“As government, we get very frustrated when we start a case and then somebody is found not guilty. Why do we get frustrated? Because we are wasting a lot of funds! That money could have gone to providing medical care for our people. Better food nutrition for our people but we have to spend it on time wasting cases. Not a single corruption has been proven in recent days,” Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo told journalists at a press conference last week.
Our opinion seeks to disagree with Mr Kasolo that there has been no corruption conviction recently. The Anti-Corruption Commission has been issuing statements every other week announcing the convictions of some public office holders involved in bribery and related crimes. What Mr Kasolo must say is that there has not been any conviction of any high profile or politically exposed persons who have access to public funds. And on that point, we agree with the Permanent Secretary’s observation.
But as we agree with Mr Kasolo, the question we must ask ourselves is “why?” If there has not been any conviction of any high profile figure, what could be the reason for this? Does this mean that these accused persons are innocent? We don’t think so! Instead, we find this an indictment on the institutions charged with the responsibility of prosecuting corruption and adjudicating crimes.
In fact, our view is that the failure by the National Prosecutions Authority to record high profile convictions in corruption cases is by design. This is what the PF government, and State House in particular, wanted when they chased away those who know how to prosecute corruption. We have not forgotten how they hounded out Mr Mutembo Nchito from the office of Director of Public Prosecutions and unleashed heavily armed police officers to break into his bedroom at home, before they dragged him in a convoy to be detained in police cell in Chongwe. They wanted Mutembo out so that the State doesn’t win corruption cases in court.
That is not all! We also remember how Irene Lamba who attempted to prosecute high profile cases was hounded out of the Anti-Corruption Commission in similar fashion through bogus state-sponsored criminal charges which failed to stand in court. The same method used on Mutembo and Lamba was used on several others who wanted to fight corruption genuinely.
As if that is not enough, this government has been pardoning convicted criminals. There are people who were found guilty of burying proceeds of crime and were serving prison sentences for corruption and related charges, but are now walking freely on the streets because the government that Mr Kasolo serves decided to release them from jail before they could even be given a chance to reform.
Have we forgotten how high profile corruption cases involving the Nigerian government-to-government oil deals which the state was on course to win were messed up by those who took over the prosecution? After changing the leadership of the National Prosecutions Authority, we are hearing reports that the office even disagrees with the convictions recorded by those who occupied office before them, when matters go to the courts of appeal.
So it is a mockery for those serving in this regime, like Mr Kasolo, to complain and pretend that government gets frustrated when corruption cases are lost in court. No one in this government should be allowed to make such a complaint because their actions are betraying their words. What is happening is exactly what they wanted.
The Transparency International is absolutely right when they say Mr Kasolo is lacking an appreciation of the full ramifications of taking a casual approach towards corruption. The point to note here is that when corruption takes over a governance system, those in power lose all sensitivity and common sense. They will lose money meant to pay University students’ bursaries through corruption and then say prosecuting criminal suspects is a waste of time. What a shame!
But anyway, we have to be grateful for Mr Kasolo’s honesty because his statement that government considers prosecuting corruption a waste of time and money explains a lot of things. We are no longer surprised that after a Magistrate acquitted Mr Ten Percent, and a song was done glorifying the State’s failure to convict him, the remaining nine charges that the Anti-Corruption Commission announced on the second arrest of the man have since disappeared, like the owner of the 48 houses.