BY EKWUEME IFEANYICHUKWU
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested Uyi Giwa Osagie, the lawyer and treasurer of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, for alleged money laundering. The arrest of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate’s lawyer, is politically motivated.
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule, the Nigerian government has over the years weaponized state apparatus, such as the Nigerian Police Force, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), State owned print and electronic media to intimidate political opponents. This tactic is heightened during elections to sway the electorate to vote in their favour and at the same time, tarnish the image of the opposition.
The Buhari administration, an All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government has been plagued by this trend. We have witnessed the ruling party going after members of the opposition and members of its own party, whose loyalty is in question. Instances such as the prosecution of Senate president, Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), despite belonging to the same party during his trial. Next was the ordeal of Senator Dino Melaye, which was spear headed by the Nigerian Police Force and an attempt to silence both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other lawmakers in the National Assembly.
The Deputy Senate President was not left out, a suit filed against the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu seeking forfeiture of asset allegedly not declared by him. The motion was filed by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property seeking the forfeiture of assets allegedly not declared by Mr. Ekweremadu. The Federal Government, Wednesday, asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze all hidden assets that were traced to Mr. Ekweremadu. It also recalled how the police raided and ransacked Mr. Ekweremadu’s official guest house in Abuja in May 2017 and blamed it on false whistleblowers, whom they charged to court, stressing that nothing has been heard about the trial of the alleged false whistleblowers again.
This government and party have a wet appetite for prosecution and media trial of the opposition while investigation is on, but refuses to prosecute its members and friends indicted by even its own presidential or ministerial panels. The APC Federal Government has failed to prosecute those involved in the Ikoyigate scandal, and the recall of fugitive Abdulrasheed Maina, among others.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last year froze the accounts of the Akwa Ibom, Benue state government, states headed by the opposition party, the PDP. The action was a deliberate ploy to unconstitutionally starve the state of resources and a ploy to sabotage the efforts of state Governors and their governments.
Some days to the general elections, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom state dragged the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar Adamu, to court following the alleged arrest and detention of its members. Filing a suit against the IGP and the All Progressive Congress (APC) before the state high court in Uyo, the opposition party prayed for an order for the enforcement of their fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, movement. The party, in a 23-paragraph affidavit, also prayed to the court to recognise its right to peaceful assembly and association and personal liberty. It’s believed that this is part of the grand plan to strangulate the PDP ahead of the 2019 elections.
This trend of using state apparatus to intimidate members of the opposition has to be stopped as this is a dangerous trend for budding democracy. A trend that if left to persist will erode the trust of the citizens in state apparatus and set a bad precedent for the future.
Ifeanyichukwu is an Enugu-born political economist and social activist