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 Nigeria shall 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 Nigeria needed 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.
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 dilly-dallying, all that was heard is
that 180 personnel in the budget office had been
redeployed.
Redeployed? Was that the punishment
promised?
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. 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.
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.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 N3.87bn and N3.2bn 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. 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.
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.
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.
The wife of the President and his daughter
both openly stated 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.

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