AS CORRUPTION FIGHTS US BACK IN NIGERIA, WHO IS WINNING ?

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According to the Transparency International ‘s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) table for 2019, Nigeria is ranked 146 out of 198 nations with a score of 26 over 100

The question on the lips of concerned citizens is; Will corruption ever get to its barest minimum in Nigeria?

Realistically, corruption is everywhere in the world in varying degrees.

What makes the Nigerian situation infuriating is that while some countries see it as abhorrent, Nigeria seems to condone it, treat it with kid gloves and given excuses.

This makes it look as if corruption is a way of life in Nigeria and foreigners see the country as one of the most corrupt in the world.

In fact, former British prime minister once caught on camera referring to Nigerians as “fantastically corrupt” while speaking to the Queen of England and Bishop Justin Welby at an occasion.

There was a glimmer of hope when Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 especially with his reminder to the nation in March 2015 that; “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.

Nigerians had hope in him because while he was a former military head of state, he was known for his stern disposition to indiscipline and corruption. So were expectations that he was going to bring sanity to the polity.

However, the reality is that military leadership is different to political leadership. Especially,  considering the fact that we are in a democratic era. The truth is that his impact has not been greatly felt in this area. His hands seem tied. The difference is aptly captured by former president Olusegun Obasanjo when he said that; “Military rule is like a kingdom. In military rule; force prevails, in democracy, persuasion prevails”.

Talking about persuasion, one will tend to wonder who Obasanjo was referring to that needed to be persuaded.

The answer would unanimously be the people of the federation but in Nigeria, it is the political class that the President succumbs to. These political class comprises of different interest groups which former Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II; once referred to as vested interests. One of such groups are the Governors.

I am emphasising on the governors because they have a lot of influence in the polity.

An average Nigerian governor rules the state under him like a fiefdom or a mafia. They control the local government and the funds accruable to them and have reduced them from being the third tier of government to an appendage of the governor, useful only to reward patronage and loyalty.

They form the most powerful bloc in both government and their various political parties. Most political and economic decisions in the country must have their inputs and at times approval for it to materialise. At times, they come together and dictate to the presidency.

The political parties often make them the de factor political leader in their various states once elected. This confers a lot of political power and patronage on them.

They are the ones who brazenly display anti- party activities without being sanctioned, rather they get rewarded with Senatorial seats like Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Rochas Okorocha as seen during the governorship elections in 2019.

To show how powerful they are, Amosun for instance, took his anointed candidate who contested under another party to see the President at Aso Rock for endorsement. In Okorocha’s home state of Imo during the campaigns in Owerri, Buhari had to be extra careful by telling the people of Imo state that they can vote for anyone they wish as governor but they should vote for APC in the presidential election.

In 2012, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) took the Federal Government to court over the  sharing of the  monies in the excess crude oil account. They (governors) claimed that it is a constitutional provision. They as well opposed the continuing deduction of oil subsidy from the excess crude accounts, saying the deduction negated the principle of federalism and budgetary provision. The situation affected Federal Government spending at that time .It became an embarrassing situation for the Federal government , most especially when it could not meet some of its obligations when the need arose and the government needed something to fall back on. Some of those governors are ministers today while some are senators.

That is why I laugh each time anyone suggests that Nigeria should go back to the regional system of government which is confederacy with a bicameral legislature like what obtained in the aborted first republic.  My fear has always been that it would be an expansion of some governors’ empire by subjecting an entire region to their whims and caprices which will be achieved through their deep purse and in some cases; brigandage.

The governors have been central to the entrenchment of corruption in Nigeria by disregarding the extant procurement laws in order to have their way as procurement is the biggest avenue for corruption in Nigeria ranging from contract scams and racketeering to contract splitting, bribery and fictitious contracts.In some cases, contractors are mobilised without job done, among others.

Between 1999 to 2015, out of over seventy governors produced, may be (I might be wrong)only governors like late Mala Kachalla, Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba, Lam Adeshina, Ade Adefarati, Ahmed Markarfi, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Niyi Adebayo, Peter Obi, Oserheimen Osunbor, Olusegun Oni, Patrick Yakowa, Celestine Omehia, Danbaba Suntai, Isiaka Ajimobi, Olusegun Mimiko are the ones who were never involved in any corruption case by EFCC, ICPC or CCT at any known time. Outside office however, Abdulkadir Kure and Segun Osoba were also questioned by EFCC over contracts awarded to them.

At present, two governors who are ministers are enmeshed in corruption cases bothering on budget inflation and contracts scam.

One of the cases involves Godswill Akpabio and Ms Joi Nunieh, a former MD of NDDC. So much profligacy is revealed with the ex governor being accused by Nunieh and an independent whistle blower. So also is the situation between the sacked boss of NSTIF; Kemi Nelson who accused the minister of labour; Chris Ngige of attempting to insert 1.5billion naria and 5 SUVs into the 2020 budget of her department.

I blame all these on failure of leadership in which President Muhammadu Buhari is presiding.

Buhari has not been firmly in control of the executive arm of government. You will recalled  what transpired between former minister of state for Petroleum resources; Dr Ibe Kachikwu when he accused late Maikanti Baru; former MD of NNPC of authorising contracts beyond the threshold of his office, that is in a ministry directly under the supervision of the President. It only shows that  there is little or no coordination.

We had Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (BMPIU) which was established under President Olusegun Obasanjo and now known as Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). They are meant to coordinate and regulate how procurement is meant to be carried out by all ministries and MDAs but with what is happening, BPP  is a toothless dog.

BPP has a website which shows its vision and mission in line with transparency,Integrity, Efficiency, competition and value for money all aimed at global best practises. The website highlights extant procurement laws, the procedures, compliance, petition process, whistleblowing, contractor registration and other necessary information which are necessary about government procurement in Nigeria.But despite all these, the ministers and heads of MDAs bypass  the BPP. They approve contracts beyond the thresholds of their office, they split contracts in some instances, they inflate contracts, they conduct fictitious contracts and take kickbacks as well. The ones that has come to light recently is simply because of the misunderstandings among those involved.

When Jonathan made the goat and yam analogy, he was ridiculed. His administration efforts on fighting corruption is paying off with TSA. If not for TSA, so much more will have been looted at NDDC but the exposition made so far has been by virtue of the TSA schedule of payments.

If I could have my way, I would have proposed a bill to the National Assembly to ensure that once anyone has been a governor, he cannot aspire to any other office other than that of the President or be appointed into any office thereafter except as an adviser or the President’s Chief of Staff. Which invariably means that they can no longer be elected as a Senator or appointed as a Minister. But I know that it will not pass first reading before it is discarded as they have representatives in the Senate who will fiercely oppose it. The second reason being that it would be seen as negating fundamental human right of citizens to aspire to any office provided you are qualified.

I am of this opinion because most of them who have been senators have only made the hollowed chambers their retirement day centres as they hardly bring any bill in that favours the masses neither do they have the magic wand. A situation where someone who has been an executive head of state of an average of twenty local governments would now be clamouring for government attention through sponsorship of bills and to convince colleagues to the plight of the people of his or her locality is an abnormality.

It took a Federal high court landmark judgement in 2019  to compel the federal government to “recover pensions collected by former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly, otherwise these governors in the various concerned states has allocated humongous amounts to themselves, choice properties in choice locations across the country as well as welfare packages whose attendant consequences manifests on the public workers and pensioners of the states who have been refused salaries and pensions running into several months on the excuse of non-availability of state resources to pay them as well as inability to provide social infrastructures for the states.

At least 22 states starting from Lagos State have passed life pensions laws for former governors and other ex-public officials. Other states include Akwa Ibom; Edo; Delta; Kano; Gombe; Yobe; Borno; Bauchi; Abia; Imo; Bayelsa; Oyo; Osun; Kwara; Ondo; Ebonyi; Rivers; Niger; Kogi; and Katsina.

The list of those who have benefited includes but not limited to Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau), and Jonah Jang (Plateau).”

Others include: Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); George Akume (Benue); and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).

These people kept lurking around the corridors of power, yet they do not have any magic wand.

Babatunde Raji Fashola readily comes to mind. When he was given 3 major portfolios in 2015, so many people where optimistic that he would turn things around especially in the power sector. But someone like me was not convinced following the way he answered questions at his screening especially on awarding a borehole at a ridiculous amount and his response was that he didn’t sign cheques. Not just that, he was quoted as saying that it only requires six months for any serious government to fix power problems in Nigeria but when he got into office and was asked about it, he was only blaming the previous governments (PDP)and said he was reading books to be familiar with power generation. Now he is the minister of works, I remember vividly his time as Governor of Lagos state and that of his predecessor; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, if only notably Federal government roads that were in bad states especially Apapa Express road, Agege – Sango Ota Express way, you cannot miss visible signposts erected by Lagos state government which often read; “WE ARE SORRY, BEAR WITH US, THIS ROAD BELONGS TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT”.

Now that he is the minister of works, those signposts no longer appears on Lagos roads and the roads remain mostly in same state of disrepair, so what has changed?

Most of them are spent forces, they are only seeking relevance and self-serving purposes. They have outlived their usefulness and should be done away with.

Wale Oyelekan

dolcewalepsky@yahoo.com

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