- Category: Personality
- Published on Saturday, 26 February 2011 09:01
- Written by Admin
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People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain and former board chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Olabode George and five others who were convicted by a Lagos High Court over allegation of fraud and abuse of office would be released from the Kirikiri Maximum Prison today.
A Committee of Friends (CoF) of the infamous politician has consequently put together a church service for his home coming at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos. A statement signed by Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju and others says a reception will follow the church service on Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on August 8, 2008 arraigned George and the others on a 163-count charge bordering on abuse of office in the award of over N100 billion.
George was convicted in 2009 by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja and jailed for two years alongside others on a seven-count charge of abuse of office and six months each on another 27-count charge of disobedience to constituted authority. All the terms ran concurrently.
Meanwhile, some lawyers have said that the planned reception in honour of a Peoples Democratic Party leader, Chief Olabode George, is proof that Nigeria’s anti-corruption war is dead.
They described it as an indication of the society’s unfortunate entrenchment of corruption in public office.
A full-page advertisement published in a national newspaper on Thursday and signed by 25 Nigerians, had listed the programme of events to welcome George back from the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons, Lagos.
The advertisement read, “Welcome the Lion Heart, Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George, Atona Oodua. After darkness comes a glorious dawn. The good Lord, who has given you victory over adversity, will surely strengthen you in every way for a greater tomorrow.”
The programmes outlined for the reception are a church service and a reception.
The Executive Director, Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr. Mumuni Adetokunbo, said that such gatherings amounted to justifying corruption and one that called the society’s ethical standard to question.
He said that while there was nothing illegal about welcoming one’s relation, who returned alive from the prison or anywhere else, it should not be done amid pomp.
He said that such an activity would erode the sense of remorse that should come with the completion of a jail term.
“It therefore means that other public officers can relax and say that even if I steal and I am convicted, my people will still be there for me on my return. And that is why I will continue to say that I have my fears for the coming elections.”
Mr. Kunle Fadipe said that except the current government took steps to nip the planned reception in the bud, it should as well accept that there was no proof that it truly believed in the anti-corruption campaign.
He said that the PDP must dissociate itself from the celebration of ignominy, saying that there was nothing to celebrate.
Fadipe said, “Somebody was convicted for siphoning so much money that could have been used to better the lot of the society and Nigerians who have been worse for his actions and we still gather to celebrate his return.
“It makes rubbish of the anti-corruption drive. It is an unholy reception. There is no problem with going to church to thank God for bringing him out of the prison, especially the way the Nigerian prisons are, but not with fanfare that will send a wrong signal to the members of the public.”
Another legal practitioner, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, said that ordinarily, an ex-convict ought not to be celebrated by the society as it portrayed the government as tolerating corruption as a way of life.
He said, “I think what those organising this event would want the public to believe is that George was not wrong after all, but what cannot be contested is that the court has sustained the sentence.
“They are free to integrate him back to the society, but not with celebration because his case is different from that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was celebrated and honoured as the Asiwaju of the Yoruba race after he was released from the prison in the 60s.”
Another lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje, said that such shows explained why ex-convicts might remain unrepentant. He said that the action showed that the anti-corruption war had failed, while corruption was gaining more ground.
He said, “Today, public office holders steal state funds, smile to prison and smile out. Since they did not declare their assets in the first place, it is difficult to determine how much of what they amassed belonged to the state.
“That is why there is problem having them to return all they had stolen. It is as if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission no longer exist. It is a practical show of moral decadence as a country.”
George was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment for corrupt practices perpetrated during his tenure as the chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority.