Orji Kalu: is the jailing of Orji Kalu a plus for Buhari’s anti-graft war?

By Fredrick Nwabufo

On June 12, 2018, Joshua Dariye, former Plateau state governor and senator, huddled in the dock awaiting the verdict of fate for pilfering N1.6 billion public funds at a high court of the federal capital territory (FCT).

Dariye was lachrymal, wiping hot tears from his eyes.

Before the senator was handed a 14-year jail sentence by Adebukola Banjoko, the presiding judge, he begged for mercy – a luxury he did not accord to the people of Plateau who endured his troubled administration.

He was found guilty of 14 counts out of the 23 preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Before the judge passed her judgment, Paul Eroko, counsel to Dariye, pleaded for a light sentence.

“Appeals to your judgement do not succeed; we will fall on your mercy. The prisons are congested,” Eroko said.

“They misled the governor, it is the bank; they said he didn’t have to present anything.”

But Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the EFCC, said Dariye did not deserve a light sentence because he “did not show remorse”.

At this point, Weeping Dariye said he wanted to speak.

“Have mercy, you are a Christian, your name is Jacob,” he said.

On Thursday, Orji Uzor Kalu, another former governor and senator, received the retribution of kismet.

Reality jarred Kalu out of the fantasy that he was going home to his bed after his conviction for money laundering by a federal high court in Lagos.

After Mohammad Idris, the presiding judge, pronounced a 12-year jail sentence and warders moved towards him with handcuffs, the senate chief whip resorted to diplomacy.

“Where are you taking us to now? Please don’t handcuff me. I will follow you,” he said.

Kalu’s fall is louder than the crash of Jericho — being a trenchant mouthpiece of President Muhammadu Buhari in the south-east.

But is his conviction a ‘’pass mark’’ for Buhari’s much vaunted war against corruption? I do not think so.

First, the case is 12 years old. It was not actuated by this administration. And investigations were already concluded before this regime.

Second, corruption cases recently initiated against certain individuals have not received oomph owing to the fact that they are in the ‘’Buhari fraternity’’.

For example, the case of Babachir Lawal, former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), is sputtering in court this despite his indictment by the government he served.

Also, there is a petition against Bola Tinubu, national leader of the APC, for alleged money laundering at the EFCC. Tinubu admitted transporting cash in bullion vans on the eve of the 2019 election to his house. But the anti-graft agency has not moved a muscle to investigate the allegation.

When Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman, was asked about the petition against Jagaban by a journalist, he snubbed the inquiry, and said ‘’next question, please?’’

As a matter of fact, there are other members of the APC and those in the Buhari fraternity who have corruption allegations hanging on their necks, but the EFCC is yet to crack up a case against them.

I will not mention more names.

So, on what grounds should Buhari’s anti-corruption war be toasted? If the regime is applauded for the jailing of Dariye and Orji Kalu, how about other cases it has failed to take up or conclude?

The fact is, Buhari’s anti-corruption war is still selective. And as Abubakar Tsav, former Lagos police commissioner, said: ‘’It has no impact on Nigerians.’’

However, I will commend the judiciary for not bending despite influences to have some cases of corruption compromised. The termination of Kalu’s 12-year-old bout at the trial court is a big point for the institution. The hero here is this arm of government.

But beyond this feat, we must look into another tragic offence against Nigerians. Why is a senator convicted of fraud still receiving allowances and salaries as a member of the senate?

As of December 2018, Dariye was paid N85.5 million in prison, and as of May 2019 his allowances had risen to N171 million. Obviously, the same immoral privilege will be accorded to Orji Kalu. Is this not troubling?

What it means is that tax-payers will continue to fund the lifestyles of individuals who have been convicted of stealing from them.

Justice is not final when people, who have been declared vandals of the public purse, are still maintained by public money.

*Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist

@FredrickNwabufo