Official Corruption under President Buhari’s leadership
The Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-governmental organization concerned with economic and social rights in Nigeria, and on anti-corruption work, has alleged several corrupt infractions under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In several posts it made on Twitter, SERAP listed corruption allegations running into hundreds of billions of naira in federal ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs). It also indicted the National Assembly over numerous corrupt practices.
The scale of the alleged corruption cases is huge, systematic and mind-boggling. These include outright stealing of funds meant for running costs in the National Assembly, and non-remittance of money deducted from staff and members of the National Assembly to relevant agencies. It also covered a disturbing failure to account for millions of naira spent by MDAs, failure to retire unspent funds, award of contracts without due process, spending of funds above statutory limit without official approval, payment of funds for contracts never executed and non-remittance of revenues generated by MDAs, among others.
The office of the Auditor-General of the Federation in the 2019 Audit report corroborated the allegations listed by SERAP. According to the audit report, federal MDAs failed to account for N323.5billion in 2019 alone! In several financial transactions, the report stated that the spending by public officers violated Paragraph 415 of the Financial Regulations Act which states that “The Federal Government requires all officers responsible for expenditure to exercise due economy. Money must not be spent merely because it has been voted.”
Aside the listed corruption allegations by SERAP and vindication of same by the AGF report, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), through its Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye during his speech at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption and Presentation of Public Service and Integrity, disclosed that the anti-graft commission uncovered 257 duplicated projects worth N20 Billion in the 2021 budget. However, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze while clarifying the disclosure by Owosanoye in a television interview, stated that 54 of the 257 projects “were not duplications but only had description issues’’. According to him there were 185 duplicated projects, and funds were withheld for the projects.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is appalled by the enormity of corruption allegations under President Buhari’s government. It is extremely disappointing that this gargantuan fiesta of unbridled thievery is taking place under a President whose biggest electoral selling point was taming corruption. ‘’We must kill corruption, before corruption kills Nigeria’’; the then presidential candidate repeatedly declared.
Rather than commend SERAP for its diligence, and take necessary steps to probe these allegations in order to salvage the floundering image of the government’s anti-graft war, the Presidency has ridiculously embarked on a smear campaign against SERAP, casting feckless aspersions on the group’s motive and raising abstruse issues concerning its “funders”. This shameful, disingenuous and distracting tactic of the government has further lent credence to growing perceptions of insincerity in its ‘fight’ against corruption.
President Buhari should be bothered that the anti-graft war under him has lost steam and direction. Different species of corrupt practices have continued to fester unchecked. In 2019, Nigeria was ranked 146 out of 180 in the Corruption Index ranking released by Transparency International. In 2020, the country climbed three steps downwards on the list of infamy to number 149. Not only is President Buhari’s administration accused of double standards, it is widely believed that the President condones corruption by virtue of the rankling impunity that has characterised the looting of public funds. The effrontery of these sordid acts is at a level hitherto unknown among Nigeria’s notoriously light-fingered public officials.
We hereby reiterate previous recommendations in earlier interventions on the federal government’s faltering anti-graft war. Once again, we urge President Buhari to urgently reinvigorate the anti-graft war by sincerely strengthening the anti-graft agencies, especially the ICPC and the EFCC, through enough budgetary provisions, and protection from political interference.
The time is ripe in Nigeria for the establishment of Specialized Courts to quicken the dispensation of justice in the trial of corruption cases. The three arms of government should work in tandem to ensure that there is no ambiguity in the different statutes prescribing due punishment for corrupt offences. This should be done with a view to ensuring that upon conviction, commensurate judicial sanctions are meted out based on the magnitude of crimes. Judicial officers to adjudicate in corruption cases must be carefully selected and must, like Caesar’s wife, be above board. The anti-graft agencies should rise to the onerous challenge by ridding their ranks of compromised officials who are the major culprits in the perennial non-diligent prosecution of corruption cases. The ICPC and the EFCC have an ample opportunity to demonstrate their total commitment to the fight against corruption by probing those responsible for the 185 duplicate projects in the 2022 budget, and by casting more than a cursory glance at the detailed expose on massive sleaze released by SERAP. This is a good starting point for President Buhari and the anti-graft agencies. No more, no less.