SANI ADAMU takes a look at the global recognition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight and how it is helping the image of the country
United States Secretary of State John Kerry recently lauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to rid Nigeria of corruption. In his speech at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he expressed concern about the role of some government officials who allegedly diverted funds meant for the procurement of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram insurgents. He also commended the determination of the administration to prosecute all those suspected of looting public funds in Nigeria.
He said: “It has been reported that over 50 people, including government officials, allegedly, stole over nine billion dollars in Nigeria.
“When Buhari took office, he inherited a military that was under-paid, underfed and unable to protect the Nigerian people from Boko Haram.
“One reason is that military budget was finding its way into the pockets of the generals; and just this week, we saw reports that more than 50 people in Nigeria, including former government officials, stole nine billion dollars from the treasury. “Today, corruption has grown at an alarming pace which threatens global growth, global stability and indeed the global future; obviously, corruption is not a new problem.
“Every nation has faced it in one time or another in its development. America’s own founding fathers knew the threat of corruption all too well, warning of the dangers that it posed to democratic governance.
“But today, corruption has grown at an alarming pace and threatens global growth, global stability and indeed global future,’’ Kerry told the world leaders and other participants in Davos.
Observers note that Kerry’s endorsement of Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts is fundamental considering the 2012 ranking of Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world by the global corruption watchdog –Transparency International. They note that although it is difficult to estimate how much Nigeria has lost to corruption since independence in 1960, the Economist of London reveals that Nigeria loses close to 400 billion dollars to corruption between 1966 and 1999 alone. Commending Kerry, the Minister Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that the support received from world leaders on the government’s anti-corruption programme could not have come at a better time.
“The Federal Government is delighted that the anti-corruption war being led by Buhari has been acknowledged and applauded on a global stage.
“It is particularly gratifying that in that speech, Mr Kerry made the link between corruption and terrorism,’’ he said. Mohammed also disclosed recently that about 55 public officials allegedly stole over N1.3 trillion in eight years. The minister, however, said there were plans to inaugurate series of town hall meetings across the country to take campaign on security and anti-corruption directly to Nigerians. He pointed out that the town hall meetings would be in addition to using the National Orientation Agency and the relevant units of the Ministry of Information and Culture to reach every part of the country.
“We know that those who stole us dry are powerful. They have newspapers, radio and television stations and an army of supporters to continuously deride the government’s war against corruption.
“But we are undaunted and will not relent until corruption is also decimated,’’ he said. Mohammed insisted that corruption was responsible for the endemic poverty in the country today. Explaining that whereas Nigeria’s national budget had increased from just over N900 billion in 1999 to over N6 trillion in 2016, poverty had also increased almost by the same proportion.
“The reason is not far-fetched: Appropriated funds have mostly ended up in the pockets of a few looters.
“When the money meant to construct roads is looted, the end result is that the roads are not built and the people suffer and even die in avoidable road accidents. “When the money meant to provide electricity is looted, we all are perpetually sentenced to darkness.
“When the money meant for healthcare is pocketed by a few, we are unable to reduce maternal and infant mortality. These are the costs of corruption. “The implication is that the amount received by 21 individuals and companies is more than the 2015 Zonal Intervention Project budget by N2.829 billion.
“Furthermore, the value of what the beneficiaries of Dasukigate contributed to development is zero compared to how the lives of Nigerians would have been transformed, poverty reduced and livelihoods improved, by the Zonal Intervention Projects,’’ Mohammed said.
Throwing more light on the efforts of the government to fight corruption, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who represented Buhari at the World Economic Forum, noted that the administration was working hard to reduce cost of government in view of the decline in oil revenue. Speaking at a discussion panel on the sidelines of the forum, he said that the declining oil revenue had also compelled the government to look inwards.
“With adequate governance around budget management and around expenditure management, we can do quite a bit.
“If we are able to do those things, we might be able to come away with under 30 dollars per barrel.
“Low oil prices have freed up15 billion dollars in subsidy costs for Nigeria. This is a plus for us,’’ he insisted. He said that the digitisation of the Nigerian government had also helped to save costs and had created room for better decision making. Stressing the need for effective monitoring of government spending, the vice-president said that with transparency and good governance, Nigeria would get out of its current financial difficulties.
According to him, corruption is a product of non-transparent systems; an issue that the Buhari administration is working hard to address. Osinbajo, in an interview on the sidelines of the forum, insisted that Nigerians had confidence in Buhari’s capacity to fight corruption.
“We spent something in the order of N1 trillion on subsidy last year and we are not going to have to spend any of that this year, so that’s a substantial savings. “The president is known for his stand against corruption for years; every Nigerian trusts him and every Nigerian knows here’s a man that would stand by his word. “I think the country is ready for a change, I think everyone is saying this is the time to fight corruption; this is the time to get some discipline in governance,’’ he noted. Osinbajo observed that the Nigerian Army had dealt with the threat that Boko Haram posed and degraded the insurgents. He insisted that the military was still implementing strategies to deal with incidents of suicide bombings across the country. By and large, observers pleaded with the Federal Government to make the Nigeria’s participation at the World Economic Forum meaningful by making it to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians. (NAN)