By Ilesanmi Omabomi
It has long been established that a subordinate has no legal obligation to obey illegal orders from his/her superior. This point is important as we examine the recent nauseating revelations about the huge sums of money that the former finance minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, made available to the now arrested former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Few days ago, Okonjo-Iweala admitted giving Sambo Dasuki the sum of $322m on the orders of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Before that the same Okonjo-Iweala admitted spending $2B from the Excess Crude Oil account on the orders of the former President. The Central Bank of Nigeria under Godwin Emefiele has admitted giving Sambo Dasuki billions of Naira and dollars on the orders of the former president. A good part of these monies were given to Sambo Dasuki in cash in clear contravention of existing anti-money laundering laws by the country’s chief banker. Let us put the money laundering issue to the side for now.
The problem with the orders from the former President to the then finance minister and current CBN governor is that they were illegal. Neither the President nor any other government official in Nigeria has the legal authority to order the spending of funds that have not been appropriated by the National Assembly! Both subordinates knew or ought to know that the orders they were obeying were illegal and should have refused to comply. Resignation was an option. Between these two subordinates they cost the nation in excess of $5B by obeying the referenced illegal orders. That is just what we know so far and this kind of behavior is going on at every level of government everyday.
The arrest and prosecution of Okonjo-Iweala and Godwin Emediefe will send out the message that “the president ordered the payment” is not a defense known to the laws of Nigeria. Their prosecution is imperative in light of the fact that a lot of the money being stolen in the country is not in the custody of the people stealing them. They rely on a group of people that I call facilitators in an upcoming article to get access to public funds in the custody of the facilittors. In almost every case of monies made available to Sambo Dasuki, all those making the money available were following illegal orders and they knew it. The time has come for Buhari to beam the searchlight on this group of people. The commercial bankers who allow government officials to come into their banks and withdraw millions and billions in cash in apparent violation of anti-money laundering laws are facilitators of corruption because they know the funds are dirty hence the need to terminate the paper trail through cash withdrawal. The bankers ought to be in jail too partly because they make tracing these funds more complicated.
To understand the importance of subordinates not obeying illegal orders, imagine that Okonjo-Iweala, NNPC and Godwin Emefiele refused to obey the former President’s illegal orders and resigned under pressure and spilled the beans. With Nigerians fully aware of the attempted fraud it would have been difficult for their replacements to obey the same illegal orders. Buhari’s anti-corruption war must involve establishing a culture that encourages civil servants, and bank employees to disobey illegal orders. This will prevent our money from leaving the treasury rather than chasing after the money after it has been stolen.
Before closing I will like to remind people that a majority of the civilians and military officers who were tried, executed or jailed by the post-World War 2 Nuremberg Trials courts in Germany were obeying orders from Adolf Hitler. The problem was that Adolf Hitler had no legal basis for issuing the orders and those who ended up being executed for obeying the orders had no obligation to obey the orders. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Godwin Emefiele should be familiar with the Nuremberg Trials. The lesson is that a superior cannot order a subordinate to do anything that the superior has no authority to do himself/herself. Nigerians must rid themselves of the idea that a President has the power to order anyone to do anything in the absence of enabling legislation. Na oga say make I do am is not a defense.