- Category: Opinions/Interviews
- Published on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 07:43
- Written by Admin
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An anti-corruption group,Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to probe a church building gift given to him by an Italian construction company, Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited. The latter is a contractor to the Federal Government.
SERAP wants Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, Chairman of the EFCC to “urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into the Church Building donation to the President at Etuoke, in Bayelsa state.
According to the organisation, the ‘gift’ which is a 2,500-seat church building in Otuoke, the President’s village in Bayelsa state by a beneficiary company of Federal Government contracts is worrisome.
In the petition dated 2 April 2012, and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization stated, “We are seriously concerned that given the huge sum of money involved and the timing of the church building ‘gift’, the acts may amount to a bribe to the government by a construction company that has sought and obtained huge contracts from the federal government.”
“Procurement and investment agreements corrupted by this kind of ‘gift’ invariably lead to increased costs not only in higher prices but also in needlessly expanded and ultimately inefficient projects,” the organization said.
According to the organization, “Both the acts of giving and accepting the disguised bribe undermine the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardises sustainable development and the rule of law. The acts also hurt the government and ordinary Nigerians who may suffer as a result of bad execution of projects by GCG.”
The organization also asked the EFCC to “exert its mandate, power, and resources to ensure that the allegations are fully and effectively investigate the findings of the investigation published and the company and other suspected perpetrators held liable.”
“Foreign bribery is a crime even if the briber would have been awarded a contract or business advantage. It is therefore very important that the Commission sends a strong message that it is willing and able to step up its efforts to detect, investigate and prosecute cases of bribery in international business deals,” the organization added.
Also, a lawyer in constitutional law, Prof. Itse Sagay, said it was morally wrong for the President to accept the building as a donation.
Sagay described the donation as “very devastating misconduct if Jonathan had accepted the offer.”
According to the lawyer, the donation has the propensity to compromise Jonathan and constitute a blow to transparency and anti-corruption fight.
Sagay said, “It is highly improper and absolutely improper. It is the last thing he should ever do. That is why I want to be sure that he accepted it. Maybe they want to embarrass him by building it and announcing that they have donated it to him without consulting him.
“He should know better. I do not think he will expose himself to such very devastating misconduct.
“If he has accepted it, I will be greatly disappointed and really, it is very sad because it would not augur well for the future of transparency and the fight against corruption.
“Obviously anybody doing that is trying to compromise him.”
Another activist and Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said the church building should be forfeited to the government.
Falana said, “It is illegal under the Constitution and the Code of Conduct, which say no public officer can even take a national honour while in office.They must also not take or collect any gift, except gifts such as kola nuts.”
He added that the church should be forfeited to the government under different sections of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Act and Bureau.
He added that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was also guilty of the same offence by gathering public officers to donate for him while building his presidential library.
He said, “What Jonathan has done is an impeachable offence. The contractor’s aim was to bribe him, which the President has fallen into.
“The contractor has some contracts which it has failed to execute and now went to build a church for the President.
“It is a bribe to the President, who presides over the award of contracts at the Villa.”
The Congress for Progressive Change, the Campaign for Democracy and a former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, in separate reactions said the acceptance of the donation by Jonathan was a setback to the anti-graft war.
The CPC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said that it was an unfortunate thing that it was “the chief of state that is whittling down the fight against institutional corruption”
The opposition party stated, “Leadership comes with a price. The leaders must not just be above board, but must be seen to be above board.
“The acceptance of a gift of that magnitude is definitely a faux paux (whether a church or not is immaterial). In a saner clime, heads of government have been known to resign their appointments over matters as this.
“This is definitely not a thing to gloat about as regards our President’s demeanour. Would this not give an undue advantage to Gritto in matters of plum government contract?”
The president of the CD, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said the President should not have accepted the gift because the company was “doing business with the Federal Government and has a record of poor performance.”
Musa described the donation as improper but noted that it was no longer strange in the country, submitting that most Nigerian leaders were guilty of corruption, which he said had soiled the image of the country.
Efforts to reach the spokesman for Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati, on Monday failed as the Presidential Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, did not pick calls to his mobile phones.
Abati did not also respond to our text messages asking for his reaction on the subject matter.