By John Chukwu…
Lawmakers who will represent various federal constituencies across the country were elected on February 23 to occupy the 9th National Assembly. There were 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives elected to stay at the Red Carpet and Green Carpet chambers of the National Assembly.
President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration wears the fight against corruption like a toga. The fight against corruption is one of the fundamental wings on which he flew to power. Thus, acts of corruption by any public officer attracts due prosecution by the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The outgoing senate had several members who faced corruption charges. This includes the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who was frequently in courtrooms and the custody of anti-corruption agencies, attending to queries on alleged corrupt practices.
Just like the outgoing Senate President, the incoming 9th National Assembly, billed to be inaugurated on June 9, also has members who are facing various degrees of corruption cases. The newly elected senators, about 10 per cent of them, have corruption probes.
Ripples Nigeria reviews the incoming senators facing corruption cases.
The former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, of the PDP, will be in the 9th National Assembly to represent the interests of the people of Benue North East senatorial district. He had a resounding victory having defeated incumbent Senator Barnabas Gemade of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). This will be his first time in the senate.
Suswan is facing 32 charges brought against him by the Federal Government. Him and his aides – former Commissioner for Finance, Omadachi Oklobia and then Accountant of the State House, Mrs Janet Aluga – were accused of diverting N9.79b – part of which was meant for Police Reform Programme and Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment programme – while he was state governor from 2007 – 2015. They allegedly diverted the money while he was governor – between 2012 and 2015. They were also accused of conspiracy conversion of property derived directly from corruption; collaboration to conceal property derived from corruption; obtaining by false pretense and accepting cash payments, exceeding the amount authorized by law.
The deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, of the PDP, for the fifth time, won the Enugu West senatorial district election. In March 2018, the federal government applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order of temporary forfeiture of no fewer than 22 properties purportedly owned by him – in Abuja, London, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. On August 1, 2018, the EFCC detained him for questioning. He has long denied all the accusations.
Orji Uzor Kalu
The former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, OUK, of the APC, finally made it to the senate. He was in contest for the seat of Abia North senatorial district in 2011 and 2015 but lost. Fortune, however, shined on him in the recently concluded National Assembly election when he defeated his closest contender, and incumbent Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, of the PDP. He is the only APC senator from the South-east geopolitical zone, in the list of senators-elect released by the INEC.
OUK’s corruption case commenced after he left office, as Abia State governor in 2007. He has a 39-count charge brought against him by the EFCC on October 31, 2016, accusing him of defrauding Abia State to the tune of N7.2b while serving as the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007. He is being prosecuted alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
The Chairman of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Ifeanyi Ubah, will be representing Anambra South senatorial district on the platform of the Young Progressive Party (YPP). He will be the only senator who is not from PDP and APC that will be in the Senate. He defeated his closest rival, Chris Uba, of the PDP.
Ubah, a former governorship candidate in the state – Anambra – is reportedly being investigated by the EFCC for allegedly receiving N43.29bn perpetrated through the petroleum subsidy scheme. The EFCC and the police accused him of obtaining subsidy payments by false pretences, money laundering, stealing and forgery with connection to the purported fraudulent payment of the N43.29bn in the transactions in 2011.
The former minister of Interior, Abba Moro, of the PDP, will be in representing the interest of the people of Benue South senatorial zone. He will be replacing former Senate President David Mark who endorsed him for the position. It could be recalled that Moro, under the former President Goodluck Jonathan, was sued for fraud over a clumsy Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment exercise, in 2014, which led to a stampede that left 20 people dead. More so, he is currently facing a corruption trial in his role in an alleged $2.5 million fraud, involving missing application fees.
The immediate former governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, of the PDP, will return to the Senate for the second time to represent Abia Central senatorial district. Orji, who was governor from 2007 – 2015 was interrogated at the EFCC office, in November 2018, in Abuja. He was invited over the allegations that he mismanaged about N27bn. The invitation by the EFCC was learnt to have stemmed from series of petitions written against him shortly after he left office in 2015.
The allegations leveled against him includes: alleged diversion of billions of Naira disbursed to Abia State by the Central Bank of Nigeria for Small and Medium Enterprise, diversion of money from the Ecological Fund account, which should have been used in tackling erosion and other disasters peculiar to the state, diversion of money from Abia State Oil Producing Development Area Commission – an agency of government set up for the development of the oil producing areas of Abia State.
Orji alleged used the funds to acquire buy properties in Abia, Port Harcourt and Abuja – some of which the EFCC is reportedly planning to confiscate. The EFCC had invited officials from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks and other agencies to make statements on the former governor’s corruption case.
More so, it was reported that the EFCC, in December 2018, arrested the son of the former governor, Ogbonna Orji over allegations of money laundering.
The former governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamakko, of the APC, will return to the senate to represent Sokoto North senatorial district. The EFCC, in April 2018, confirmed that Wamakko is under investigation over allegations of theft of public funds and money laundering totaling N15b. He has since denied the allegation.
Peter Nwaoboshi, of the PDP, will be in the Senate for Delta North senatorial district. In April 2018, the EFCC arraigned him for an alleged fraud of N322 million. He appeared in court with two firms on charges bordering on money laundering and conspiracy. Though the trial is still ongoing, it could be recalled that Mohammed Idris, the judge of the Federal High Court, on April 25, 2018, ruled that the senator should be remanded in prison. He got bail two days later.
The former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, of the APC, for the third time, won the seat of Gombe Central senatorial district. He is also battling a corruption case. The EFCC filed a fraud charge against him at the Federal High Court in Gombe. He is roped with four others in a six-year old money laundering case. According to the EFCC, Goje, while governor of Gombe State, conspired with four officers of his administration to defraud the state of N25b through illegal acts, contrary to, and punishable under sections 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Money Laundering – Prohibition Act – 2011, as amended.
The former governor of Enugu State, Chimaraoke Nnamani, made it to the senate. He will represent Enugu East senatorial district. This win resurrected the political career of the former governor. However, Nnamani, his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu and six companies were first arraigned in 2007 for allegedly diverting over N5b while he was Enugu State governor. His case was later dismissed by the Federal High Court in Lagos State in February 2018 based on the premise that it lacked proper charge. But, then, EFFC resolved to file fresh charges against the former two-term governor.
Former Aviation minister under the then Goodluck Jonathan administration, Stella Oduah, will be returning to the Senate as she won the February 23 Anambra North senatorial election. She is not left out of the list of newly elected senators who have corruption cases wrapped round their necks. She is being questioned by the EFCC for money laundering. She is under investigation for allegedly awarding dubious contracts worth N9.4b – particularly diverting N3.9b from the N9.4b meant for the installation of security devices at 22 airports while she was a minister. She has denied the accusations.
The former governor of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu, of the PDP, will return to the Senate to represent Ebonyi North senatorial district. Egwu, who was the former Minister of Education under the then late President Umaru Yar’Adua administration, was alleged to have misappropriated close to N8obn while in office as governor between 1999 – 2007. He is also reported to have left a debt profile of N10bn for his successor, now a former governor of the state – Martin Elechi.
The former governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu, will be in the 9th National Assembly for Nasarawa West senatorial district. The EFCC, in 2010, arrested Adamu for allegedly misappropriating N15b alongside 18 others. At a later time, he was arraigned on a 149-count charge of fraud worth N15b with his co-accused. Nuraini Adamu, the son of the senator, and one Felix Onyeabo Ojiako before Justice Farouq Lawal of the Kano State High Court on a four-count of obtaining money by false pretence, conspiracy and forgery.
The former governor of Kebbi State and Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation, Adamu Aliero, of the APC, will return to the Senate to represent Kebbi Central senatorial district. Aliero, who was the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory under the then late President Umaru Yar’Adua administration, is yet to be investigated by the EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) over an alleged N10.2bn fraud. The EFCC and ICPC had between December 2006 and August 2008, received three petitions asking them to investigate him over the N10.2bn alleged fraud. The petition was written by Alhaji Abubakar Kane, Alhaji Sani Dododo and Alhaji Shuaibu Y. Mungabi, all from Kebbi State.
The Way Forward
In saner climes, lawmakers who are faced with corruption charges are supposed to be tried and prosecuted accordingly. They should not be allowed to contest for public offices. This is because they are supposed to be a paragon for rightness and accountability in handling the resources of the generality of the people they govern and/or represent.
The National Assembly should not be a resting home for looters. It should be a place where men and women of integrity should stay and right the wrongs that have kept Nigeria at the highest level of corruption and abuse of elective office. According to the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International Corruption Rank, Nigeria is the 144 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries. The fight against corruption stands a slim chance of being won when national lawmakers are immersed in it.