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Corruption: Amaechi Has Questions To Answer And Ibim And Worgu Cannot Help Him (READ)

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[dropcap]M[/dropcap]any around the country were glued to their TV screens on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 as two former commissioners in the Amaechi administration, Ibim Semenitari former Information Commissioner and Worgu Boms, former Attorney-General appeared on Gbenga Areluba’s Focus Nigeria on AIT and did their best to wash the former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi clean of any iota of corruption and clear the way for him to receive the much vaunted appointment from the Buhari government, since as they and the former Governor himself inferred, the allegations were an attempt by Rivers people to paint him with corruption.

While they all missed the point by reducing a national discourse on corruption to an issue of politics, it is important to raise salient issues from their presentations.

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The duo claimed it was an Exco decision of the Rivers State Government to sell the power assets of the State and also convert the dollar proceeds of the sale through the black market via Access Bank to a number of companies who all by some magical coincidence do business at the same address and have cronies of the former Governor as Directors, none of which is a registered bureau de change, and in the very week preceding the APC Presidential Primaries, which the former governor was said to have heavily sponsored. The gods must be crazy. What a coincidence.

Anyway, let’s forget the conspiracy theories for a moment and stick with the business of governance. When did it become the business of Government to speculate in foreign currency and when did it become a standard procedure for a State Government to trade in forex via unregistered and illegal third parties outside the Central Bank of Nigeria or at worst a registered Bureau De Change? These are fundamental questions. Why did it so happen that all the companies involved in the series of rapid transfers and exchanges operate from one location with cronies of the former Governor as Directors in spite of Semenitari’s insistence that Access Bank followed due process of bidding?

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Ibim Semenitari exuded stoic confidence when she affirmed that the entire transactions were Exco decisions as though by the fact of same, the Governor and members of that Exco were exculpated from doing any wrong, no matter how damning their decisions turn out to be. If such was the case wouldn’t that surmise as the license authorising the mundane in governance? Was that the mindset with which governance was administered in Rivers State under them? By her insistence, was Ibim inferring that Exco was beyond reproach? Where Exco evidently does wrong, will it be wrong to engage and demand accountability from he who suprintended over such a process? There are many questions to ask.

If the intentions of the Rivers State Government as headed by former Governor Amaechi were sincere and he genuinely wished Rivers people and Nigeria well with those transfers, his government could have deposited same with the Central Bank of Nigeria in order to help shore up our foreign reserves and extracted the naira value at the best rate. But they didn’t do that. They used an unauthorised third party like Capital Index to do such monumental transfers and at a time that raises many questions.

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Capital Index, according to the company’s website was established in 2003 as an enterprise development and resource management firm. No part of its statement refers to it as doing the business of a Bureau De Change. It is not a licensed Bureau De Change. So what is the basis for using it for those transactions? How then can such a transaction qualify as being legitimate?

Now, the problem appears to be with Access Bank that engaged it and others like it all holed up at same address, 25 Trans Amadi Road Port Harcourt. The gods, truly, are not to blame. Access Bank, as Ibim inferred would have been solely liable but for the fact that all the affected companies are peopled by cronies of the former Governor himself. This is where it goes beyond Access Bank. Access Bank cannot and should not be primed to take the fall.

May Ibim be reminded that yesterday her words affected the stake of a gentleman in Unity Bank who left his job to protect what is left of his name and hard earned reputation. Today, she has mentioned Access Bank. Only the gods can tell the fallout of this name dropping exercise and for certain her next victim.

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Her vain attempt to discredit the gentleman whistleblower of Rivers State’s Comrade Livingstone Wechie, if anything, whittled the essence of her television appearance. It was unnecessary to attack the gentleman. All over the world, people like him are celebrated rather than vilified; for whether he was wrong or right, he had the courage to speak truth to power, which is the whole essence of good citizenship. But he was not wrong. He has not been proved wrong.

Ibim and Worgu acknowledged the same transfers he claimed were made but only added that the value in Nigeria was re-transferred to Rivers State government account without showing any proof. They both should know that by the mere waving of papers before the cameras alleged to be the proof of their innocence as joinders to the cause, they did not vitiate the burden of culpability Wechie’s widely circulated publications placed on them. They were rather playing to the gallery. If they wished to be taken serious and succeed in their image laundry exercise they too should publish their defense. If they could go live on air to speak in defense of the former Governor currently dogged in what they refer to as a smear campaign, it shouldn’t be difficult to put the position in print.

The fast paced motion pictures that television is, is not enough to obliterate the huge burden of guilt upon them. If they have no iota of corruption on them, if they are confident that this is indeed nothing more than a smear campaign, they should publish their position, including details of the transfers and dates, that counters that of Livingstone Wechie. It is only then we would have begun the conversation. Nigerians are waiting.

Oraye St. Franklyn, a strategic communicator and good governance advocate, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He tweets from @RealOraye. He is also on Facebook

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 

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