By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN –
A couple of days ago, not a few eyebrows were raised when Festus Keyamo withdrew as EFCC counsel in the prosecution of former governor of Bayelsa State Timipre Sylva’s N2billion fraud case at the Federal High Court. He cited “certain developments” for taking such action. Many reports claimed it was to provide a soft landing for Sylva who was chairman of President Buhari’s May 29 transition committee.
The DPP, a delegate of the AGF through his representative, O.J. Nnadi, on June 1, 2015, withdrew charges against Mr Sylva with the EFCC, citing the need to consolidate charges with those in another matter against him. This raises some questions. Only the AGF can withdraw a charge in such a case by virtue of his power under Section 174(1c) of the constitution; thus, only Adoke Mohammed, the outgoing AGF, could have issued those directives. Presumably, he did this before leaving office. Could the withdrawal of charges against the president’s transition committee chairman be a deal among other deals struck with the previous administration?
One can’t simply dismiss the allegations of seeking a soft landing for Mr Sylva with a wave of the hand, if one considers the fact that our criminal procedural laws allow the alteration or amendment of a charge sheet to include new charges. The timing of the commission of the offences in both sets of charges automatically pulls down any barrier to simply amending the charge sheet. All that needed to be done was terminate one of the cases and seek an adjournment to amend and enable Mr Sylva’s lawyers prepare in view of the alteration. Is somebody really desperate to provide Sylva a soft landing?
Could this be one of such cases of “let my people forget” we have come to see several times?
President Muhammadu Buhari is one beloved Nigerian politician at this time. He represents the last hope of many Nigerians. He represents the change we so badly need – a shift from appointing service chiefs without the Senate’s ratification as specified in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, holding coup-like impeachments, and the many norms up there which trickle down to paying the customary police “roger” at checkpoints and for bail at stations.
It would shatter many if he turned out to be a disappointment. That’s why many expect heads to roll for the wanton impunity with which the Goodluck Jonathan administration bled us dry; it would be a shame if they were shielded. We can’t effectively curb corruption without prosecuting cases to the end and handing out punishment where due to deter the crooks in our midst.
Like any well-meaning Nigerian, I hope this administration will ensure that cases are prosecuted as best they should. “Soft landing” in whatever form it may appear, plea bargain and shabby prosecution would only result in a treadmill fight against corruption – a fight which would lead us nowhere because we would be running on the same spot.
Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano: Twitter: @alaye26 email: email@example.com