IDEAs Radio Show Episode 91 issues raised by the Pandora Papers: interview with Nicholas Ibekwe

Nigerians have reacted to the scandal of the Pandora Papers, but what IDEAs issues do they raise?  In today’s episode, Ayo Obe spoke with Nicholas Ibekwe – the award-winning journalist who leads the investigative journalism section of Premium Times, one of Nigeria’s leading online media outlets.  Premium Times is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which spent a year examining the 11.9 records known as the Pandora Papers.

Ibekwe explained what the Pandora Papers were and explained that the reach of the records was global, but that several of the documents featured Nigerians in a way that cut across ethnic, religious, geopolitical, partisan or gender barriers.  He debunked the idea that the Pandora Papers or the resulting Premium Times publications were designed to target particular Nigerians, pointing out that merely featuring in the Pandora Papers, or seeking a safe haven for one’s assets did not by itself mean that one was engaged in unethical or corrupt behaviour, since where government policy or the economy was unpredictable, this could lead one to legitimately seek a safe haven for one’s assets.

Nicholas agreed that in focusing on the scandal, the exposure of the rich, famous and public office holders and the accompanying political point scoring, Nigerians could be missing something important about what the Pandora Papers say about our Democracy.  He discussed the partisan defensive reaction of the supporters of many of those named and whether – quite apart from the question of whether or not laws have been broken – their behaviour meets the standards of Integrity and Ethics for those who hold or have held public office.

The discussion considered Nigeria’s requirement for public office holders to make a Declaration of Assets and the role that such declarations play in holding them to Account, as well as the prohibition on public officers holding overseas bank accounts, or being part of the management of private entities.

Ibekwe emphasized that the role of the media in such matters was to shine a light on the facts and bring them to public attention.  It was for the authorities to take the investigation further and bring criminal charges where necessary.  Voters should learn to avoid making excuses for those they supported while condemning similar behaviour in those to whom they were politically opposed.

The discussion ended with a reference to Hope – the last thing to be released from the Pandora’s Box of Greek mythology after all the evils had escaped – and whether there were grounds for Nigerians to take hope from the exposures in the Pandora Papers.

Listen to the programme and let us have your views.  Do such exposures make us become hardened and convinced that “they’re all corrupt” and nothing can be done about it, or are they awakening us to the futility of a partisan response to unethical behaviour that doesn’t meet IDEAs standards?

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