The media were awash last week with news of the recanting of allegations against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, by president of the Integrity Group based in Rivers State, Livingstone Wechie. The said allegations were ostensibly meant to stop the screening and confirmation of Amaechi, sometime in 2015.
Wechie had tendered allegedly damning evidence before the Senate, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). This so-called evidence he recanted on Monday, July 17, 2017 while appearing on live television programme. He, among other things, averred that he and his group had recently discovered that the said documents which they based their opposition against the nomination, screening and confirmation of Amaechi were forged. These documents, he claimed, were handed over to them by officials of the Rivers State government.
It is trite to recall that then, the state government and the governor himself, Nyesom Wike had made political capital out of the unfolding drama before the Senate and the anti-graft agencies. Wike had inaugurated a panel led by Justice Omereji to probe some aspects of the financial activities of his predecessor. Amaechi, surprisingly, tendered the findings of the panel before the Senate, claiming it did not indict him. Somehow, the state government countered his claim, insisting that he was indicted and issued a white paper to that effect and promised to prosecute him. But two years down the line, there is yet to be any prosecution in any court.
Wechie asserted that the state government could not prosecute Amaechi because the said evidence it had against him were all forged and would hold no water in law. He further claimed that because Wike was aware that those documents would be challenged in court, he and his team reneged on filing court processes against Amaechi.
We note with nostalgia that Wechie's claims are coming swiftly on the heels of the dramatic resignation of the former commissioner for information, Austin Tam-George.
It is important to note that though various voices in support of the government have upbraided Wechie for eating his words, the allegations and recant of those allegations remain within the ambit of Livingstone Wechie's rights of expression and the consequences that come with them. He alleged and he recanted. For those owning or disowning him based on his recant, it might smack of hypocrisy. The Rivers State government, Integrity Group, Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), among others have all come out to disclaim him based on his recant.
However, it is our view that the consequences of his actions are undoubtedly far-reaching. Though Wechi's recant does not acquit or indict Amaechi, we believe that this development should engender a full probe of both Amaechi and his accusers. The issues at stake should now attract greater attention and speedy probe. Were the said allegations true? Were the said documents forged? Was the Integrity Group sponsored to tarnish the image of the former governor by his successor? Is Livingstone Wechie being sponsored by Amaechi to recant his earlier position? Are the claims by Wechie that he conceptualized the whole arrangement from setting up of the Omereji panel to his appearances before the Senate, the anti-graft bodies and various media platforms true? Was there an interaction between Wechie and officials of the Rivers State government? All of this and much more should now take the front burner.
It would significantly undermine the essence of public service which is sacrifice for the greater good, if individuals take advantage of information channels and deploy same to defame, malign, assassinate and deliberately besmirch the character of public servants for pecuniary or malevolent reasons and deem such as mere childish tantrums. The extent to which Wechie and his co-travelers went could not have been mere wandering in the desert but a dedicated errand for their masters. Who those masters were, should now be unravelled and both the perpetrators should be brought to book.