The Economic Amnesty Bill currently before the House of Representatives which seeks to turn the fight against corruption to a transactional exercise has attracted outrage across the country. The bill wants alleged looters of public treasury to be pardoned if they return about 70 per cent of the funds they stole to the government. Sponsored by Linus Okorie, PDP, Ebonyi, the proposed legislation, seeking total amnesty for treasury looters, was read on the floor of the House of Representatives on June 14. If passed into law, it will empower treasury looters to keep 30 per cent of the proceeds of their crime, without any sanctions whatsoever.
The law that will result from this bill is vexatious. It will make mockery of all known good governance and normal societal ethos. It will make a mockery of the battle against corruption and encourage more public officers to dip their hands into the public till, with the objective of keeping at least 30 per cent of whatever they are able to steal. Above all, the ill-conceived legislation will make Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations.
It is not surprising that this bill has attracted serious backlash around the nation. In fact, it is as if there are no human beings in the country for anyone to mute the idea no matter what good the sponsor of the bill intends. Any law that rewards graft is no law and is only good for the trash can. It should not be given any more consideration. Otherwise, where this will lead us should only be imagined. Soon, other categories of offenders like armed robbers, kidnappers and child traffickers will ask for similar amnesty. For example, kidnappers will kidnap 100 people and get pardon to keep 30? Rapists will ply their trade and get amnesty for 30 per cent of their victims. This does not make sense.
As a matter of fact, the bill is not just immoral and discriminatory, it is unconstitutional. The bill contravenes Sections 15, 42 and 45 of the 1999 Constitution. It is particularly inconsistent with Section 15 (5) of the constitution, which enjoins the Nigerian state to abolish all corrupt practices.
The idea of making a law to set treasury looters free if they return a percentage of stolen funds is lacking in basic common sense. It is nothing but a legitimisation of stealing that will lay the treasury open to thieving public officers who will try to steal as much as they can to increase the amount that they can legally keep, if caught. Rewarding looters with a third of whatever they steal, without any sanctions for the offence, stands reason on its head. The proposal is not worth the paper on which it is written and should be thrown out of the House. The lawmakers should banish the idea even though it has passed the first reading. Allowing this bill to become law will worsen Nigeria’s performance on the Corruption Perception Index of transparency organisations. A bill that will encourage people to steal public funds and legally retain 30 per cent thereof deserves no place other than the dustbin. Instead of debating this ludicrous bill, our lawmakers should, as provided for in Section 4 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, concentrate on making laws that will ensure good governance in the country. The bill on amnesty for looters can only encourage stealing by public officials.
It is, indeed, embarrassing and regrettable that the House even gave this bill a first reading. It ought to have attracted nothing but boos, being one of the most asinine bills ever placed before the House. That corruption is the bane of Nigerian politics and development is not in doubt. Any law that will further entrench and legitimise it will be distasteful. It is ironical that we are fighting corruption and at the same time introducing a bill that will encourage it.
It does appear the House member does not fully appreciate the evil of corruption. It also seems he takes his constituents for granted; otherwise he should not introduce such a sham to parliament. This offends God and man. The bill must be thrown out now. The lawmaker should rather read up on how corruption creates poverty, then return (in conjunction with others) to make laws that will guarantee national growth and development. That is why he was elected.