The prominent lawyer and elder statesman Tunji Braithwaite has criticised the anti-corruption war tactic used by President Muhammadu Buhari which permits looters to quietly return their loot without being prosecuted.
Braithwaite said this when he reacted to a statement credited to the president when he visited Iran. Buhari had said that many of those who stole public funds in the immediate past government had started returning the funds without giving further details on their names and amounts returned.
The respected legal luminary who was also a former presidential candidate, lamented a situation where government allowed corrupt former government officials to go scot-free after returning loot. He described such acts as a bigger crime than the actual act of stealing the funds.
Braithwaite expressed his displeasure on Thursday, November 26, in a chat with The Punch where he accused the president of allegedly promoting impunity by reaching plea bargains with looters without sticking to his initial stance of total justice.
The human rights lawyer said: “It is a crime against the state for anybody to steal public funds. Returning stolen funds quietly without being sanctioned is even worse than the crime of stealing the money. This is morally reprehensible and it can never serve as a deterrent to other corrupt politicians who might want to steal public resources.
“Buhari is pampering those corrupt leaders by just obtaining looted funds and not jailing them. With all the bragging and the promises he made during the campaign, we expected that his war against corruption will be rootless. These public thieves carted away our national assets and in the process, impoverished many Nigerians. Corruption is also responsible for the infrastructural decay we are experiencing. The roads are bad and many Nigerian youths cannot find jobs.”
He said it was possible to recover looted funds and still make corrupt officials face the full wrath of the law.
Braithwaite said: “I think it is morally reprehensible for any government to let those returning stolen funds to go scot-free. Buhari must mention their names and stop pampering them. Corruption has robbed us of valuable infrastructure and the opportunity to develop as a country.
“I once had a similar case and the criminals were convicted while the stolen funds were traced and recovered. So it is possible to recover stolen funds and prosecute those involved. He should prosecute the thieves, trace the stolen funds and enforce restitution of the public resources. Not mentioning their names is tantamount to pampering them.”
Meanwhile, Buhari has accused some judges of frustrating his efforts to recover funds stolen by previous administrations.
The president added that he was disturbed more than ever because the allegations of judicial corruption have become more strident and frequent.