Prior to his ascension to the Presidency of Nigeria, nobody had any doubts that President Muhammadu Buhari would fight the monster of corruption to a defeating standstill. However, unfolding events, especially as exemplified by the caliber of those in his cabinet have raised the question whether the fight is dead on arrival? EMMA ALOZIE writes
With the clearance of the former governor of Rivers State by the Senate as one of the prospective ministers, stakeholders are of the opinion that it may signal the end of the much trumpeted anti corruption fight
A judicial panel of enquiry set up by the Rivers State Government has indicted the administration of the former governor over the sale of public assets. The panel said that the administration of the former governor could not account for N70 bn being proceeds from the sales.
The Judicial Commission mandated the state government to recover the said money. Amaechi has however denied such indictment and said it was a political witch hunt.
According to Amaechi while answering questions from Senators during his screening, “there was nowhere I was indicted (in the judicial panel report). I was born to test my rights and fight for my rights, I was once a student union leader and believe me, if there is one man who does not like corruption, I do not like corruption.
“I came here with a copy of the so-called panel report, there is no where that the panel indicted me, I am ready to tender this report before the Senate. I was ready for the questions on it and I brought the panel report so the Senate can juxtapose it with the White Paper.
“However, because there are challenges, people in Nigerian politics believe that there is the need to compromise and be able to manage yourself around; I will do that but where it clashes with my principles I find it a bit difficult to do what people expect me to do.”
The former Rivers governor is not the only appointee of President Buhari who has a lot of allegations hanging on his head. The former governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola is also accused of corrupt practices while in office.
A civil society group known as Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders CACOL had petitioned both the EFCC and the president alleging that the former Lagos governor used N139 million to sink two boreholes and used another N78million to upgrade his personal website as a governor. Debo Adeniran, the leader of the group said,
“It would also be recalled that Mr. Fashola has also been accused of constructing his personal website with the taxpaying Lagosians’ money to a tune of N78.3 million, whereas every IT person CACOL contacted put an over-bloated estimate of the cost of the website at about N6 million. We make bold to say that the N78.3 million website contract is a trademark of Mr. Fashola’s administration.
“The website contract is an eye opener and lending credence to the allegations of the ‘True Face of Lagos’ where most of the contracts awarded before 2010 were said to have been immorally inflated by the regime of Babatunde Raji Fashola.
“If the former governor could be justifying the cost of his personal website, no matter what he uses it for, then there may be many more shenanigans to be unearthed by the relevant anti-graft agencies.”
CACOL went ahead to slam President Buhari after Fashola successfully went through the screening process. “A person who has questions to answer was approved by the Senate. Just look at the spectrum of those doing the approval; look at the screening exercise itself; you will agree that they altogether seemed simulated. It was a premeditated question and answer session. The moment someone that is meant to be screening starts singing the praises of a candidate, the entire exercise becomes nothing but a joke.
“Come to look at it; the roll-call of the nominees is replete with either cross-carpeters who earlier lost out in the intra-party power play in the past or those who were only brought on board as payback for party-jobs done AND not on the basis of performance record or competence; not even on the antecedence of selfless leaning to the cause of the common man in Nigeria.”
However, the only defense the former governor could muster while undergoing Senate screening against the monumental allegations of corruption was that he did not sign cheques as a governor.
The All Progressives Congress, APC rode to power vowing to clamp down on corruption and perpetrators of corruption. However there are concerns in many quarters that the fight has derailed. Others are of the view that the fight is targeted against political opponents.
For instance, the APC governorship candidate in Kogi, Prince Abubakar Audu still being prosecuted by the EFCC over an alleged N11bn fraud and yet the party gave him a ticket.
Also, former Bayelsa governor, Timi Sylva had his ongoing case with EFCC abruptly terminated. He is today the governorship candidate of the APC in the upcoming election in the state.
These obvious infractions in the fight against corruption have led many concerned Nigerians to ask whether anti-corruption fight is not dead on arrival.
Paul Nwogu, a legal practitioner and social crusader doubts whether the President can come good in his avowal to fight corruption. “The president cannot shield his party men and fight his opponents. The president promised not to have anything to do with anybody carrying baggage, any compromised individual. But from what we have seen so far, the president has not kept that solemn promise of his. If he allows all these men with corruption allegations and probes on their neck form part of his government, it means that he cannot muster enough moral courage to go after other people equally accused of corruption.
“There is a huge moral void the president has to fill if he does this. But let’s watch and see and give him the benefit of the doubt. He is a man of integrity who has vowed not to interfere on behalf of anybody”, he said.
Again, the governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose has continued to drum it into the ears of everybody that President Buhari is not ready to fight corruption, rather witch hunting his political opponents. He gave an instance of the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Yobe State, an APC, collected N15 million bribe from the governor.
“Curiously too, in a state like Yobe where it was established that the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Abu Zarma received N15
million bribe from the Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Zakari Deba to influence the State Governorship election, what has happened.”
With the turn of events and the reaction of many Nigerians, some faces in President Buhari’s cabinet will continue to be the guide to judge whether the president is serious about the fight or not. For every move made by the president and his party to go after other alleged corrupt people, the moral question would be raised, how about those in your cabinet. Could this have effectively snuffed out life in the corruption fight of the President even before it started? Only time will tell.