a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, says the Federal Government lacks the constitutional power to name the looters of the national treasury if the looters have not been convicted by a court of law.
Onigbanjo said if the Federal Government had gone ahead to disclose the identities of the looters, it would have caused grave legal and political implications.
Speaking during a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, the senior advocate said contrary to the claim in some quarters that the Federal Government was soft in dealing with the looters, it was not so.
Onigbanjo said, “The Presidency acted rightly by keeping the identities of the looters from the public for now. The Federal Government lacks the power to just go on air or publish the names when the courts have not concluded the cases. There are legal and political implications. The constitution states that a suspect is presumed innocent until proved guilty in a court of law, so, the first thing to note is that it’s only a court that can pronounce anybody guilty for stealing money.
“The due process must be followed. There are some people who received money from the past government’s officials, who didn’t know the source of the money. So, you confront them with the fact that the money they took was the money meant for the procurement of arms. You tell them, this money ought not to have been given to you. If the persons admitted collecting the money and refund the money because they didn’t know the source of the money, if you publish their names, you are tarnishing their images.”
Onigbanjo also said publishing the names of the looters would discourage others from returning their loot.
According to him, it is cheaper, easier and faster to use an out-of-court approach in recovering public funds than using litigation which could take a longer time.
He added, “Although one could sympathise with the clamour for the release of the names of the looters, due to the integrity deficit we face as a nation, we must not always give in to mob instinct. We must follow the due process. The minute the Federal Government publishes the names of the looters, it becomes a pronouncement.
“The names and reputation of the looters would have been tarnished. Others might refuse to refund. Only the courts have the power to pronounce someone as a looter, not the executive arm.”