Professor Gambari spoke in Abuja, just as the Human Rights Lawyer, Chief Femi Falana, SAN, observed that the decision of the Federal Government to limit the investigation of corruption cases to the Jonathan Administration cannot be justified in law.
The eminent Nigerians expressed their views in Abuja, at the public presentation of the book, “economic diplomacy and Nigeria’s foreign policy” written by the immediate past Chairman of TETFUND, by Dr. Musa Babayo, and attended by members of civil society groups and associates.
Professor Gambari, who is also the Founder and Chairman of Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development, SCDDD, expressed grave concern over the current nation’s dwindling foreign exchange earnings.
According to Gambari. “Nigeria is indeed currently at economic crossroad, due in part to the many years of mismanagement of our common patrimony and the pressures occasioned dwindling foreign exchange earnings, itself a result of falling crude oil receipts.
“As at last week, the foreign exchange of the U.S Dollar to Naira stood at one Dollar to two hundred and forty four Naira at the local market.
“All the decades of talk about diversifying the economy and moving away from over-reliance on oil must be translated into concrete actions. There is, indeed urgent need to bring together all major stakeholders to foster better economic management while spreading grassroots development, especially in the light of new global and power configuration”, he said.
Gambari stressed further that, “Nigerians seriously yarn for and which they have voted for in the most recent state and national elections. The current socio-economic challenges, such as high level poverty, huge unemployment, persistent power-blackout despite huge amount of money invested, and above all the perennial disconnect between the leaders and the rest of citizens, must be tackle headlong.
“The government should as a matter of priority open and strengthen communications between the government and the citizens. Trust building between the government and the citizens would make the people feel carried along in the business of governance.”
On the foreign scene, Gambari noted that, “In Nigeria, s elsewhere in Africa and the world, foreign policy and diplomacy are vital tools for socio-economic development. This is the essential message of this book.
“Hence, a key objective of foreign policy and the definition of the national interest must of necessity be promotion of the welfare of the citizens of any country.”
He said, “There is therefore a need to have an authoritative focal point to coordinate the broad range of our external relations in order to maximise the opportunity for promoting the socio-economic development of our country and the welfare and well-being of our people.
The highest form of such a coordinated approach obtains in some countries where there is a single Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade.
“For Nigeria, I would advocate a new and permanent inter-ministerial council which would provide an effective link between our general foreign policy endeavours with our external trade and international economic interest.”
Speaking as the Special Guest of honour, at the occasion in his paper entitled, “The right to accountable government in Nigeria” the Human Rights Lawyer, Chief Femi Falana noted that, “The right to development is a fundamental right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social and cultural development.
He said “It is a right which includes the exercise of full sovereignty over national resources, self determination, popular participation in development and equality of opportunity.
“Accordingly, the Nigerian State shall direct its policy towards ensuring the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development and ensure that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the mean of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or of a group,” he said.
Chief Falana while alerting the nation on campaign against anti graft agencies by the ruling class, said, “Based on the avowed commitment of President Mohammadu Buhari to fight the menace of corruption the members of the ruling class have begun to wage a campaign of calumny against the EFCC and other anti graft agencies.
“An influential newspaper has, without any shred of evidence, accused the EFCC leadership of wallowing in corruption while a rented crowd has “stormed” Abuja to demand for the removal of the EFCC chairman. Even some members of the ruling party have not spared the EFCC.
“For daring to ask certain people to account for public funds the EFCC has been accused of allowing itself to be used to settle political scores. On its own part, the Peoples Democratic Party has alleged that the anti corruption agenda of the Buhari Administration is deliberately designed to humiliate and party and embarrass the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
The other day, the immediate National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) had his residence searched by officials of the State Security Service based on a search warrant issued by a Magistrate.
“Without considering the fact that the search was carried out in line with the rule of law the SSS was accused by a section of the media of embarrassing Col. Dasuki for leading the soldiers who arrested General Buhari during the palace coup of 1985! In the same vein, police investigation into the alleged forgery of the Standing Rules of the Senate by a top national assembly staff is being politicised.
“Even a mere invitation extended to some persons to react to allegations linking them with multi billion naira fraud is now said to be a political vendetta.
Since the allegations of bias or persecution being leveled against the EFCC are deliberately designed to discredit the renewed fight against corruption and shield looters from prosecution it is high time that the attention of Nigerians was drawn to the fact that corruption is fighting back. It is indeed embarrassing that some members of a regime that promised to fight corruption are involved in the dubious campaign to sustain impunity in the country.
“Having closely monitored the recent activities of the EFCC since it was established over 10 years ago, I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that the Buhari Administration has not gone beyond granting autonomy to the commission to discharge its statutory duties.
“It may interest Nigerians to know that majority of the petitions which formed the basis of the ongoing investigation by the EFCC were submitted before the emergence of the Buhari Administration.
I have confirmed that the petition against the cabal of fuel importers was submitted to the EFCC sometime in January 2012 by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke on the directive of President Jonathan.
“Even the petition against those who duped the nation of hundrerds of millions of dollars through the oil swap scam was also submitted to the EFCC by her after the 2015 presidential election.
“With respect to the ex-governors of the APC and PDP who are currently standing trial, the petitions which triggered the investigations were written and submitted to the anti graft agency by concerned citizens and anti-corruption bodies. The kwara state chapter of the PDP has owned up that it authored the petition alleging fraud against the spouse of a public figure.
“It should be pointed out that the EFCC and other anti graft agencies are being inundated with petitions by Nigerians and foreigners alike who believe that the Buhari Administration will not shield corrupt people from investigation and prosecution. To that extent, the decision of the federal government to limit the investigation of corruption cases to the Jonathan Administration cannot be justified in law.
“As there is no statute of limitation with respect to corruption cases aggrieved Nigerian citizens cannot be restrained from exposing corrupt practices of successive regimes. More so, that President Buhari has requested the Obama Administration to assist in the recovery and repatriation of $150 billion stolen from Nigerian in the past decade. “