Scandals Buhari Cannot Ignore

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In a little over a month from now, President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to be sworn in to office. His road to the presidency has not been an easy one and should one day inspire a Hollywood movie. In terms of perseverance and human endurance, Buhari’s tenuous route to the presidency can only be compared to the travails of the late South African President Nelson Mandela in African contemporary history.

Just like Mandela, Buhari endured the indignity of incarceration soon after his overthrow in a palace coup in 1985. Buhari also survived the most vicious negative media campaign ever waged against any Nigerian – dead or alive- to clinch the right to take up temporary residence in the Aso Rock Villa on May 29, 2015. Indeed, when the history of the 2015 presidential election is documented for posterity, it will be marked by the crude and desperate strategies adopted by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to undermine his legitimate aspiration for the presidency.

The moves included barefaced lies packaged and sold to the typically gullible Nigerian populace as the gospel truth, as well frenzied efforts to compromise the judiciary to disqualify him altogether. Mercifully for the Nigerians who voted for change, those efforts came to naught and Buhari was elected, regardless.

But the desperate and bitter opposition to Buhari’s candidacy has inevitably given rise to several theories. Far from the unpardonable lies told about Buhari’s hidden agenda to Islamise Nigeria, it has become obvious that the outgoing PDP administration may be scared stiff of any notion of a robust inquest into the litany of corruption scandals that defined the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan in the past six years.

These scandals are not new. They are already in the public domain. Yet, the biggest mistake we can make is to imagine that they are restricted to alleged financial crimes alone, because the scandals widely attributed to the Jonathan administration transcend political and social crimes as well. A brief chronology of such scandals, not necessarily in terms of their gravity and sabotage of the Nigerian political economy, is of the essence at this point.

First on the list of such scandals is the issue of the twenty billion dollars the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) somehow refused or failed to remit to the Federation Account as required by our extant laws. Twenty billion dollars is not exactly peanuts, and, if it was actually diverted into private accounts, like many critics have suggested, then it must rank as the biggest single heist in the history of mankind. Even with our record as unquestionably the most corrupt nation in the world, the amount is simply confounding. The folks at the Guinness Book of World Records may require some catching up to do here. Both the legislative and executive arms are thought to have investigated this scandal, but no report has yet been published to the best of my knowledge.

On another day, in broad daylight, Nigerians woke up to be confronted with the sad news that pension fund belonging to some 141,790 beneficiaries was misappropriated. An obscure public servant called Abdulrasheed Maina, who also doubled as the Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team, was accused of helping himself to N195billion from the funds. The alleged crime was subsequently “investigated” by a Senate Committee; but that was as far as it went.

During the sittings of the Committee, Mr Maina alleged that one of its members (Aloysius Etuk) demanded for $100,000 dollars from him as bribe. A former director of pension in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Sani Shuaibu Teidi, who was prosecuted along with 31 others, also alleged that Mr Etuk and other members of the committee collected a bribe of N3 billion from him. Nothing concrete has come out of both processes till date.

The same also goes for the Police Pension Fund fraud. The alleged perpetrators of the crime led by Esai Dangabar, appeared before the Senate joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters where they were accused of misappropriating N32.8billion from the Fund. The hearings ran into a hitch when Mr Dangabar accused some Senate committee members of benefiting from the loot. The case has remained inconclusive since then, just like the one involving Farouk Lawan who recently lost his re-election bid. Lawan, it would be recalled, was apparently caught on tape collecting $620,000 out of a $3million bribe while his committee investigated the fuel subsidy scam. Like the previous cases, this one too is yet to reach a denouement, much to national embarrassment.

Nigerians have the Central Bank of Nigeria under its erstwhile governor and now the Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to thank for blowing the whistle yet again on the alleged kerosene subsidy fraud. In defiance of a presidential directive, kerosene which was supposed to be sold to Nigerians for N50 per litre, continued to be sold at more than double the amount for several years under a dubious subsidy scheme. Who benefited from the colossal accrued amounts from the bogus subsidy claims? Not a single official from the NNPC was indicted in the feeble hearing conducted by the NASS.

How can we also forget the Malabu Oil scandal? Nigerians will recall the protracted controversies over lucrative oil block the former Petroleum minister, Dan Etete, awarded to himself during the Abacha-era, which was subsequently confiscated during the Abacha administration. Although the matter inevitably ended in court, it was later resolved in a manner industry experts alleged seriously short-changed Nigeria. Etete’s company Malabu Oil, eventually received $1.1billion from the Nigerian government as proceeds for the sale of the same oil block. But the greater shock which eventual resulted in the indictment of Etete in France for money laundering, was that vast sums from the payment were eventually transferred into numerous accounts suspected to belong to Nigerians. Nigerians will be counting on Buhari to unveil their identities, no doubt!

The same goes for the deeply embarrassing episode in which $15million in cash belonging to Nigeria was ferried to South Africa and eventually seized there. What was the genuine purpose of that costly misadventure? What resulted from the scandal involving armoured cars illegally imported by a former aviation minister? But like I earlier hinted, the scandals perpetrated under the watch of President Jonathan transcended mere economic crimes. They are also social and political, if truth must be told.

Can anyone please explain why no government official was ever indicted for the deaths of scores of innocent Nigerian youths in the Immigration Service recruitment scandal? Why on earth would any incoming administration not be interested in investigating the Ekiti election scandal, given the damning evidence already in the public domain? And while we are on the same subject matter, every attempt must be made to investigate the alleged attempts to influence the electoral process through the bribery of INEC officials and traditional rulers.

On a recent vacation in Dubai, I got into an interesting conversation with a cabdriver who hailed from Bangladesh. Being both from the Third World, we couldn’t help but admire Dubai’s massive developmental strides in the past two decades. Dubai’s subway systems are already superior to those of London and New York. We both agreed on one thing: among the developing nations worldwide, it is only those whose leaders summoned the courage to deal decisively with the twin monsters of corruption and illegality that have made the greatest progress towards membership of the developed world. Dubai, Singapore, China, and South Korea all belong to this category.

In Nigeria, the laws treat the likes of Dipreye Alamiesiegha, Farouk Lawan, Peter Odili, differently from the rest of us. Odili, a former governor of Rivers State for example, has been the beneficiary of a ‘permanent’ injunction from prosecution on corruption charges by our courts for several years now. By contrast, an ordinary Nigerian could rot in jail for twenty years awaiting trial for stealing a cow. Nations are not built that way.

For genuine change to come to Nigeria; for the nation to be placed on the right track for genuine transformation and development; for our enormous potentials to be realised, Buhari cannot afford to treat the twin-monsters of corruption and absence of the rule of law with levity like the present administration has done. Much as we welcome his decision to draw the line in the nauseating mosaic of corruption that has stunted our growth and impoverished millions, Buhari must, somehow, summon the courage to confront the scourge that confronts us at every street corner and in most public places, namely corruption and paucity of the rule of law. To do otherwise will spell doom for the APC and nation in general.

 

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