Although the United Nations has recently decried the Egyptian government’s crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights, the country seems to have a structure that attempts to deal with corruption acts in the best way possible – make a spectacle out of anyone found guilty of abusing his/her office. On Monday, an Egyptian court sentenced 59-year-old, Salah Helal, the country’s former minister of agriculture to 10 years in prison for corruption.
The verdict came after he resigned and was arrested in September 2015. He was said to have ‘requested and received bribes’ in his capacity as a government official.
At the time of his arrest, he had been the minister of agriculture for about 6 months.
It is truly sad to see that in some African countries, public officials believe that when they assume official positions, they are presented with the opportunity to taint that office. It is only this kind of thinking that will prompt Helal, who is an agronomy graduate, to be involved in a bribery scandal after such a brief time in office.
Salah Helal, together with his chief of staff, Muhyidin Mohamed Said were sentenced to 10 years on the basis of corruption. Both men were also fined for the allegations against them, Helal was fined one million Egyptian pounds and Said was fined 500,000 Egyptian pounds. In the corruption web, businessmen like Ayman al-Gamil, who sought to legalize the purchase of a property bought from the state through an intermediary. Gamil, the provider of the bribe, and the facilitator were spared the consequences of corrupt acts because they confessed to their involvement in the case.
Egypt ought to be applauded for their commitment to fighting corruption in the country, regardless of the involvement of high profile personalities like Helal. This is where Nigeria needs to adjust the way it handles such cases. For instance, in the #DasukiGate corruption scandal which unfolded during the emergence of the Muhammadu Buhari administration and its fight against corruption, there are a lot of high profile individuals and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Nigerian Courts still have no clear structure on how to properly initiate the prosecution of these individuals.
The reason is, most of the time, powerful individuals in society often play on the judiciary, to their advantage. For example, Ricky Tarfa took 90 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to defend him in court after the EFCC accused him of obstructing justice when he reportedly hid accused persons in his car to protect them. Why so many SANs? Apparently, the goal was intimidation which would later lead to securing of Tarfa’s bail, it’s something that occurs every so often in Nigeria but it is high time, the country borrows a leaf from Egypt.