The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has advised former President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and confess all he knows about the $2bn arms scandal.
Sagay told our correspondent during an interview that if Jonathan could provide adequate information, he would be accorded the adequate respect by virtue of being a former Head of State.
A former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki; a former Chairman of Daar Communications, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; and several others have been charged for their roles in the arms scandal.
Dasuki had also claimed to be acting on “instructions from above.”
When asked if Jonathan could be arrested despite his soaring popularity in the international community for conceding defeat in the March 28 presidential election and congratulating Buhari, Sagay said the issue was a ‘sensitive’ one.
He, however, argued that conceding defeat to Buhari did not make Jonathan a hero. The senior advocate said one good action could not correct several evil actions.
He said, “To start with, the great reputation he (Jonathan) seems to have is the fact that he admitted defeat. There are thousands of actions that are negative actions so I don’t think that we should overplay it.
“But on the issue of the former President going to prison, I agree that it is a bit touchy politically but the case of Jonathan is particularly bad if you see the manner with which the country’s resources and government coffers have been turned into a bazaar parlour where everyone goes to collect his own share. Just like Warri boys would ask, ‘You don obtain your own?’
“Everyone was going to ‘obtain’ under Jonathan. It was just bizarre but I understand that dealing with a former Head of State is always a sensitive issue but I would say he should have a private chat with President Muhammadu Buhari and say all that he knows and if there is anything he has to release, then he should release it and be allowed to go quietly into retirement.”
Also reacting to the N120m collected by some members of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria from Dasuki which is believed to be part of the diverted $2bn, Sagay said investigations would determine if the newspapers were culpable or not.
He said the Chairman of NPAN, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, who confessed to collecting over N500m from Dasuki, might not be charged if the process through which he collected the money was transparent.
Sagay said, “I think the issue of knowledge and motive are very important. In other words, if Nduka Obaigbena was informed that the Federal Government had decided to compensate him for the losses suffered by his company and this was conveyed in writing and the cheque was given to him from the NSA, it would not be out of place because the NSA, after all, is a security adviser and what happened to Obaigbena’s company was a security adversity so I can understand that but if it was an underground thing, without any formality, explanation or record, that is when it will arouse suspicion and make one to assume that it was an underhand deal done to obtain Federal Government money without any entitlement.”
The senior advocate said plea bargaining which was bastardised under the last administration would be more stringent under the Buhari government.
Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, was convicted of financial impropriety and sentenced to six months in jail while the Managing Director of the defunct Oceanic Bank, Cecilia Ibru, who was convicted of financial impropriety, was jailed for six months and made to forfeit assets worth N191bn.
However, both Balogun and Ibru spent their jail terms in hospital and never went to prison.
In his reaction, Sagay told our correspondent that under Buhari, people would be made to spend more time in jail rather than be given light sentences.
The senior advocate said there was no provision in the constitution for convicted people to spend their entire jail term in hospital.
He said the Administration of Criminal Justice Act coupled with the anti-corruption stance of the President would ensure that no one escaped justice.
He said, “It is something that we have to look into but I have a feeling that with the new government and the arrival of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which has plea bargaining positions that are tougher than the normal ones, I think we are going to see people spending longer periods in prison even with plea bargaining and it will be longer than six months.”