BY SEN. DINO MELAYE
1.0. Nigerians will never forget in a hurry the catchword of President during his campaign in 2015 ‘’We must kill corruption, before corruption kills Nigeria’’. Mr. President, the newsflash today is, “you are not killing corruption, corruption is killing Nigeria”. The worst of it all is that we are witnessing this uncontrolled larceny under a President whose biggest electoral selling point was taming corruption. With the hope that Buhari was the messiah being a one-time military dictator who had promised to fight corruption, Nigerians immediately voted Jonathan out of office and installed Buhari, idolised and elevated him to the pedestal of a demigod and chanted “Sai Baba” in every corner of this country.
2.0. But how far today? Regrettably! Buhari failed us, failed millions of Nigerians that believed in him in 2015. Today, the corruption scandals oozing out of his government has never been witnessed before in the history of Nigeria. While this government has been quick to arrest and try opposition figures and party contrarians accused of corruption, it has been lethargic, clay-footed, hypocritical, double-faced, and dubious in applying the same medicine to its own party members and other loyalists.
3.0. The scale of the alleged corruption cases today is huge and jaw-dropping. The United States’ 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released by US Department of State has described the scale of corruption in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as massive, widespread, and pervasive. In Section 4 of the report focusing on Nigeria titled ‘Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government’, the United States noted that:
“Although the law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, the government did not consistently implement the law, and government employees frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government, including the judiciary and security services”.
4.0. Transparency International has also revealed that Nigeria is more corrupt today than she was in 2015. In 2014, Transparency International’s corruption perception index ranked Nigeria 136 out of 180. In 2019, Nigeria was ranked 146 out of 180 and in 2020, the country climbed three steps downwards on the list of infamy to number 149. In the Corruption Perceptions Index 2021, Nigeria ranked 154 out of 180 countries and territories, falling back five places from the rank of 149 in 2020. What a shame! From the report, Nigeria is more corrupt today than she was in 2015 despite riding into power on the crest of an anti-corruption mantra, ‘’We must kill corruption, before corruption kills Nigeria’’ and don’t be surprise if we get to 180 under this administration.
5.0. The Anti-Corruption Network, The Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), other non-governmental organizations and well-meaning Nigerians like me who are concerned with economic and social rights in Nigeria, and on anti-corruption work, has alleged and revealed on several occasions the various corrupt infractions under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Our report/press statements are full of huge scale of alleged corruption cases, which are apparently systematic and mind-boggling. These include 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, non-remittance of revenues generated by MDAs, etc.
6.0. And it is satisfying that the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation in the 2019 Audit report corroborated the above allegations. 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 diligence. We have said it many times that money must not be spent merely because it has been voted.
7.0. Our report/press statements have also been corroborated by 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. He disclosed that the anti-graft commission uncovered 257 duplicated projects worth N20 billion in the 2021 budget. In an attempt to defend the above, the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze had the nerve to state 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. Imagine! Why must we have a duplicate project in the first place even if it was one. What a pity!
8.0. Let’s take a look at the case of the former chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Mangu. A man President Buhari brought in as a key figure in the ‘change’ agenda and who sworn from his very first day in office to give corruption a bloody nose. Shortly after his appointment, there were series of allegations of corruption against his person by DSS until he was finally arrested by the DSS on 6th of July 2020. The Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), wrote to Buhari, recommending the removal of Magu, accusing him of misconduct, insubordination and diversion of recovered loot.
9.0. The panel that was set up to look into the case specifically recommended that Magu should be removed from office for failing to properly account for N431 million security votes/information fund released to the office of the Executive Chairman of EFCC between November 2015 and May 2020. The panel also recommended that Magu should be referred to the Inspector-General of Police for necessary disciplinary action. It’s now almost two years since the presidency received the report but nothing has been heard from a government whose main item of campaign in 2015 was the fight against corruption. Rather on 16th May 2022, it was reported in the media that the Police Service Commission (PSC) has promoted a former acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, to the rank of Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) of Police. Nigeria my country!
10.0. What about the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina? Maina was not only accused of defrauding the country of billions of naira but claims are that he did so in plain sight and under the protective watch of security agents as it was revealed during a probe into his fraudulent activities by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The said Maina corruption scandal engulfed the DSS, the Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice; Minister of the Interior, Federal Civil Service Commission; Head of Service of the Federation; and even Presidency which have continued to cast a shadow of doubt on President Muhammadu Buhari’s famed anti-corruption fight.
11.0. The question many Nigerians have asked and which has not been answered is how a man who was saddled with the task of managing pension funds for millions of Nigerian workers allegedly embarked on a looting spree, stealing billions of naira, and later absconding to the United Arab Emirates where he was said to have enjoyed a life befitting of royals, before sneaking back home to be reinstated and promoted to a higher position? Mr. President, Nigerians want to know what has been done with the report of the probe by the all-powerful combined committee of the National Assembly which shows the complicity by the civil service, security agencies and, most importantly, the Attorney General of the Federation in the Maina corruption scandal. Is it gathering dust or gone with the winds?
12.0. Another mind-blowing corruption scandal under this government is the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE). This corruption scandal hindered efforts addressing the humanitarian crisis and rebuilding infrastructure in the North East region of this country. The Senate ad-hoc committee discovered phantom projects and inflated contracts at the PINE. PINE could not properly account for about N2.5 billion, part of funds released for it for capital intervention. It was also reported that PINE awarded dubious contracts to companies owned by top government officials for outrageous sums of money. One of the companies allegedly belonging to the then SGF, Babachir Lawal was said to have been awarded a contract worth over N200 million for the removal of ‘invasive plant species’ in Yobe State.
13.0. What baffles Nigerians in this corruption scandal is that the said Babachir Lawal walks about freely, not invited or charged by the EFCC even though a panel constituted by the President himself and headed by the VP who was ably assisted by two top-ranking Ministers found him guilty. How many of Lawal’s properties have they seized as they have done to opposition figures and party contrarians accused of corruption? None
14.0. The President daughter, Zahra and the wife, Aisha Buhari, also open up on the high rate of corruption in the Aso Rock clinic situated within the State House under President Buhari’s very nose. They alleged that the Clinic has drawn billions of Naira in budgetary allocations since Buhari came into office with nothing to show for it. In the words of Aisha Buhari “More than N3 billion budgeted for state house clinic and the workers there don’t have equipment to work with”.
15.0. This big story this month was the arrest of the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Nsima Ekere, who was taken into custody by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with mismanagement of N47 billion contracts awarded between 2017 and 2019. Let’s us not forget that all these are happening under President Buhari, a man who said “we must kill corruption, before corruption kills Nigeria”.
16.0. As if the above is not enough, we also heard about that the arrest of Ahmed Idris, Nigeria’s Accountant General of the Federation, who was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N80 billion fraud. The EFCC said it has verified intelligence which showed that the AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates. This is person overseeing the single treasury accounts, the computerised wages and salaries payment system IPPIS and who has repeatedly told ASUU there is no money to pay for their demands is the one siphoning the money. There was a country indeed!
17.0. Nigerians will agree with me that the list of the corruption scandals encircling this administration are new every morning. Almost every day, we hear of one embezzlement of public fund or the other. Virtually every powerful person in this government has been fingered and this is not just (political) mud-slinging by opponents but real and factual allegations made by people who, ordinarily, should be the ones defending and protecting this government.
18.0. I will not end this write up without mentioning the increasing killing and kidnapping ravaging our dear Nation under this administration, because fighting insecurity was on top of this administration list in 2015. On the 30th day of March 2022, I wrote a text with tears in my eyes because I didn’t know a day will come when my beloved country will be a valley of the shadow of death. A country where we now live with perpetual fear of been attacked anytime, any day and anywhere, no place is safe. People are killed on daily basis, carcases littered on the street like that of a chicken. We can no longer travel to any part of this country with the hope of arriving safely. We have been sentenced to death, attack and kidnapping for the offence of being a citizen of Nigerian under this government. Not a single day has passed without hearing unprecedented wave of different but overlapping security crises from kidnapping to extremist insurgencies.
19.0. Shortly after President Buhari assumed office in 2015, the country recorded a total of 405 attacks, that killed 3,026 civilians across the nation in that year. And the total amount released for security affairs according to the Office of the Accountant General in 2015 was N66 billion. At the end of 2016, the situation did not improve, Nigeria recorded 790 attacks, that killed 1,196 civilians. Although there was a reduction in number of civilian deaths, there was still an increase in the kidnapping rate, as 347 persons were kidnapped during that year compared to 2015 where 112 kidnapping cases were recorded.
20.0. The President scaled up funds for the military and released N140 billion to the security outfit including the Nigeria Police Force, Ministry of Defence and the Office of the National Security Adviser. In the following year, 2017, there was no sign of improvement still. Schoolchildren were still being kidnapped, Boko Haram insurgents still attacking civilian communities. In 2017, there were 919 attacks across the country, 1600 civilian deaths, while 484 citizens were kidnapped despite the release of billions to the security parastatals.
21.0. During Buhari’s third year in office, he released N204 billion to the security parastatals and agencies, the highest the nation had spent on security since the return of civilian rule in 1999. But insecurity was still prevalent. Data shows that in the same year, there were 1,148 attacks resulting into the killing of 1,566 civilians and 987 persons kidnapped across the country. By the end of his first term in office in 2019, not fewer than 2,232 civilians had been killed, 1,386 kidnapped and 1,513 attacks recorded, despite a budget release of 98 billion.
22.0. The following year, 2020, as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerians had to contend with the virus, hunger and killings. That year, Nigeria recorded 1839 attacks, the death of 2,551 civilians and 2,860 were kidnapped including schoolchildren. President Buhari’s last six years in office, there have no less than 7,630 attacks. Killing more than 13,608 civilians despite spending over N5 trillion on security. In five months in 2021, Nigeria has recorded 1,016 attacks, 1,437 deaths of civilians, while 2,276 persons have been kidnapped. According to figures obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ it was reported that no fewer than 3,125 innocent persons were killed and 2,703 abducted by bandits in northern Nigeria in 2021.
23.0. Now, the country is saddled with a fresh dimension to the deadly menace- attacks on trains. No fewer than nine people died, 41 were injured and scores were declared missing after bandits attacked a Kaduna-Abuja bound train, on 28th March 2022. A group of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, the Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities, and the Joint Action Civil Society Committee under the auspices of Nigeria Mourns, said that no fewer than 1, 545 Nigerians were killed and 1,321 were abducted by terrorist groups between January 1 and March 30, 2022, a period of 90 days.
24.0. In conclusion, there is, therefore, no evidence of any concrete results either in the fight against insecurity in the country or in the fight against corruption. Insecurity continues to ravage many communities in Nigeria, schools remain unsafe especially in some part of the North-Eastern States, offices of electoral bodies and police formations are being targeted in the Eastern States, while kidnapping and abduction are rife in South-Western States as well as other regions.
25.0. Nigeria’s ranking in the Corruption Index released by Transparency International has continued to deteriorate. Our national patrimony and collective wealth has been consistently looted and mortgaged under the administration of President Buhari. It is worrisome that Nigerians might not have a nation we can call home after this administration which is just less than a year now. Those who voted for Buhari thinking they were installing an anti-corruption czar are now the most bitterly disappointed citizens and the shock is likely to grow as the legacy of corruption unfolds. We will continue to talk because IN AN UNJUST SOCIETY, SILENCE IS A CRIME.
God Bless Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senator Dino Melaye