Marshall of the Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen. Don Idada Ikponmwen, yesterday, joined the clamour for the investigation and prosecution of former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, over the alleged diversion of public funds meant for the procurement of arms during his tenure.
The veteran military officer was reacting to the demand in some quarters that the former President should be invited for inter- rogation and prosecution if a prima facie case has been established against him on the arms scandal.
Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, had last week, stirred the hornet’s nest when he asked President Muhammadu Buhari to authorise the prosecution of Jonathan if he (Jonathan) covertly instigated the diversion of $2.1bn domiciled in the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, to expenditure other than arms procurement.
Ikponmwen, a lawyer and one time Director of Legal Services in the Nigeria Army, said that given the series of cases already instituted against key officials of the Jonathan administration and the revelations from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) on those cases, it was only logical that a proper investigation be conducted to determine the level of culpability or otherwise of the man under whose watch these massive looting of public funds took place.
He argued that the invitation extended to Dasuki and other key officials of the Jonathan administration ought to had included Jonathan himself , adding that the long delay in addressing this issue had certainly affected the no- nonsense image of President Muhammadu Buhari and the change mantra of his administration.
According to him, there were no more legal inhibitions to the probe of Jonathan because the issue of immunity from prosecution which Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors and their Deputies enjoy under the Nigerian Constitution was no longer there, stressing that before now, the immunity clause was the only barrier to such an action.
Ikponmwen observed that the manner of disbursement of the said funds meant for procurement of arms “were so manifestly wrong and irregular that it had become obvious to everybody that all the letters and memos used in releasing those huge amounts of money were mere cover up for a systemic fraud.”
He argued that under a democracy, nobody should be above the law, just as time does not run out against anyone who is a criminal or suspected to be one.
Asked if dragging the former President to court on these allegations of corruption would not be demeaning to the office and institution of the Nigerian Presidency, Ikponmwen said that it would not because only upright leadership could make an office strong.
“We are no longer too concerned with building strong and powerful individuals but strong institutions. There are no institutions unless they are genuine, upright and working for public good.
A public officer who acts fraudulently do not represent any institution.
“There must no longer be sacred cows if this country is to move forward. I do not believe that the government of the day will buy this retrogressive idea of sweeping ugly stuff under the carpet as a way of preserving sanctity where there was no sanctity.
The irreparable losses in terms of lives and property inflicted on the polity by the fraudulent acts of sone persons in the last administration is too gargantuan to be traded away for institutional prestige,” he said.
Ikponmwen said that countries such as Egypt, Chile and Liberia, which brought their erstwhile leaders to trial after the end if their regimes, and Ghana that executed some of its past leaders, knew better the need for having responsible and accountable institutions as a means of guaranteeing a just and an egalitarian society.