour those commitments he would spend the next four years doing nothing as a government himself but doing the job that Abubakar created before he left. So he ordered a review of those appointments, of those contracts, of those activities. Quite a number of them were cancelled and that was the end of the Kolade Commission. As soon as he finished he submitted his report. Those that he said it was necessary we must continue with were continued. Those that he recommended to be scrapped and the Government came out with a White Paper on them, they are scrapped.

  697. So the report from that Anti-Corruption Panel was put into the public arena? That is a public document, is it, from Christopher Kolade?
  (General Mohammed) No, it was not a public document. It was the Government. Those that were affected, they know. Some contracts were cancelled. The contractors were notified. Some appointments that were made, if they were withdrawn they were told.

  698. And are the Commission going to particularly feature high level and high profile people? Is that going to be a measure of their success?
  (General Mohammed) It is not necessarily true that because somebody is high he is corrupt. Anybody from the lowliest to the highest.

  699. But how are you prioritising the work of the Commission?
  (General Mohammed) It is up to the Commission how they work. If today I have a paper on X and he is high up they work on it. If it is Y, the junior man, who comes up they work on it.

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