Examination of witnesses (Questions 680
THURSDAY 25 JANUARY 2001
HE PRINCE BOLA
A AJIBOLA, GENERAL
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
(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