Lessons From History

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Lessons From History

 

The News Opinion

 

 

 

culled from THE NEWS, October 10, 2006

 

In civilised societies, when business gnomes like Mike Adenuga have any brush with the law, they instantly grab media headlines. But more noticeably in such societies, the suspects can be sure of fair trial and not the type of double standard we operate in this country or the hypocrisy, greed and mischief experienced in the country in the past few years - all for the convenient excuse of fighting corruption. Such are the brazenness and impunity with which the gradually emerging bogus crusade is being carried on that even the Nigeria Bar Association had to go on record with its serious reservations about the conduct of the agency charged with the duty of enforcing laws against economic crimes, which in fact, eventually conceded its list of sacred cows.
What is more, prominent suspects on financial crimes (in civilised societies, that is) are not in any way subjected to violence and humiliation. But when such brute force operates, it is only natural to take all necessary steps to preserve one�s dignity. Not long ago, Mike Adenuga of Globacom and Equitorial Trust Bank was arrested by force from his house in Lagos and later interrogated by Nuhu Ribadu�s EFCC for some days with the hope of getting him (Mike Adenuga) to implicate perceived targets in alleged financial crimes. Realising it misfired, EFCC barred Mike Adenuga from travelling out of the country.

Obviously traumatised by his experiences with EFCC, Mike Adenuga considered it in his best interest to withdraw from Nigeria until he feels safe again to return. Nobody can fault him for that. Neither could Mike Adenuga�s withdrawal from Nigeria be any proof or admission of guilt. In such matters, only the one on the receiving end can decide when, how and where to move.
For example, so much headache is being experienced by his traducers on what route Mike Adenuga took when leaving Nigeria. There is no law strictly stipulating a particular route or routes (like air or water) for Nigerians leaving the country.

That decision is for the man facing the danger. Mike Adenuga, in withdrawing from Nigeria, only took the same safety measure top Nigerians adopted in the past. The first of such memorable tactics was adopted by Nnamdi Azikiwe about 1949 when on being alerted that the colonial masters had earmarked him (Zik) for assassination. Instantly, Zik left Lagos and returned to his native Onitsha. To his political opponents, it was all publicity stunt. Whichever was truth, Zik alone took his decision and thereafter lived for almost the next 50 years. It was all a question of personal security. Afterall, in Mike Adenuga�s case, even if guilty, he should at least be alive to tell his own story or even to stand trial. With the virtually unlimited powers largely ignorant members of the National Assembly granted EFCC, it should ordinarily be the duty of a virile judiciary to expedite cases brought against suspects.

Instead, how long has former Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, been in detention awaiting trial? How long has MASSOB leader Ralph Uwazuruike been remanded, pending commencement of his alleged treason offence? When will Alhaji Asari-Dokubo be tried? Where is Gani Adams of OPC? Frederick Fasehun, leader of OPC only narrowly escaped death before being released on bail. Former Chief of Army Staff General Ishaya Bamaiyi is reported to be having health problems which is no surprise after some eight years of incarceration for a trial which refuses to take off.

We were in this country when under our murderous judicial system, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola died in detention while awaiting trial. It was in this same Nigeria Shehu Yar�Adua died while serving a jail sentence for alleged treason. It was (and is still) never clear till today, how, why and what killed both men. But public perception was that they were poisoned. Was that the risk to which critics expected Mike Adenuga to expose himself? It would have been foolhardy of the man (Mike Adenuga) to take such a chance in the light of these our past bitter experiences.

The most mischievous is the idea that Mike Adenuga�s withdrawal from Nigeria is evidence of guilt. When Zik had to leave Lagos for Onitsha for his personal safety, others after him did not just leave Lagos, but Nigeria for self-preservation. For example, S.G. Ikoku and perhaps Tony Enahoro considered Zik�s move as political gimmick. But in 1962, the same S.G. Ikoku, Tony Enahoro and Ayo Adebanjo had to flee to Ghana (Enahoro to London) to escape treason trial by Tafawa Balewa�s government. And on a note of regret, if only Funsho Williams, the PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos State and Ayodeji Daramola, PDP governorship aspirant in Ekiti State, had been lucky to be hinted of the plot to murder each of them in their respective bedrooms, they would have taken such warning seriously.

Admittedly, the punishment for treason is death, but Tafawa Balewa was such a moderate leader who would not carry out such a sentence. All the same, Enahoro, Ikoku and Adebanjo would not gamble with their lives and accordingly, fled abroad. Under General Abacha�s regime, the list of those who withdrew from Nigeria had no limit. For the second time in his public career, Enahoro topped the list for personal safety. Among the others were General Alani Akinrinade, Wole Soyinka, Bola Tinubu, Dapo Olorunyomi, Bolaji Akinyemi, Cornelius Adebayo etc. They all left the country not because of any guilt of offences for which they might be arraigned. Why then should Adenuga be expected to expose himself to the danger which older and more experienced fellow citizens would not confront?

Here we have a supposed law enforcement agency, EFCC which, instead of a statutory duty of an institution to serve the country on an indefinite basis, has reduced itself to the political weapon of fighting another man�s war. A law enforcement agency which has no respect for court rulings granting bail to an accused and will rather violently assault and re-arrest the accused as in the experience of former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun.
How could anybody in Adenuga�s position have exposed himself to such prospects? Where EFCC believes anybody the agency interrogates is guilty, no matter the presumption of innocence? Is it also not the policy of EFCC to disregard rulings of courts clearing accused of all charges as in the case of Lagos Federal High Court which discharged and acquitted Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu? Why did the EFCC still proceed to hold the man guilty and also went to recommend his (Dalhatu�s) name to be struck off the register of Nigeria Bar Association?

With all these, where was the proof that should any charges be brought against him, Adenuga would have a fair trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission? With the following ridiculous charges (a) Vice President Atiku Abubakar deposited over $150 million public fund in Equitorial Trust Bank in 2003 (b) Equitorial Trust Bank is owned by Adenuga (c) the amount deposit enabled Adenuga to pay for his Globacom licence in 2002, that was, a year before the money was deposited (d) Adenuga donated a building to ABTI/American University, owned by Vice President Abubakar (e) Adenuga sold Globacom shares to a surrogate of Abubakar (f) Adenuga also sold Globacom shares to another surrogate suspected to be for Mohammed Babangida, son of former President Ibrahim Babangida.

Virtually, all the charges have either been proved wrong, do not stand to reason or are downright double-standard. When, for example, did it become a crime to place money in fixed deposit account? Does it not make economic sense to earn maximum possible more money through interests accruable from fixed deposits? And when the capital deposit was recalled, was it not instantly repaid with full accruable interest? Adenuga is just one of Nigeria�s bank chief executives. If the money concerned was not deposited in Equitorial Trust Bank (owned by Adenuga), another bank would still have taken the deposit. What then was Mike Adenuga�s crime in securing the deposit?

Secondly, Adenuga obviously proved EFCC wrong that Globacom sold or awarded shares to surrogates of Abubakar and Mohammed Babangida. Are these EFCC people ordinarily focussed? If for the sake of argument, it is admitted that Globacom sold shares to surrogates of Abubakar and Mohammed Babangida, the EFCC in trying to impress Obasanjo, has in fact put President Obasanjo on the spot with the undenied revelation that his trust company owns 200 million (two hundred million) shares in the business/economic monster in town, TRANSCORP, to which has been conceded anything and everything Nigerian national asset. Why is EFCC not concerned about Obasanjo Holdings shares in TRANSCORP? If EFCC considers it against EFCC Act for Adenuga to sell shares to Atiku Abubakar, why is Ndidi Okereke-Onyuike not being quizzed for selling shares to Obasanjo Holdings?

What is more, Adenuga has proved that Globacom did not sell shares to either Abubakar or Mohammed Babangida. Adenuga was similarly quizzed by EFCC for donating building and/or funds to ABTI/American University. Again, the EFCC, in so doing, has only succeeded in refocusing public attention on Obasanjo�s presidential library project to which Adenuga contributed N250 million as the highest donor on a day the amount collected was some N6 billion. Why till now, does EFCC not consider it economic crime for those who obtained licence for oil business from the Federal Government, to donate such huge sum to Obasanjo�s Library Project?

The same Adenuga is currently constructing a nearly one billion naira library project at Bells University. Definitely, not because President Obasanjo deposited public funds in Equitorial Trust Bank. Meanwhile, at whose instance did Adenuga commence the library project? Who owns Bells University? If Adenuga is to be tried for donating a building to ABTI/American University, he must also be quizzed on the need of the library at Bells University. It has been proved that Adenuga paid for the Globacom licence in 2002 and that it was as a result of loan from a Paris-based bank. Yet, the EFCC maintains that the payment was from the deposit of public funds in Equitorial Trust Bank in 2003. How could a telecommunications licence be paid for a year before public fund was deposited in a bank?

A reputable legal firm, Afe Babalola & Co. also issued a public notice on behalf of Globacom denying that Mohammed Babangida bought shares in Globacom. Poor young man, Mohammed, paying the price of being the son of his father. Despite all proof to the contrary, the EFCC has a mindset on Adenuga. It was therefore in his interest that he left the country. It is also not in his interest for Adenuga to return to Nigeria before his adversaries leave the scene after which, if he is to face any charges at all, he can at least hope for a fair trial. Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola while abroad, was assured of his personal safety, a bait which proved fatal. On his return, he was arrested and detained for five years purportedly on trial, he died in captivity. Others like Tony Enahoro, Wole Soyinka, Bolaji Akinyemi, Alani Akinrinade were vindicated for staying abroad till their political enemies left the scene. That is the lesson for Mike Adenuga.
 

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