Photograph — The Punch

Are we going back or forward?

Can we trust the system to be fair, not just for the “big men”, but for every citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

Would we get to a time where ethics take centre stage in the conduct of our public officials?

When would Nigerians see definitive action against economy-related offences that do not come across as “witch hunting” but rather a move to cleanse the system, so that it favours the average Nigerian?

All these questions are burning around us as news has it that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have released a report to President Muhammadu Buhari that indicts three aides of Senate President Bukola Saraki in the alleged diversion of 19 billion naira out of the London-Paris loan refund of 522.7 billion naira.

The report also highlights a Mr Robert Mbonu of Melrose General Services Limited. Eniola Akinkuotu and Leke Baiyewu of The Punch report that Mbonu is a former Managing Director of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, a commercial bank believed to be owned by the Saraki family which was liquidated in the early 2000’s.

The report authenticates that Dr Saraki, as well as numerous governors, conspired to pocket most of the Paris Club refunds. Saraki, who already has a case before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, just sinks further as his involvement in the embezzlement could be his undoing.

Reading snippets of the report can leave one frazzled and the web is almost too complicated to draw. In all honesty, the EFCC really cracked this case wide open.

The Paris Club refunds were meant to help the nation get on track, not be a spectacle of who can pocket the most.

Mbonu’s Melrose Services received numerous amounts from the three principal aides of Saraki who were identified in the report as Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu.

The report reads in part:

“Based On The Foregoing Findings, It Is Clear That Robert Mbonu, The Managing Director Of Melrose General Services Company And His Company Were Used To Help Divert Proceeds Of Unlawful Activities Under The Guise Of Payment For Contractual Obligations With The Nigeria Governors Forum.

“Suffice To Apprise That All Payments Received By Melrose General Services Company From The NGF Have Hitherto Been Diverted Directly Via Cash Withdrawals And Indirectly Through Transfers By Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Kolawole Shittu And Oladapo Joseph Idowu, Who Are Principal Aides To The Senate President.

“Furthermore, Other Payments From Melrose General Services Company Have Also Been Linked To Companies That Dr. Bukola Saraki Has Interest In And Carries Out Transactions With.

“This Includes The Sum Of $183,000, Which Was Transferred To Bhaska Devji Jewellers, Dubai, A Company Dr. Bukola Saraki Had Repeatedly Made Payments To.

“Also, The Sum Of N200m Was Transferred To Wasp Networks Limited That Subsequently Transferred The Sum Of N170m To Xtract Energy Services Limited, A Company That Routinely Made Deposits Into Dr. Saraki’s Access Bank US Dollar Domiciliary Account.”

There are jewellers named, vehicles bought, investments made and so on.

Nigerians should not be quick to forget, though, if things aren’t sitting well with the Senate President, it may extend to the citizens. Case in point: Saraki’s CCT trial was among major reasons why the 2016 budget was not passed in time and now, the Senate has said it will not make the March 30 deadline for the 2017 budget.

A critical examination of the evidence presented by the Magu-led EFCC may be among reasons why the Senate have not approved his appointment as the Chairman of the anti-graft agency.

Why not? He essentially reports to the President, escaping the red tape and bottle neck that has slowed down pursuing cases of corruption in the country.

Earlier in the month, Nigerians governors, under the guild of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), accused Magu of what they described as an unwarranted attack on the forum and its associated entities.

The source of the confrontation is still the same Paris Club refunds in which a governor was reported to have made away with the sum of N500 million.

The NGF is still complicit in the latest report submitted to Mr President as the forum is said to have aided the looting of funds through the Central Bank of Nigeria.

As the saga unfolds, many Nigerians aren’t waiting with bated breaths for something to be done because of a chronic distrust of the system, however, as the EFCC puts it, the diversion of loans is a “prima facie case of conspiracy to retain the proceeds of unlawful activities and money laundering contrary to Sections 15(3) and 18(9) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004 can be established against the aforementioned suspects.”

Regardless of faith in the system or not, Nigerians would still wait to see if Mr President would either back his words with action, or ethics would take a stronger role in this damning case.

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