The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Tuesday, warned that Nigeria’s democracy is headed for peril as former governors who had been convicted, and served time in prison, regroup in the Presidential Villa under the guise of ‘Class of 1999’.
The CLO said at a press conference that Nigerians must rise to liberate their country from the impending grip of ex-convicts.
CLO President Igho Akeregha and its Executive Director Ibuchukwu Ezike told journalists that Nigeria would be doomed under the leadership of Bola Tinubu if the ex-convicts were allowed a hold on government.
“We are all witnesses to how Nigeria, our dear country which holds so much promise as a global leader at independence on October 1, 1960, has been destroyed by successive leaders.
“The founding fathers of Nigeria from the North and South had great dreams, and they patriotically laid good foundation for a great country. The military forcefully took over power through a number of coup de tats and began the process of neutralisation of Nigeria.
“Through determination and spilling of the blood of innocent citizens, the civil societies, the media and other patriotic Nigerians chased the military out of power culminating in the historic return to civilian rule in 1999.
“Within 24 years between then and now, the political class parading themselves as civilian leaders have brought the country to her knees through massive corruption and stealing our common patrimony.
“Nigeria is now officially rated as the poverty capital of the world, one of the most corrupt countries, a haven for bandits and terrorists, a country with so much oil and gas resources but imports fuel, four moribund and dead refineries that gulp billions of Dollars in turn-around maintenance which is a conduit pipe for stealing public funds by every new government. Nigeria is now a comfortable environment and destination for all manners of criminal enterprise to thrive.
“The implication of poor and inept management of the country is supported by the recent report by the Debt Management Office, which disclosed that Nigeria’s total foreign debt for the period ending March 31, 2023, has risen to N49. 85 trillion ($108.30 billion) from N46. 25 trillion as of December 21 2022.
“Amidst these humiliating setbacks, the civilian rulers of Nigeria have perfected the act of impunity where they regard the military-imposed constitution as a mere document that can only be obeyed by the poor.
“The CLO is appalled by recent developments in the country where in June, a former Governor of Delta state, indicted for corruption, led Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo state and former Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers state to visit President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Ibori, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was in office when Tinubu was Governor of Lagos state between 1999 and 2007.
“And on July 12, former Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo state, who was also indicted for corruption but took advantage of a plea bargain to escape jail, was among more than 20 former Governors, including Ibori, who visited Tinubu at the Presidential Villa. Apart from the few good ones among them, many of these Governors who hid under an amorphous num de guere ‘Class of 99’ were notorious for setting the template for massive corruption in the country by fleecing their states and stashing the looted funds in foreign bank accounts”, CLO said at the press conference.
Quoting ex-governor Igbimedion, who was also convicted of corruption, CLO said, “Igbinedion claimed that they went to congratulate Tinubu on his election and to thank him for appointing one of them, George Akume, as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“He further claimed that they spoke about security and electricity supply to Nigerians, which they said were key factors in the development of any economy, with Mr Tinubu assuring them of the administration’s preparedness to tackle the issues headlong.
“But like many Nigerians, we in the CLO are not deceived by the regrouping of these former Governors who are now shedding Crocodile tears over the state of anomy in the country. They had eight years in office, and some went to the Senate; what did they do? They continued in their old ways. And what manner of support would they be giving Tinubu beyond an arrangement to accommodate them in the underdeveloping the country?
“The case of James Onanefe Ibori, a former Governor of Delta state from 1999 to 2007, is more rankling. He is officially the only former Governor who was jailed in a foreign country. He was in 2012 sentenced to 13 years in prison for money laundering by a court in the United Kingdom.
“Ibori fled Nigeria in April 2010 while answering to corruption charges, forcing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to enlist the help of the Interpol that apprehended him in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and extradited him to the UK where a case of massive corruption and money laundering had built up against him.
“He served only four years out of the 13-year sentence handed by the UK court and was released from jail in 2016.
“A very powerful politician, Ibori is said to have stolen more than $78.5m of Delta state public funds and partly funded the election of Umaru Yar’Adua as President of Nigeria in 2007.
“Ibori’s influence in the Niger Delta and indeed Nigeria, in general, is said to still be strong as persons seeking elective offices consult him for support as a result of his political networks and the depth of his pocket, courtesy of ill-gotten wealth.
“He was recently appointed as a Patron of former Governors Forum in Nigeria, a position he now leverages to curry personal favours and manipulates political power in Nigeria.
“The CLO is urging Nigerians to keep vigil over our hard-won democracy as the regular visits and hob-nobbing of the former Governors and corrupt Politicians with Tinubu at the seat of power is a clear and present danger to efforts to rebuild our battered country.
“We appeal to President Tinubu, whose election is being seriously challenged at the election petitions court, to not convert the highest office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria into a rehabilitation centre for politicians who put the country in this sorry state.
“Indeed, most Nigerians would question the propriety of President Tinubu parading Ibori and other criminal politicians as good men at the highest seat of power in the country.
“The CLO, which led from the front in our collective quest and struggle for a just society where citizens should be proud to call themselves Nigerians, is drawing local and international attention to the regrouping of these questionable individuals who are mobilising and now poised to determine the future of the country in accordance with their sordid standard and definition.
“Impoverished Nigerians who are currently reeling in pains and anguish from the so-called subsidy removal, multiple taxation, hike in electricity tariff and other forms of neo-colonial slavery as a direct consequence of corruption must quickly wake up from their slumber to find their lost voice.
“Collectively, Nigerians say no to blood-sucking groups of vampires who have left our wealthy country in ruins and transformed it into a vast killing field of innocent citizens.
“We call on Nigerians to organise and mobilise to take back their country for “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.
“Thank you for coming as we count on the media as our long-standing partners to join us in this long walk to freedom”, the group stated Further.