An Open Letter To President @mbuhari - Bruce Fein

President Muhammadu Buhari
Aso Rock, Abuja
Nigeria

Dear President Buhari:

When you visited the United States Institute of Peace last July, you pledged that you would be "fair, just and scrupulously follow due process and the rule of law, as enshrined in [the Nigerian] constitution" in
prosecuting corruption.

Such loftiness is laudable. As the Bible instructs in
Amos 5:24: "[L]et justice roll down like waters, and
righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
But to be just, the law must be evenhanded. It
cannot, in the manner of Russian President Vladimir
Putin, be something that is given to punish your
enemies and withheld to favor your friends. If so,
the law becomes an instrument of injustice bearing
earmarks of the wicked rather than the good.
In the United States, you declared a policy of "zero
tolerance" against corruption. You solicited weapons
and other assistance from the United States
government based on that avowal. But were you
sincere?
During your election campaign, you promised
widespread amnesty, not zero tolerance. You
elaborated: "Whoever that is indicted of corruption
between 1999 to the time of swearing-in would be
pardoned. I am going to draw a line, anybody who
involved himself in corruption after I assume office,
will face the music."
After you were inaugurated, however, you disowned
your statement and declared you would prosecute
past ministers or other officials for corruption or
fraud. And then again you immediately hedged. You
were reminded of your dubious past by former
Major General and President Ibrahim Badamasi
Babangida, who succeeded your military
dictatorship. He released this statement:

"On General Buhari, it is not in IBB's tradition to take up issues with his colleague former President. But for the purpose of record, we are conversant with
General Buhari's so-called holier-than-thou attitude.
He is a one-time Minister of Petroleum and we have
good records of his tenure as minister. Secondly, he
presided over the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, which
records we also have.

We challenge him to come out with clean hands in
those two portfolios he headed. Or we will help him
to expose his records of performance during those
periods. Those who live in glass houses should not
throw stones. General Buhari should be properly
guided."

You then swiftly backed off your zero tolerance
policy because you would have been its first
casualty. You opportunistically announced that zero
tolerance would be narrowed to the predecessor
administration of Goodluck Jonathan because to
probe further would be "a waste of time." That
conclusion seems preposterous. In 2012, the World
Bank's ex-vice president for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili,
estimated that a stupendous $400 billion in Nigerian
oil revenues had been stolen or misspent since
independence in 1960. The lion's share of that
corruption spans far beyond the Jonathan administration.

Your zero tolerance policy seems to come with a
squint to avoid seeing culpability in your political
friends. A few examples are but the tip of the
iceberg.

A Rivers State judicial commission of inquiry found
that N53 billion disappeared from the Rivers State
Reserve Fund under former governor Rotimi
Amaechi. Former Lagos governor and head of your
campaign finance team Babatunde Fashola was
accused ofsquandering N78 million of government
money to upgrade his personal website. The EFCC
has ignored these corruption allegations, and you
have given both promotions: the Ministry of
Transport to Mr. Amaechi, and the Ministry of
Power, Works, and Housing to Mr. Fashola.
In contrast, you have played judge, jury, and
prosecutor in the newspapers to convict former
PDP Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke of
corruption.

Is this evenhanded justice?
United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson
taught: "[T]here is no more effective practical
guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable
government than to require that the principles of
law which officials would impose upon a minority
must be imposed generally. Conversely, nothing
opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as
to allow those officials to pick and choose only a few
to whom they will apply legislation and thus to
escape the political retribution that might be visited
upon them if larger numbers were affected."
To investigate or prosecute based on political
affiliation or opinion also violates Articles 2 and 7 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is
unworthy of a great nation like Nigeria.
Make the hallmark of your administration justice,
not retribution, and you may live for the ages.
I am a United States citizen and lawyer. I have no
political standing in Nigeria. Some might argue that
my speaking about the administration of justice in
Nigeria bespeaks impertinece. But you chose to vist
the United States to solicit weapons and other
assistance from my government–a government of
the people, by the people, for the people. The United
States government represents me. What the United
States government does reflects on me. I thus have
an interest in addressing the actions of foreign
governments that receive United States government
aid.

Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants.
Sincerely,
Bruce Fein
Fein & DelValle PLLC
300 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Suite 900
Washington, D.C. 20001

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