How Serious is President Buhari’s War Against Corruption?
Since the creation of modern public administration in Nigeria, political corruption – embezzlement, misuse of public funds and resources has been a persistent phenomenon. Owing to the rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas, corruption soon earned its place as one of the major obstacles hindering the nation’s advancement. Corruption is evil. It has a lot of serious negative consequences on all spheres of societal development be it social, economic or political.
Despite comprehensive efforts by successive governments over the years efforts to end the surge of corruption, corruption resisted and remained widespread. Chinua Achebe, one of Nigeria’s most celebrated writers in his book published in 1984, The Trouble With Nigeria, was of the opinion that “Keeping an average Nigerian from being corrupt is like keeping a goat from eating yam.” Corruption is far worse today than it was in the 1980s. Today, it has become institutionalized and cuts across the socio-political, economic and even religious sectors of the country.
The challenge of fighting corruption inevitably became one of the major contending issues in the build-up to the 2015 general elections. President Muhammadu Buhari (who was at that time the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC) while outlining his plans for the country if elected mentioned that the fight against corruption, resuscitating the economy and bringing insecurity to a standstill were his priorities. As his campaign train moved from one state to another, he assured Nigerians that his government would not condone corruption but would confront it with the last drop of his blood. Thankfully, he defeated the incumbent president (and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP) in the election.
After his victory at the polls and subsequent inauguration into office, Nigerians were eager to see the change they voted for and their darling president did not disappoint. Immediately President Buhari took over from Goodluck Jonathan, he again re-echoed his commitments to fight our common enemy – corruption to a standstill. He told Nigerians that “he is for everyone and for no one”, a statement that birthed a renewed hope of a united fight for all Nigerians irrespective of the individual’s tribe or religious affiliation. Even his party bigwigs were agitated at the statement.
Few weeks into the Buhari-led administration, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency (The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC) launched an offensive against corrupt ex-government officials. It got so serious that anyone invited by the EFCC would definitely spend a few days weeks or (sometimes) months in EFCC’s detention cells, whether guilty or not.
Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), the immediate past National Security Adviser was the first victim of the anti-graft war. He is on trial for abuse of office and for squandering $2.5 billion meant for the purchase of arms for the Nigerian army. A total of more than 70 people have now been quizzed by the EFCC in connection with Col. Dasuki’s ongoing trial. Alex Badeh, the former chief of defence staff, was quizzed by the EFCC over $930 million in contracts he allegedly awarded as chief of defence staff. The trial of Raymond Dokpesi, the chairman of Africa Independent Television (AIT), followed. He was accused of money laundering to the tune of N2.1 billion and breach of public procurement law.
Olisah Metuh, the former publicity secretary of the PDP, was also arraigned for allegedly collecting N400m from Dasuki’s office. Patrick Akpobolokemi, the former director general of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), was also arraigned on charges of diverting N3.7 billion meant for the development of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta state, into private pockets.
Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, has been on the run, he was declared wanted in connection with an alleged N49.6 billion fraud. He is wanted by the EFCC to answer to charges of conspiracy and the illegal diversion of N34 billion and N11.9 billion belonging to NIMASA. Alison Madueke, the former minister of petroleum, is also on the run. She has given various excuses as to why she is not in Nigeria. She was alleged to have stolen a lot of money when she held sway as minister of oil in Nigeria.
Steve Oronsaye, the former federal head of service, was also arraigned on a 24-count charge of allegedly obtaining money by false pretences, theft and money laundering to the tune of N1.9 billion. He was charged with complicity in money laundering and a contract scam. Abdulrasheed Maina, the former chairman of Pension Reform Task, was also charged with alleged embezzlement, misappropriation and looting of police pension funds.
The former minister of aviation and director of publicity of the Jonathan campaign organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, was also invited by the EFCC and eventually detained for alleged misuse of N800 million from the campaign funds of the PDP. The former president Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Azibaola Robert, was also arrested by the EFCC for an alleged $40 million pipeline contract scam. The contract was said to have been awarded by the office of the former national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Although these ongoing trials are yet to secure any conviction, but it was beginning to look like the Buhari-led administration is winning the war until “corruption started fighting back”. In one of the recent (and unfortunate) eventualities where corruption fought back, Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms who is currently on trial for a multi-billion naira pension fund scam was reinstated into the public service and purportedly posted to the Ministry of Interior. The details of his reinstatement is still unclear, but there is a clear indication that his reinstatement was ordered by either the Head of Service or the Minister of interior, although both individuals have denied their involvement, but Maina cannot reinstate himself, can he?
Although President Buhari has ordered the immediate dismissal of Maina from service and requested for a full report on circumstances surrounding Maina’s recall, it will not dismiss the notion that President Buhari’s anti-corruption tactics is one-sided and not sincere. Anyone is an inquisitive mind would have wondered how Buhari planned to advance himself as an anti-corruption crusader when the major benefactors of his presidential campaign are among the most corrupt Nigerians. Even after his election, he gave them juicy and powerful positions his cabinet and other governmental parastatals (I will not mention names, I wouldn’t want to get arrested).
A good number of Nigerians (and even civil society groups) are now of the opinion that the anti-corruption agenda has been reduced to a witch hunt of the members of the opposition party, PDP. Come to think of it, a substantial number of the members of the ruling APC were formerly members of PDP who enriched themselves from the government coffers during the sixteen years that PDP ruled Nigeria, how come none of them have received invitation(s) from EFCC? Or they are not corrupt too? I will leave you to ponder on those questions…. Until when the present day government come up with sincere strategies that will be unbiased and strict, we cannot say President Buhari is serious with his anti-graft crusade.
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