Aondoakaa must go to confession

Casmir Igbokwe

First published Sept. 13, 2009 

Rev. Father Frazer is said to be Chief Michael Aondoakaa’s school principal at Mount Saint Gabriel Secondary School in Makurdi, Benue State. In a recent report, TheNews Magazine quoted the priest as saying that Aondoakaa was a destined child of God. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Frazer added, took his religion seriously and showed good example to others.

 I’m not sure if Aondoakaa is a Catholic. But since he is a Christian and since his secondary school principal is a Catholic priest, he needs to go to confession as the Catholic tradition demands.

 Though I’m not competent to judge him, it is apparent from the controversies trailing him since his appointment in 2007 that he has committed some form of sins. What I’m not sure is if his sins are mortal or menial.

 Last Thursday, for instance, Aondoakaa reportedly said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had cleared former governors of Akwa Ibom, Victor Attah; Delta, James Ibori; and Lagos, Bola Tinubu over the sale of their states’ shares in Vmobile now called Zain in 2007. The allegation was that the three governors sold the shares through African Development Funds Incorporated in a non-transparent manner.

 Hardly had this information hit the newsstands on Friday when the EFCC denied it. According to the commission, it has not at any time or in any way cleared the three ex-governors of complicity in all the matters concerning them which are either in court or still under investigation.

 The former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, did not spare Aondoakaa either. He denied the treason allegation the Attorney-General levelled against him even as he noted that the minister was using cheap blackmail to deceive President Umaru Yar’Adua.

 To many other Nigerians, Aondoakaa’s role in the fight against corruption since he assumed office has been a cause for serious concern. In August 2007, Aondoakaa wrote the Southwark Crown Court in the United Kingdom exonerating Ibori from the money laundering allegations against him. The Court had requested information that would help in prosecuting a case of money laundering preferred against Ibori’s wife, Nkoyo.

 At a point, Aondoakaa decreed that anti-graft agencies must get clearance from his office before prosecuting anybody. His apparent attempt to exemplify this resulted in a mild drama at Abuja High Court in the case involving former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State and the EFCC. Without prior information to the EFCC, the Attorney-General’s office attempted to take over the prosecution of Kalu. Counsel to the EFCC and the Director of Public Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice appeared the same day in the case as prosecutors.

 A few weeks ago, I had wondered about the quality of advice he gives to the President. A typical example was his take on the controversial sale of the 2.3GHz radio frequency by the National Communications Commission. The Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, had said the licensing did not follow due process. But Aondoakaa did not see anything wrong with it. In spite of this, the President cancelled the sale, saying the letters and spirit of the stipulated rules were not adequately complied with.

 So far, the role the AGF has played on the Halliburton scam probe, the Muhammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Panel report, the recent controversy over the creation of new local council development areas in Lagos State and so on, leaves much to be desired.

 Elsewhere in the world, leaders who have some question marks on their integrity do not waste time to resign their appointment. This is because what is paramount at all times is the common interest of the people. Just last week, Taiwan Premier, Liu Chao-shiuan, resigned over the slow response of his government to Typhoon Morakot, which devastated the country early August. Over 600 people died in that tragedy.

 Liu’s resignation notwithstanding, about 90 per cent of the victims have reportedly received relief payments while about 92 per cent of the homeless were quartered in military barracks and other official facilities. In a press conference hastily called to announce his resignation, Liu said, “Someone has to take political responsibility.”

 The questions for us in Nigeria are: How many people have taken responsibility for the killing of innocent people in some parts of the North in the recent Boko Haram crisis? How many people received relief payments for this human-induced mayhem? How many people have voluntarily resigned for neglecting to do their duties in Nigeria?

  Most of us have eulogised the late human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, for his fight against all forms of injustice and oppression. How many of us supported him in our own little way towards achieving his aims? Now that he is gone, we are all crying and looking for another person who will wear his shoes and stake his neck for the salvation of Nigeria.

 That salvation does not lie in any one individual. It lies in all of us, particularly those parading the corridors of power as leaders. People in authorities must take responsibilities for their actions or inactions. If former Health Minister, Adenike Grange, could be forced to resign; if the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, could be forced out of office, I don’t see why Aondoakaa should not honourably bow out from the ministry of justice.

 More disturbing is the fact that the AGF seems not to be bothered about controversies surrounding him. Like Catholics who are barred from receiving Holy Communion when they are not in a state of grace, the AGF must be barred from further polluting the country’s justice system. He should put a stop to his unpopular actions or resign from that position. Why Yar’Adua has not summoned courage to call him to order remains a topic for another day.

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