Opposition leader mulls amnesty for Nigeria’s corrupt elites if elected

Critics of the proposal say it would only serve as a payback to his corrupt friends.
Presidential candidate of the Nigeria’s opposition party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar (front C), followed by Vice Presidential candiate Peter Obi (rear R), waves as he arrives for the launching of their campaign during a political rally in Ilorin, northcentral Nigeria, on December 5, 2018. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

NFrontline opposition candidate in Nigeria’s February 16 presidential polls, Atiku Abubakar has canvassed an amnesty programme for corrupt persons who return their loot to the public treasury, if he wins.

Abubakar who is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, while speaking at a debate-styled townhall meeting in the nation’s capital, Abuja late Wednesday said it was a more realistic way of solving Nigeria’s corruption challenges. 

He said such recovered funds would be invested in the country to grow the economy and create jobs.

“Why not? I give you an example of Turkey. Turkey gave amnesty and all the money taken abroad were brought back.

“The government said when you bring the money back, you don’t need to pay taxes; invest in manufacturing, technology and real estate. And look at Turkey today, it is like any other European country,” Abubakar, who is also a businessman, disclosed.

He said automation in the public sector would reduce corruption as technology would be used so as to reduce personal contacts which fuels corruption.

“On the issue of corruption, we can use punitive and preventive measures. We should be able to introduce technology in the private and public sectors so that relationship between government and members of the public is not personal.” Abubakar said. 

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The opposition candidate has constantly positioned himself as the best for the Nigerian Presidency, promising to use his knowledge of the business environment, contacts with international investors and vast political network to boost Nigeria’s fledgling economy which has slowed due to falling oil prices, a rising inflation and reduced foreign direct investment.

In trying to key into Abubakar’s promise of a business-like government, his Vice Presidential candidate, Peter Obi who also answered questions at the live televised townhall meeting swiftly sanctioned the amnesty proposal.

“Is it not better to have an amnesty to bring money and use the money to create jobs than for looters to join another party and it becomes a safe haven and you can keep the money?,” Obi said in an apparent jibe at President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress which had received top politicians defecting to the party in recent times.

Obi himself is a former bank manager and ex-governor of the southeastern state of Anambra who is seen as offering a fresh impetus to Abubakar’s desire to court the business community to support the presidential ticket. 

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The duo have in the past weeks held meetings with captains of industry, young entrepreneurs and unemployed youths where they promised to build a “digital economy.”

Critics of the amnesty proposal say it would only serve as a payback to his corrupt friends, if Abubakar is elected. They say Abubakar himself had been accused of huge corruption by his former principal while he served as Nigeria’s vice president between 1999 and 2007.

“What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time,a propensity for poor judgment, his belief and reliance on marabouts , his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest”, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had said, of Abubakar, in his book “My Watch”. 

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Obasanjo recently endorsed Abubakar, saying he had forgiven his former deputy.

Observers of Abubakar’s recent campaign rhetoric that he would sell Nigeria’s state-owned oil company or NNPC and other national assets to “my friends” have described his capitalist-driven ideologies as inconsistent with his earlier opposition to Buhari’s plan to sell the government’s shares at the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG in 2017 as part of measures then to boost the country’s income to fund the federal budget for that year.

The presidential election holds on February 16 with incumbent Buhari and Atiku seen as major challengers.

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