Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Nigeria’s Anti-Corruption War: Now That Obasanjo Is Serious
Dan Azumi Kofarmata
November 27, 2005
I am one of the optimists who earnestly believe that, it is possible to turn around the observed defects in the current anti-corruption war being waged by President Obasanjo so that it be seen to be sincere, transparent, fair and just. The exercise has largely been rightly criticised by some observers to be flawed in its mode of selection of whom to investigate and when to investigate (i.e. strategic timing) a suspect. For example, critics of the anti-corruption drive have pointed out that, only those who are not in the good books of President Obasanjo are targeted and selected for investigation, arrest, detention and prosecution by the anti corruption agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They cite known cases such as those involving people close to President Obasanjo who were let off the hooks of the anti-corruption agencies. For example, the case of Julius Makonjuola, then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence who was alleged to have misappropriated a whooping N400 million from his ministry. This particular case was badly handled and it was terminated when then Attorney General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi filed a Nolle Prosequi on the case. This is the celebrated case that some critics of the war on corruption still hold against President Obasanjo.
Another celebrity case was that of Chief Tony Anenih, former Minister of Works in the first term of President Obasanjo’s presidency (1999 – 2003). Chief Anenih could not account for how he spent the billions of naira appropriated for his ministry for repairs and maintenance of the nation’s highways and bridges during his stay in that ministry. He is yet to account for the N10 billion appropriated for his ministry to wage war on poverty nationwide. President Obasanjo has not found it expedient to sanction him apart from a Presidential sack from office. He is still much around in the party ranking hierarchy and calls the shots.
Other cases include the N30 billion naira COJA contracts racket; the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) contract scams during Ben Bruce’s headship; the role of the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Oke Bukula in the Osuji – Wabara N55 million Federal Ministry of Education’s budget appropriation scandal; Central Bank Governor (CBN), Professor Soludo’s gift of N50 million to a Committee of the National Assembly; the Olabode George – Aminu Dabo’s Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) financial scams and Nasir El Ruffai’s illegal hiring and remunerations of his personal staff and his bungling of many privatisation exercises during his headship of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), amongst others.
The multi billion dollars financial scams still going on in the Ministry of Power and Steel Development and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) are yet to be looked into by President Obasanjo and the EFCC. Therefore, looking at these cited cases; one is bound to express doubts about the sincerity, honesty and fairness of the on going war against corruption being waged by President Obasanjo through the instrumentalities of the anti-corruption agencies.
To be fair to President Obasanjo, we must not over look the fact that must of the high profile cases that have been dealt with by the EFCC also include person very close to him at one time or another. For example, the convicted former Inspector-General (IG) of Police, Tafa Balogun was generally known to be very close to Obasanjo. Others in this category include the late former Minister of Internal Affairs Afolabi (May his soul rest in peace, amen); Chief Dapo Sarunmi; Alhaji Arzika Tambuwal; Otunba Fasawe; Chief Olabode George, amongst others. Even though, some of these people were never arrested or questioned by the anti-corruption agencies, they were nevertheless, dismissed by President Obasanjo when he received adverse security reports about their involvement in some financial malfeasance.
The question now is, how can the war be fine-tuned to do the right things that are dearly needed to correct the bad impression created by the above mentioned initial mistakes; having taking the right steps in recognising that corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s sustainable socio-economic development and the nation has gone thus far, in waging the war against its perpetrators?
There is no easy answer to this question, but the following suggestions can improve the situation. First, President Obasanjo should re-visit all or some of the cases cited above with a view to bringing all the people alleged to have committed financial and or economic improprieties in their respective places of work. They should be properly investigated and if found guilty, the law should take its course. Merely sacking them from office is not enough punishment. It is also not a strong deterrent to others against perpetration of financial and or economic crimes.
Therefore, Makonjuola’s case should be re-opened and let the law takes it course. It is said that, charity begins at home. If President Obasanjo would be courageous enough, as a retired general in the Nigerian Army, and as a serving general in the current war against corruption, he would have restored the confidence of Nigerians in this enterprise. He would also, be seen to be serious and committed to what he stated in his 1999 Presidential Inauguration Speech; that in his war against corruption, there will be no sacred cow and that, it will no longer be business as usual again this time around.
Secondly, President Obasanjo should make a national pronouncement and emphatically reject the so-called “Third Term” agenda (hidden or open) being canvassed by his close lieutenants within and outside his political party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Not only that, he should take immediate action to issue an Executive Order, banning all overt and covert activities associated with this political corruption in his name and on his behalf. He must respect the sanctity of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution with respect to Budget implementation and all other relevant provisions he constantly abuses with impunity. He must also respect the rulings of our law courts and resolutions of the National Assembly at all times. Upholding these simple basic civic and democratic principles, will go along way in restoring his diminished credibility, respect, trust and what is left of his democratic credentials.
Thirdly, he must of necessity, stop fraternising with State Governors, National Assembly members and ranking political party leaders who, security reports and Nigerian public have found them to be generally working against the war against corruption and promoting the ill-conceived so-called “Third Term” project.
Last but not the least, President Obasanjo must stop endorsing questionable projects (State or Federal) by way of officiating their commissioning. These are projects that do not meet the basic civilised test of transparency in their costing; contract award (ala due process); meet the basic needs and priority of the people for whom the projects are supposedly meant to serve; and above all, poorly executed by companies that are more often than not, personally owned by the State Governors and or Ministers, their relatives, proxies and what have you. President Obasanjo’s recent official visit to Sokoto State to commission some State and Federal projects attests to this concern. I believe Mr. President spoke the minds of the people of Sokoto State when he intelligently, diplomatically and sarcastically nicknamed Governor Attahiru Bafarawa as the “Governor of Roads making”.
However, Governor Bafarawa’s spin doctors went to town telling all that cares that, Governor Bafarawa was rated by President Obasanjo as the best performing Governor in the country. Come to think of it, is the construction of a whopping N900 million flyover in Sokoto town anything comparable to provision of clean portable water, basic health services and equipped primary and secondary schools in a typical economically and educationally lagging and backward State? These Presidential visits send wrong signals and undermining the efficacy of the war against corruption by way of helping in laundering the images and egos the nations thieving State Governors.
After all, President Obasanjo has all it takes to questions the credibility of any public funded project in the country by way of requesting for security reports on any project before accepting invitations to commission them. This is one of the ways the downtrodden majority of Nigerians can be guaranteed that is being commissioned will not collapse soon after the merry making is over.
Let me end my analysis with the following quotations purportedly filed by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and reported by one Salihu Abubakar of the Kano-based Daily Triumph Newspaper, on Friday, November 25, 2005 (http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/bafaraw251102005.htm). These quotes vindicate the concerns I raised in my recent articles on the issue of presidential state visits and commissioning of projects with specific reference to Sokoto State:
“...the president will leave
the state satisfied that this governor is a performer''.
I rest my case!
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.