VERY early at the start of his tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari voluntarily promised to release the list of those he called looters. On 12th December 2015 the President said the only thing holding back the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, from publishing the list of those who looted Nigeria and have returned parts of the loot was to avoid jeopardising investigations and further recoveries.
Till today, he has not fulfilled that promise. Again, in May 2016 at an anti-corruption summit in London, the President renewed the promise when he said: “So far, what has come out, what has been recovered in whatever currency from each ministry, department and individual, I intend on the 29th (of May) to speak on this because all Nigerians are getting from the mass media is the number of people arrested either by the EFCC (or) DSS. But we want to make a comprehensive report on May 29”. No such disclosure ever came. Exasperated with this delay, a civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, went to court to compel the Federal Government to release the list.
On 6th July 2017, a Lagos High Court Judge, Hadiza Shagari, ordered the Federal Government to: “immediately release to Nigerians information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom funds were recovered and the circumstances under which the funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount recovered from each public official” Yet again, in October this year, it was the turn of his Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, to reiterate the promise. In the words of the AGF, “President Muhammadu Buhari has directed all relevant agencies to compile documents on names of all looters with a view to promptly enforcing the judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos”. Over two months later, no action on the presidential directive has been taken.
The question on the lips of Nigerians is: Why is government foot-dragging on this issue? It is now like an unwilling horse, even flouting a court order on the matter. All we hear is a loud lip service but no action. Why is it that, more than two years after the President first made this promise, the government, going by the words of the AGF, has not bothered to gather the data to prepare the list? We are afraid that some elements of politics have gotten mixed up with this issue, and this is not good for the anti-corruption agenda of the Buhari government. If any list is published during the period of electioneering activities which 2018 represents it might be construed as a mere political gimmick. We advise government to release that list before the onset of next year’s political activities.