They were, however, divided over the scope, time-frame and those to be probed. While some wanted the probe to be limited to the Jonathan administration, some countered that it should be extended to all past governments. There were also calls that the probe should be extensive, thorough, transparent and devoid of witch-hunt.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina weekend, President Buhari, who said he met a near-empty treasury on assumption of office, restated his decision to probe the Jonathan government to recover the billions of dollars that have not been accounted for.
Last week, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) asked President Buhari to probe the immediate-past administration for the $5.5bn dividends said to have been paid to the Federal Government by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG). It also wanted taxes and dividends accrued to the Jonathan administration through the NLNG in the last six years unearthed.
When the issue of probe was first mentioned late May, Jonathan urged President Buhari not to focus only on his administration, saying it would amount to a witch-hunt if only his administration is probed.
He had said, “I think in Nigeria, there are a lot of things that will be probed, very many things, even debts owed by states and debts owed by this country from 1960 up to this time. They say it is Jonathan’s administration that owed these debts… I believe that anybody that is coming for probe must also ensure that this probe is extended beyond the Jonathan administration. Otherwise, to me, it will be witch-hunt. If we are very sincere, it is not only the Jonathan administration that should be probed.”
It’s an attempt to recover our stolen wealth—Sagay
Throwing his weight behind the move, renowned Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), said the planned probe is an avenue to recover the nation’s stolen wealth from those who looted the country’s treasury.
Sagay said: “The way I see it is this: the Buhari administration met a virtually empty treasury. The treasury has been looted in various guises, the NNPC has been a source of massive looting. As far as I am concerned, I will not call what he is doing as probing of any administration, it is an attempt to recover Nigeria’s stolen wealth so that the administration can work. I truly support it.
“In the process of trying to recover the stolen money, if he has to probe any government, present or past, let him probe, but the money has to be recovered. People should not come into government and now suffer from some sort of amnesia and think that state funds belong to them personally while the country is living in pains and poverty as we are now. Salaries cannot be paid in so many states, so Buhari is right in his struggle to recover our stolen wealth.”
Presidency should probe, but no witch-hunt – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said on Sunday that the Presidency was free to probe past administrations but warned that the exercise must not be carried out with malice designed to witch-hunt some persons who worked under Jonathan.
Chief Olisa Metuh, PDP National Publicity Secretary said the investigation must be within the ambit of the law and respect for fundamental human rights of citizens, adding that a government must plan for the future and not necessarily spend its energy looking into the past.
According to Metuh, the current government should allow some persons carry out the investigation while it concentrates on providing services to the people especially in the area of addressing the security challenge in some parts of the country.
Metuh said: “It is the right thing to probe and investigate but there must be respect for fundamental human rights of the people. It must be carried out within the confines of the law, there must be no witch-hunt. There must be plans for the future. The government can go ahead with the probe, but must put forward those things that will move the country forward because very soon, Nigerians will be asking questions on insecurity, incessant arrests, the state of the dollar, among others.”
Probe should be transparent and not to witch-hunt — Ajulo, LP scribe
In his reaction, National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Dr. Kayode Ajulo, urged the President to be transparent in his anti-corruption crusade.
Ajulo, who said it was imperative for the President not to embark on a personal vendetta, said: “Buhari, on the day he was inaugurated, swore to two oaths and his primary responsibility is to follow the laws of the country and to do justice to all without fear or favour. What I say is this, if a crime has been committed, such crimes should be investigated but there should be no vendetta. He should not witch-hunt, he should not be vindictive about the probe.”
He added: “I can understand that the war against corruption has started, he should be transparent about it. What are you trying people for? What is their offence? Their offence has to be known because this is democracy. They should also follow the law in their anti-corruption war.”
Probe should be all-inclusive — Shettima, Arewa Youth
On his part, National President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Assembly, Alhaji Yerima Usman Shettima, argued that the probe should be all-inclusive and not limited to the past PDP administration.
His words: “Nobody is opposed to probing anybody that is found wanting; but the probe should not be lopsided. We are all aware that if Buhari wants to probe, he will be totally committed. The probe should not be a witch-hunt, it must be all-inclusive. There are some people, who are close to him, they should also be probed, it should be a fight against corruption and not a selected few.”
Buhari is a disappointment —- Ogundipe, South-West PDP leader
The South-West Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Makanjuola Ogundipe, expressed disappointment over the President’s decision to single out the Jonathan administration for probe.
Ogundipe said: “Buhari is really disappointing everybody. Having been declared winner of the last presidential elections, Nigerians had expected him to swing into action to better their lot. If the only thing Buhari wants to do is to probe everybody, then he should not limit the probe to Jonathan. He should go back to when he too was head of state; he should probe everybody around him. That is when we would know he is working. As it is now, we see it as a witch-hunt. Nigerians are expecting better performance from his administration but from what we see, we are disappointed. That is not the way he should go.”
I support the probe — Junaid Mohammed
In his reaction, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, said it will be unrealistic for President Buhari not to probe the Jonathan administration. According to him, President Buhari has since realised that without probing the past government, he might not be able to move the country forward.
He said: “During the electioneering campaigns, Buhari said he will not probe past governments. But now that he has seen the quantum of money that was looted by several ministers and former aides of Jonathan, he has no option than change his attitude and stance on the probe.
“He has since realized he could not do anything without money and when revelations of the billions they stole started filtering in, there is no way he will not probe especially when some states were owing eight to 11 months’ salary. I support President Buhari on the probe 100 percent and I am glad he has turned down borrowing money. Instead, he is ensuring people that stole this country dry are returning it.”