The anti-corruption fight of President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have taken the shine off other programmes for development and economic growth, thereby causing anxiety whether the government has any other plans for the masses in Nigeria
| By Olu Ojewale | Feb 8, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
IT is common knowledge that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is up in arms against alleged corrupt Nigerians. Since assuming office on May 29, 2014, apart from tackling Boko Haram insurgency, President Buhari appears to be more focused on the anti-corruption campaign in which some high profiled Nigerians are being investigated, accused or facing trial. In fact, a day is hardly gone by without any report of the anti-corruption war in the media.
The awareness of the corruption fight is being spearheaded by the president outside the shores of Nigeria. In whichever country the president finds himself, he makes it a point of duty to talk about how some unpatriotic Nigerians have milked the nation of billions of dollars meant for the nation’s commonwealth. Although some Nigerians have argued that by carrying on so the President was de-marketing Nigeria, Buhari during his recent trip signed an extradition agreement with the United Arab Emirate, UAE, so that those, who are accused of corruption living in the country may be extradited to face trial.
In past few months, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have remained permanently in news bringing in charges and making arrest of the alleged corrupt politicians and firmer civil servants. So far, the focus is centred on the $2.1 billion meant for procurement of arms, which was allegedly diverted to political fight to retain former President Goodluck Jonathan in office. At present, more than 20 prominent Nigerians and politicians have been implicated in the arms deal scandal.
Consequently, a number of members of the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have now being clamped into detention or facing trial. The arrow head of the $2.1 billion saga is Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel and former national security adviser, whose office disbursed the funds to various politicians within and outside the party.
It has not yet been disclosed how much Dasuki himself collected from the funds. But some of those who allegedly collected money from his office said that they did so in order to campaign for the former president. The likes of Raymond Dokpesi, founder of the Daar Communications, owners of Ray Power Radio and Africa Independent Television; Haliru Bello Mohammed, acting chairman, board of trustees of the PDP; Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP; Bafarawa and a host of others are already being charged to court.
As if that is not bad enough, Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, dropped another bombshell on Monday, January 18, alleging that 55 Nigerians stole N1.34 trillion between 2006 and 2013. He did not disclose the names of the culprits. But the amount of money quoted to have been embezzled by the privileged few is mind-boggling.
According to the Mohammed, the culprits include 15 former governors, who alleged stole N146.84 billion; four former ministers allegedly stole N7 billion; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, allegedly stole over N14 billion; eight people in the banking industry allegedly stole N524 billion and 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653 billion. He said stolen money was one quarter of Nigeria’s budget for last year.
Besides, he argued that using the World Bank rates and costs, it showed that one third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road; built 36 ultra modern hospitals, that is one ultra modern hospital per state; built 183 schools; educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24 million per child; and built 20,062 units of 2-bedroom houses.
“This is the money that a few people, just 55 in number, allegedly stole within a period of just eight years. And instead of a national outrage, all we hear are these nonsensical statements that the government is fighting only the opposition, or that the government is engaging in vendetta,” he said.
Indeed, the impression that the government has been fighting a one-sided corruption war is not likely to stop soon.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State on Wednesday, January 20, challenged Mohammed to make public names of the 55 Nigerians that he claimed stole N1.34 trillion between 2006 and 2013. Fayose said: “The reality is that the All Progressives Congress, APC, federal government has destroyed the economy within eight months in power and rather than look for solutions to the problems facing Nigeria, Lai Mohammed and his cohorts are branding bogus figures about stolen money just to cover up their lack of solution to the country’s economic problems.”
Besides, the governor, in reaction to the arraignment of Metuh in handcuff on Wednesday, January 20, to answer charges on N400 million of corrupt enrichment, described it as disgraceful and humiliating, alleging that masterminds of Madala and Nyanya bomb blasts in 2014, “Kabiru Sokoto and Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche were not handcuffed when they were arraigned in court.”
Apart from the government’s sectional handling of the anti-graft war, putting handcuff on Metuh has been added to the criticism against the governing All Progressives Congress, APC. The PDP said the action was meant to humiliate its spokesman and intimidate others who might wish to criticise the Buhari administration.
Also condemning the treatment of Metuh, Fredrick Fasehun, national chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, warned that President Buhari might run into trouble with his method of prosecuting the ongoing anti-graft war.
Fasehun, in an interview on Thursday, January 21, Fasehun condemned the way and manner Metuh was handcuffed by the security agents, saying the way government was downgrading and embarrassing national leaders in the fight against corruption was not healthy for the country.
“Look, I am appealing to those in power not to dig into some of these reported scams because it may unearth situations the government itself may not wish to unearth. With the way they are going, national leaders are being involved and a country boasts of its national leaders,” Fasehun said.
He added: “By the time you downgrade every national leader, you disgrace and embarrass them, and there will be no country to think of.”
Perhaps, to avoid being so humiliated some leaders of the immediate past administration are believed to have fled the country. Prominent among them are Adamu Mu’azu, former national chairman of the PDP; Waripamowei Dudafa, former special assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on domestic affairs; Abdullahi Dikko Inde, former comptroller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service, among others.
The passion with which the ongoing crusade and the pursuit of the alleged corrupt former government officials at the expense of other issues of governance seems to suggest that, perhaps, the Buhari administration was not ready to govern. The economy is said to be comatose. Inflation is now double digit while the exchange is now N305 to a dollar at the parallel market compared to N160 to a dollar in May 2014 when Buhari was swore in as president. There is absence of fiscal policy while the Central Bank of Nigeria churns out flip flop monetary policies such as banning and unbanning items that can access foreign exchange for importation. These give a lot of Nigerians impetus to believe that the anti-graft war may be a camouflage after all to deal with the opposition as the administration has no clue to jump start the economy.
Tunde Arogunmati, an economist and public commentator, said while he supported the fight against corruption, it appeared to him that government had neglected basic needs of Nigerians. “Everyone is now fighting corruption, the ministers are fighting corruption, heads of parastatals are being asked to fight corruption. This is the eighth month of this government; when is it going to tackle other issues such as the fall in the value of Naira, unemployment and bad economy?” Arogunmati, therefore, enjoined the government to pay more attention to other problems facing the country instead of expending so much energy on fighting corruption.
Chima Nnaji, a lawyer, would want the government to develop a long-term solution that would discourage corruption from the Nigerian system. Nnaji agreed that corruption would fight back if you fight it, but insisted that to succeed against corruption. “You can denude or device strategies to remove oxygen from that social evil (corruption) and it will completely collapse.”
He, therefore, likened the president’s strategy to the one used in fighting armed robbery, which according to him, Nigeria is yet to succeed in, because “when you say fight, the other opponent is on the other side with his own arms and ammunition prepared.
However, Olumuyiwa Jimoh, deputy majority leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly, said the anti-corruption fight of the president is in order. In an interview, Jimoh said the strategy being used by the government is to ensure justice and equity. “If you are discharged by a court of competent jurisdiction, you could be arrested for another offence. So, what is on-going is not out of order. What are the charges before the court and why is the person being re-arrested, this is important. That is why I told some people that there are procedures for things like this. You could imagine someone saying he would not release our collective wealth in his possession only for him to go on hunger strike,” he said.
The legislator dismissed allegations that the government was flouting court orders by refusing to free those that were freed by courts. He pointed out that even some respected senior advocates of Nigeria, SANs, had expressed different opinions on the matter.
Nevertheless, government disobeying court orders may have a rippled effects on the governance as it would encourage impunity in the system and also weaken the judiciary to dispense justice.
For instance, a Lagos high court had to issue a warrant of arrest against Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, a former Niger Delta militant leader, on Friday, January 15, for refusing to appear before the court on theft and money laundering charges totalling more than $175 million. Yet he insisted that he would obey the court order claiming that he was being victimised by the APC members.
Nevertheless, Ibrahim Magu, chairman of the EFCC, said on Wednesday, January 20, that the ongoing anti-corruption war being waged by the commission would always be guided by strict adherence to the rule of law and national interest.
Magu, who spoke in Abuja, said the EFCC, under his leadership, would abide by court orders in the discharge of its duties. The commission had in recent times been criticised for not releasing Dasuki after being granted bail by a FCT high court.
Be that as it may, analysts would like to believe that the president means well for the nation, having consistently said in his anti-corruption war that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
But a big spot that may rubbish the campaign is that the 2016 national budget may be his albatross For instance, in the original budget proposal, the federal government had earmarked N8.09 billion for the purchase of various brands of vehicles for State House operations during the year. But following the president’s comments on the amount the National Assembly planned to spend on vehicles, the Presidency had to call for the amendment of its own spending. In a revised budget plan, the amount has been scaled down to N1.34 billion to buy only five BMW saloon cars and jeeps as well as buses for use by the Presidency during the year.
Incredibly, the budget figures remain the same. Eyinnaya Abaribe, a senator of the PDP, Abia South, on Wednesday, January 20, called attention of his colleagues to the fact that while the expenditure on vehicles were being reduced, the amount to be expended on Aso Rock Villa had been scaled up. The Senator also expressed his disagreement with the allocation for spending in the Aso Rock Villa, saying that it was too outrageous and should be reduced.
“Mr President, a budget that moves domestic spending within Aso Villa from N580 million to N1.7 billion cannot be a budget of change. We were told that in the revised Budget there was an adjustment due to error, we agree but what has happened is that the money up to N7 billion were moved from buying vehicles to being spread in offices.
“It also increases the spending that is due to renovations within the Villa: they are going to renovate the Villa with N3.9 billion: what else do you want to renovate there that Nigerians will see in the Year 2016,” he said.
Can Nigeria afford to spend so much on a seat of power while the infrastructures to drive the system are starved of funds? Time will tell. But as it is, it is generally agreed that the success or otherwise of the anti-corruption fight depends largely on the sincerity of purpose and enthronement of enduring infrastructures. Whether this will be allowed to happen depends on the current administration of President Buhari.