LEST we forget, like many past
government, this administration
rode to power on the back of
the promise to fight corruption.
It is safe to say though, that
more than any previous
administration, the present
administration comes top on the
perception that a government
will actually fight corruption. For
many Nigerians, the one reason
why this government was voted
into power was the belief that
corruption which was perceived
as the problem of Nigeriashall be
brought to a stop.
President Buhari then General
Buhari was the symbol of this
perception. For many who voted
for him, he was an embodiment
of integrity, a man capable of
doing no evil, an incorruptible
disciplinarian and in their view,
was what Nigerianeeded at the
time. He was even applauded
by many when he claimed he
could not afford the presidential
nomination form of his party
despite having served as a
military head of state, a key
player in another military
government adjudged as most
corrupt by both local and
international bodies, a former
military governor, a petroleum
minister and chairman of the
Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), an
agency that was also alleged of
corruption. This was perceived
by his supporters as evidence
of his incorruptibility.Citizens
did not care much about the
economy or economic credentials
of the then candidate Buhari.
People did not even analyse how
feasible it was for the naira to
be equal to a dollar and how it
can be achieved and sustained.
They just assumed that fighting
corruption was enough to get
the economy going. In one
of the campaign speeches, in
his perception, blocking the
leakages was equal to growing
the economy. The people’s
expectations were very high.
For once, Nigeria may be rid of
corruption. For the sceptics, only
time will tell.
On 12th November 2015, about
six months after the swearing in
of this administration, the news
of the first corruption scandal
was broken. It was the president’s
own party man, Senator Dino
Melaye, who raised the alarm
that the TSA policy which the
new government had insisted
on implementing may have
been fraught with corruption.
He alleged that while the
appointment of a collecting agent
(REMITA) was unconstitutional,
it was also milking our collective
purse. As ministries, departments
and agencies were ordered
to shut down their accounts
with the banks and remit to
the federation account their
revenues, the collecting agency
REMITA, already made 25 billion
naira for doing nothing within six
months. There was some uproar
but the administration quickly
came out to debunk the news
calling those who unravelled it,
scandal mongering individuals.
In their defence, they were
quick to agree that the idea of
implementing a single treasury
account was of the previous
administration, implying that
whatever may be wrong with
it, is part of the failings of their
predecessor. This was despite
celebrating the applause that
their implementing the TSA
initially generated. The Senate
on her part ordered her specific
committee to begin a probe. The
names behind the REMITA agency
remained a matter of speculation.
The Senate probe panel findings
and report was never brought to
light. Today REMITA has come
to stay and whatever commission
they earn is still ongoing.
On December 22, 2015, the
president went to the floor of the
National Assembly to present a
budget to a joint session of the
National Assembly. And was
applauded by many including
the Senate president Dr. Bukola
Saraki for being the first president
in recent times to have come before
the national assembly to present
a budget himself. His immediate
predecessor had the minister of
finance and coordinating Minister
of the Economy presenting
the budget. Also it was the
administration’s first budget since
coming to power and for the first
time in Nigeria’s history, a 6 trillion
naira budget was being presented.
There was a lot of enthusiasm on
the part of citizens.
But this enthusiasm was soon
dampened with the news that
the budget presented by the
president to the national assembly
was different from what the
MDA’s prepared and presented
to the budget office. The budget
has been padded, “Padding”
meaning additions to make fatter.
The president was immediately
absolved of any blame by his
supporters as expected. But for
many, it wasn’t just that such could
still happen in an administration
that pride itself as intolerant
of corruption, it was about the
response to the discovery of such
graft. As it is for most issues,
the president would not even
comment on the issue for a while.
When he eventually commented,
it was indeed a tough talk. “Those
who are involved in the budget
padding shall not go unpunished”.
Nigerians waited earnestly for
the punishment that shall follow.
Even the president’s support base
was hopeful and boasted of how
the “padders” shall be brought to
book and appropriately punished.
That should help to clean up the
embarrassment this caused the
administration. Now, let’s be clear.
The president may not have been
culpable of padding the budget,
but being an “anticorruption
czar” and at the time when he
was going hard on members of
opposition party on perceived
corrupt practices, the expectation
from many was that the president
will go hard on the culprits in the
same vein. This never happened.
After many months of dillydallying,
all that was heard is that
180 personnel in the budget office
had been redeployed.
Redeployed? Was that the
punishment promised?
Well, redeployment was the
punishment served on the
perpetrators of the crime of budget
alteration for personal gain.
Thereafter, was the budget padding
scandal that rocked the national
assembly. Understandably, the
executive had no direct power
over the legislature and the polity
was laced with the argument of
whether or not the legislative arm
of government had power to alter
the budget they were presented
with. The national assembly did
have their day in the court of public
opinion and with the executive arm
bent on proving that the NASS, as
an institution was corrupt, this was
well explored.
A few months after the inception
of the present administration,
precisely in October 2015, the NCC
slammed the Telecommunications
giant, MTN a $5.1b fine for failing to
abide by the rules. At a time when
the nation was struggling with
rock bottom crude prices coupled
with insurgency in the Niger Delta
cutting down production, this was
expected to provide some relief.
After months of negotiations, the
fine was largely reduced and terms
of payment agreed. Shortly after,
the news was that the president’s
close senior aide who is also a close
relative of his, has been bribed 500
million naira to help reduce the
fine to the new amount. Eventually,
this scandal caused those at the
helm of the negotiations on the
part of the MTN their job. But
for the FG, nothing was said and
nothing happened. Abba Kyari,
the president’s chief of staff
implicated in this scandal not only
retained his job but continued to be
a key player in the operations of
government. In a bid to save face,
a probe will usually be ordered,
the report of which we will never
hear of and they will never act on.
Just as the dust was settling on the
MTN’S scandal, comes another.
In October 2016, the House
committee on the North East,
uncovers a contract of N270m
for grass cutting in an IDP
camp in the NE awarded by
the administration’s then SGF,
Babachir Lawal to a company he
allegedly owned.
At a time when the
administration was putting people
in handcuffs and showing them to
the world via all media platforms
as thieves of funds meant for
fighting Boko Haram, when
the last administration’s NSA is
permanently locked in jail, despite
several court judgement ordering
otherwise, the former SGF in the
present administration supposedly
fighting corruption just had his
company cut grass in the IDP
camp for N270m (two hundred
and seventy million naira). Camp
for internally displaced persons
resulting from same Boko Haram
crisis. After so much foot dragging,
another probe panel was set up
while the alleged remained in
his position boasting of how it
was impossible to remove him.
In one of his outburst, he referred
to the news as “balderdash” and
in another, he openly questioned
the ability of the presidency to
deal with him when he threw the
question “who is presidency?” to
reporters. Eventually, despite the
probe panel’s indictment of him,
it took the president almost one
year and a public uproar in form of
protest rallies before Babachir was
removed. Till this very moment, no
charges have been brought against
him.
Like I once told a friend, the
scandals in this dispensation are
so many and frequent that it is
becoming difficult to keep pace
with. While that was ongoing,
another bomb shell came. This
time, from the president’s
immediate family. The wife of
the President and his daughter
both openly state that despite
huge budgetary allocation to the
state house clinic, the hospital
could not boast of even syringes.
The president had just returned
from his over 100 day’s overseas
trip and there were speculations
that the president’s wife had also
gone abroad for a brief medical
check up. Now to put it in proper
perspective, what this allegations
meant, let us be reminded of the
budgetary provision for the state
house clinic for the 2016, 2017
budgets.
In the 2016 budget, it is public
knowledge that the State House
Clinic had N3.87b in allocation, an
amount more than the budgetary
allocation to all the Federal
teaching hospitals in the country.
Despite this huge sum, the First
Lady claimed she had to go to a
private hospital for an X-ray. So
the question therefore is what then
happened to the budget? The
permanent secretary’s defence is
that zero amounts were allocated
for capital projects.
So was N3.87b and N3.2b used
for recurrent expenditure for two
years? This is a unit of government
that is in the President’s bedroom
and yet there is so much they
are unable to account for. For
a government that is fighting
corruption, this is definitely not
what even his supporters expected.
Like all the other scandals, it is the
NASS once again that has tried
to initiate a probe and as usual
nothing really will come out of it.
The scandals went from drip,
drip, and drip to an avalanche.
The pace of occurrence of the
corruption scandals have become
so frequent that one may find
it difficult to keep up with. The
administration’s Minister of
State for Petroleum wrote to the
President who is also the Minister
of petroleum complaining of how
contracts totalling $26b had been
inappropriately awarded in the
NNPC, a parastatal under his
ministry by the GMD without
due process. The letter either
by accident or deliberately was
leaked to the public and there
was another uproar. The letter
has highlighted a lot of red flags
in addition to the accusations of
financial impropriety. But wait a
minute, why will the president’s
own minister in his cabinet and his
deputy in the Petroleum ministry
be needing a letter to communicate
happenings in his ministry as
grievous as these allegations
to him? All the questions were
quietly answered by individual
citizens in their own quiet time.
But everyone keenly awaited the
President’s response. As Nigerians
were still trying to make out what
has become of this administration
as regards the promise to fight
corruption, this is another bomb
shell.
And after the usual period of
silence, the president finally did
act. A separate meeting with both
the minister and the GMD was
held after which he ordered both
aides to go sort out their differences
and ensure they work together. By
the next day, the photo ops of both
men hugging each other flooded
the front pages of most national
dailies showing that reconciliation
has taken place. That was the
much done for a government that
is fighting corruption.
And finally came the mother of
all scandals: Mainagate. Ibrahim
Maina is the pension boss who was
sacked on allegations of corruption
by the last administration and
was on the run from prosecution.
In October 2017, it was all over
the news that he has not only
been reinstated, but was also
promoted after redeployment to
another ministry, the ministry of
interior. Even the chairman of the
Senate committee on media said
on national TV how much of an
embarrassment this was for the
country. For many, even strong
supporters of the President, this
was the straw that broke the camel’s
back. The uproar was loud enough
for all to hear. And the question
on everyone’s lips was how did
this happen. Those who will
always defend the administration
and absolve the president of any
blame irrespective of the event
and the facts, struggled this time
to do so. There were denials on
all sides. The involved ministries
heads all pointing at each other.
Shortly, there was a leaked memo
that showed that even the head of
service warned of the dangers of
reinstating Maina, a fugitive.
For reasons not yet clear, the
desperation to readmit Maina into
the Federal Civil Service didn’t
allow them to heed. They went
ahead and he was redeployed
and promoted. The specific Senate
committee invited all alleged
to be involved to the Senate for
questioning. The revelations where
grievous and shameful for any
government, how much more one
that pride itself to be intolerant of
corruption. The president has been
accused of being aware, even by
the alleged. In another face saving
mechanism, the president did ask
for the firing and immediate arrest
of Maina. Sacking was done, but
arrest was never made. Until this
very moment, Maina is still at large
and has been bold enough to speak
several times from his hiding and
was even represented by a lawyer
in one of the public hearing by the
Senate committee. He has severally
claimed that the President ordered
his reinstatement. No doubt the
reinstatement of Maina has hovered
between the Ministry of Justice,
the Ministry of Interior and the
Presidency. At the senate hearing,
the Minister of Justice did reveal
that Maina requested for a meeting
with him while he was in Dubaiand
he in turn sort clearance from the
DG of the DSS to meet with him.
Isn’t it ironical that the chief law
officer is asking for clearance from
the DG DSS to meet with an alleged
culprit? There was clear evidence
that so many things were wrong.
The presidency has since denied
complicity and as is with most other
scandals, was quick to blame it on
the last administration. Obviously,
Nigerians must be tired of hearing
that. And only recently, in a move
that looked to further buttress the
federal government’s complicity,
the AGF had sought and secured
court injunction prohibiting the
Senate from continuing the probe.
In the words of the Senate: “what
do they have to hide?” We hope
time will tell.
For staunch supporters of the
president, who see him as incapable
of doing wrong, and incorruptible,
he will still be absolved of this
scandal with the usual phrase of
“the president is not aware”. But
that will at least not absolve him
of incompetence. If he is not an
accomplice as they want us to believe,
then he is grossly incompetent.
However, the president has some
room for his own redemption.
Someone must take responsibility
for this action or at least agree to be
the fall guy whose head should roll.
Would that happen? Only time will
tell. Meanwhile, may we not forget
that why all these are ongoing, the
alleged pension thief in question is
still at large. There are speculations
again, that the failure to arrest
him by security operatives is very
deliberate. A few weeks ago, the
president was quoted to have said
“only God can judge looters”. Has
the president resolved to fate? It is
not three years yet in a four year
term of the administration and all
these are corruption scandals in
the executive arm of government
in a government that is fighting
corruption.

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