On 25th April, 2016, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) arraigned Mr. Wilson Olusegun Lawal, a former Federal Pay Officer, Abeokuta, on a 24-count charge of corruption before Hon. Justice O.O. Majekodunmi of High Court No. 6, Abeokuta, Ogun State. Mr. Lawal was subsequently remanded in prison custody pending the fulfillment of his bail conditions as prescribed by the court.
Mr. Lawal’s road to his present travails began when, as the Federal Pay Officer, Abeokuta, sometime in 2014, he allegedly diverted funds meant for meal subsidies and capital projects of three Federal Government Colleges, namely: Federal Science Technical College, Ijebu-Imushin; Federal Government Girls’ College, Sagamu; and Federal Government College, Odogbolu. On receiving a report on the matter from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, ICPC swung into action and was able to recover the sum of N56,211,086.23 between 6th May and 11th September, 2015 to its Recovery Account out of a total sum of N103,000,000 allegedly diverted by the accused. The accused has however made other refunds.
The actions of Mr. Wilson Lawal, to say the least, were not without destructive effects on the victims who, in this case, were the schools, their staff and students. The Principal of FGC, Sagamu, Mrs. Owolabi, who spoke for herself and the other principals while collecting the recovered monies from ICPC, said the actions of the accused “had created so many problems for the managements of the schools”. Here, she was speaking of a number of projects that could not be carried out or completed due to the diversion of the funds.
Mrs. Owolabi must also have been thinking of the schools’ creditors who could not be paid. Hear her: “With thorough investigations by ICPC, we are here today. We have suffered so much from our food contractors, but thank God; we have recovered what belongs to us.” “We promise to use the money for what it was meant for”, she concluded after receiving the cheque.
The adverse effects of Mr. Lawal’s alleged theft, probably manifested in poorer feeding of students of the schools in terms of quality and/or quantity because the food contractors who had not been paid would certainly have looked for ways to cut corners. What is more, chances are that the contractors had gone to town with allegations that the school authorities were deliberately refusing to pay them after diverting the feeding monies meant for the schools, thereby tarnishing the reputations of the schools’ officials in the process.
So the gains and benefits of ICPC’s intervention and recovery of the stolen funds go beyond the monetary value. The Commission has taken it upon itself to not only tackle corruption in its various ramifications, but to also ensure that real people who have suffered due to one form of corrupt act or another, find redress and succour. Numerous examples of its efforts in this regard have been serving public servants or pensioners whose entitlements were mired in administrative bottlenecks; stalled by inactions, actions or outright corrupt demands by schedule officers; etc. but who eventually got their due after ICPC waded in. The Commission now has a growing collection of letters of appreciation from such beneficiaries.
ICPC is also committed to making corrupt people receive their just recompense from the law by prosecuting them as required by the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000. Mr. Wilson Olusegun Lawal’s case is just one among many of such cases that the Commission has charged to court. If he is found guilty by the court at the end of the trial, he will serve the punishment that will be imposed on him.
For ICPC, a key motivation is the social value of its actions which can be found in the relief, redress and succour that come the way of victims after the pains and anguish caused by the actions of corrupt persons. Also important to the Commission is the deterrence that is engendered in the society by the punishment meted out to perpetrators of corruption.
This therefore serves as a reminder to the general public that the ICPC is always willing and ready to act on reports of corruption in order to build a better nation. Reports can be submitted physically at any of its offices nationwide or electronically through its emails and several social media platforms.
Written by Edet Ufot, of the Public Enlightenment Department, ICPC