By Claire Nwachukwu
Abuse of legal power is a serious threat to the stability of both law and order in any society. The more we allow for such abuses of power to prevail in our society, the more we develop a lack of sensation to it, thereby not being able to acknowledge it as abuse when it occurs.
Abuse of legal power is the wrong use of legitimate ability to alter one’s legal position or another person’s legal position. It also could be seen as the use of lawful powers by government officials for selfish purposes, which in turn causes instability and a huge decline in the economy of the nation.
The immensity of the misappropriation of public funds by many public office holders is alarming judging from past and present records. It is also to be noted that not every funded project on the past budgets have been executed. The question begging for an answer is, “If these Projects were funded but not executed, where then did the Funds allocated for these projects go?A news report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has revealed how “55 politicians, high-level public officials and leaders allegedly misappropriated N1.354tr between 2006 and 2013 from the nation’s treasury.” Out of the money misappropriated by these public officers, 15 former governors were alleged to have misappropriated N146.84 billion; while 4 former ministers misappropriated N7 billion; 12 former public servants both at federal and state levels, misappropriated over N14 billion; 8 people in the banking Industry allegedly misappropriated N524 billion; while 11 businessmen allegedly misappropriated N653 billion. Other questions to be asked includes; what is being done about these alleged fraudulent activities? Are these perpetrators being punished severely just as the Code of Conduct Bureau stipulated?The amount of money misappropriated by public officials and leaders in secret between 2013 and 2017 has raced beyond the thoughts of an average Nigerian.
Until now, from what we know, no one who has been accused of partaking in the illicit act of misappropriation of funds meant for the running of the nation has returned the misappropriated funds on their own volition without being pushed and mishandled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). All the perpetrators kept telling us were absurd stories as to why they participated in the barbaric act of diverting public funds Into private pockets. “One of the perpetrators said he collected N4.5 billion for spiritual purposes, another said he received N2.1 billion for publicity, while yet another said he got N13 billion to pay someone else for the Maritime University land. Nigeria’s Minister of Information and culture, Lai Mohammed stated in one of his interviews with Domnick nero blogspot, that one third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road, built 36 ultra modern hospitals i.e. one ultra modern hospital per state, built 183 schools, educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24 million per child and built 20,062 units of 2-bedroom houses.
Almost every person entrusted with small quantity of power whether bureaucratic, professional, political, judicial, academic, or administrative, will sooner or later become influenced by the already existing corrupt public officers who in no time influence them into being fellow corrupt officers thereby making them become trivial tyrants, giving orders to the population they are meant to be of service to. They also use the power assigned for personal gain rather than the good of the public.In conclusion. The judicial bodies as a matter of indispensability should go ahead to investigate all those who have gone against the code of conduct bureau that states that “A public officer shall not do or direct to be done, any act prejudicial to the rights of any other person, knowing that such act is unlawful or contrary to any government policy”.
Also Violators of the Code of Conduct should be punished according to the crime which they have committed. The jury on the other hand must take steps to persuade Nigerians of its genuine determination to rule out corruption by strictly implementing the laws of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) .
Genuine investigative reports of on-going investigations must be made known to the public as well as ensuring that there is proper execution carried out In line with the finding of the report. The Government should also desist from conveying a great quantity of power be it legal, or otherwise to one person because it fosters corruption to an extent.
Claire Nwachukwu writes from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Abuja, Nigeria.