Posted By: AYO ESAN
President Muhammadu Buhari during the campaign that led to his election promised Nigerians that one of his cardinal programmes would be the fight against corruption. Many also perceived Buhari as incorruptible and having noted that corruption has permeated all facets of the nation’s life they voted for him.
He was seen as somebody who can fight corruption and they believe that his government would be a departure from the past administration.
His antecedents as a military ruler whose regime was known for discipline also buoyed Nigerians confidence.
It is based on the expectations of Nigerians that former Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien, reminded, General Muhammadu Buhari immediately after his election that Nigerians will not accept excuses from his government following his repeated promise that he will launch an unwavering war against corruption upon assumption of office.
Chief Essien, who served as House of Representatives committee chairman on anti-corruption, national ethics and values between 2003 and 2007, said General Buhari won because he told Nigerians he would tackle corruption and fight other ills in the society.
He said “Nigerians voted for a new Federal Government because of the compelling messages of change General Buhari and his party preached across the country. Nigerians believe in the President-elect and would not accept any excuse under any guise, especially in service delivery, poverty alleviation, job creation, youth empowerment, power supply and security of life and property,”
“For Nigeria to exit the infamous position it has earned among the most corrupt nations on earth, the Buhari administration must be prepared to live above board in its public and private conduct, exhibiting a leadership that abhors even the slightest inclination of graft and indiscipline.
He urged him to appoint only people with high integrity and patriotism into public offices.
According to him, Buhari must “avoid pitfalls of the PDP which invited people to ‘come and chop’; initiate systematic, deliberate and sustained policies that encourage good governance, rule of law and due process; launch a national anti-corruption and ethical rebirth campaign and set up brigades at federal, state and local government levels,” .
Since assumed power, though Buhari has not instituted any new mechanism towards fighting corruption in the country but his body language has shown clearly that he abhors corruption.
Also the anti-graft agency especially the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, has woken up from its slumber with the prosecution of five former governors former governors – Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State , Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State and Timpire Sylva of Bayelsa State – for corruption in various courts.
Buhari also raised the hope of Nigerians on the anti-corruption war during his visit to the United States last month when he vowed to retrieve all the money stolen by ministers who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
During the tour, he confirmed that there was evidence of massive looting and stealing of Nigeria’s crude oil by some government office holders saying the former ministers’ names are being compiled by relevant agencies for possible prosecution.
He vowed that his administration would trace the accounts of individuals who stashed away ill-gotten oil money, freeze such accounts recover the loot and prosecute the culprits.
“As soon as possible, we will approach those countries to freeze such accounts, prosecute the culprits and return the monies to Nigeria.
“The amount involved is mind-boggling. Some former ministers were selling about one million barrels of oil per day. I assure you that we will trace and repatriate such money and use the documents to prosecute the culprits.
A lot of damage has been done to the integrity of Nigeria with individuals and institutions already compromised.”
He recalled that during his period as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum under a military regime, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had only two traceable accounts before paying oil proceeds into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He also confirmed that some leaders of developed nations across the World, where such stolen monies were being kept, had been contacted to assist Nigeria to freeze such dubious accounts., noting: “We are now looking for evidence of shipping some of our crude, their destinations and where and which accounts they were paid into and in which country.
We have started getting documents where some of the senior people in government, former ministers, some of who had as many as five accounts into which they paid stolen oil monies.
“I assure you that whichever documents we are able to get and subsequently trace the sale of the crude or transfer of money from Ministries, Departments, Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) we will seek the cooperation of those countries to return those monies to federation accounts. And we will use those documents to arrest those people and prosecute them. This, I promise Nigerians.’’
As a follow up to this, Buhari last week sacked the former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr Joseph Thlama Dawha and replaced him with Dr Emmanuel Ike Kachikwu . Kachiukwu later announced the sack of s eight Group Executive Directors in what is seen as a cleansing of a corrupt- stricken Corporation.
The anti-corruption war is also being imbibed by many Federal Government parastatals
For instance the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, Dr. Mas’udu Kazaure, has tasked educational all institutions in the country to buy into the President Muhammadu Buhari- led administration fight to rid the country of all forms of corrupt practices.
Kazaure, said NBTE has been partnering with both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the ICPC in the areas of fighting financial and non-financial corruption within the polytechnic system and inculcating change in the value system.
Many Nigerians believe that it is too early to assess the Buhari’s administration’s fight against corruption but they believe that he is on the right path.
To them slow and steady win the race and they believe that if he continue the way he is going his fight against corruption may be a success.
Lagos Human Right activist and lawyer, Mr Festus Keyamo is of the opinion that it is too early to begin to assess the anti-corruption drive of Buhari.
He however said that there are no legal encumbrances to actualizing the fight against corruption and that the anti-corruption of Buhari is achievable.
But the PDP senators alleged biases in the Buhari administration’s war against corruption. The PDP senators particularly accused the administration of partisanship in the anti-graft war with allegations that security agencies were coercing election officials to rewrite reports in some states to the favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The allegations were immediately rebuffed by the President who vowed that the unfolding war against corruption would not be tempered by media blitz of a witch-hunt against political interests as he affirmed that only the guilty should have reason to fear.
The PDP caucus in the Senate had alleged that the Department of State Security was coercing officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to be conscripted into plots to undermine the election of PDP officials in Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia States.
But this assertion dismissed by All Progressives Congress, APC, spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said that only the guilty have something to fear about the Buhari administration.
He said: “Unfortunately for the PDP they have been used to a reign of impunity where court orders are not obeyed. After the years of impunity especially in the last six years, PDP has forgotten that a government will come and that it will keep strictly to the rule of law. The truth of the matter is that it is the PDP in collusion with some INEC officials in Rivers State and at the headquarters of INEC that have been trying to frustrate the APC’s petition in Rivers State.
“They have serially disobeyed the rulings of the tribunal and their game plan is to frustrate every step along the way so that the 180 days would have expired. It was in realisation of this that the APC in Rivers State wrote a petition to both the police and the DSS asking them to intervene to ensure that tribunal orders are obeyed and what the PDP did was to misinform the public about victimisation by the DSS.
“There is nothing that the DSS is doing that it is not empowered to do. We want to state clearly that the APC is not using any agency of government to intimidate or witch-hunt anybody. Like we always say, it is only those who are guilty that have anything to fear,” the APC spokesman said.
The allegation was also dismissed by Senator Dino Melaye who said the DSS was merely doing its work just as he said Buhari’s fight against corruption had not tilted towards one direction to suggest he was witch-hunting select people.
He said during the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, the DSS was reduced to an arm of PDP, where officials were sent to hound members of opposition parties
Buhari also speaking through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, also rebutted the accusation of the PDP Senate caucus, saying that it was natural for the guilty to be afraid.
He stated that the anti-graft war which was one of the cardinal objectives of the administration would increasingly pick momentum irrespective of the threats against it.
“It is only the guilty that can be afraid. If anybody is not guilty, they should not be afraid. This President will not witch-hunt anybody. But if anyone has a skeleton in his cupboard, he has every right to be afraid.
“If they don’t have skeletons in their cupboard, they have no cause to be afraid but anybody that has any skeleton in his cupboard has every right to be afraid.
“The war against corruption is one of the cardinal objectives of this administration and the war will not hold on because some people are afraid.
“The war will continue no matter whose ox is gored. So, if anybody has skeleton in his cupboard, yes, he has a right to be afraid but the war is not targeted at anybody”, Adesina said.
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