EDITORIAL: Futile war against corruption in Nigeria

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Uba Group

Uba Group

Last week, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, suspended the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over an alleged N80 billion fraud.

Idris was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in Kano, on Monday.

The Special Adviser to the Minister on Media, Tanko Abdullahi, confirmed that the AGF was suspended indefinitely, to allow unhindered investigations into the alleged fraud.

Idris’ arrest, according to the spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, followed allegations that he fraudulently amassed the money through bogus consultancy contracts, and other illegal activities, using proxies, associates and family members.

The commission alleged that Idris laundered the money using real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

He was said to have been arrested following his failure to honour invitations by the anti-graft agency.

Barely 24 hours after the arrest of Idris, the EFCC also arrested a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh.

Etteh was reportedly grilled by EFCC’s special duties unit over allegations of her involvement in a solar power electrification scam in Akwa Ibom State.

According to EFCC top sources, “she was arrested over a Niger Delta Development Commission contract in 2011. The contract was a rural solar electrification project for some communities in Akwa Ibom. The contract was awarded to a company called Philjim Projects Limited.

“The contract sum was N240 million awarded by NDDC as part of its community development project. An initial sum of N34 million was made and curiously, another sum of N253 million, raising the paid sum to N287 million.”

While EFCC investigators were still grilling the former number four citizen, its operatives also confirmed the arrest of the former Managing Director of the NDDC, Nsima Ekere, for an alleged diversion of N47 billion through registered contractors of the agency.

Nsima Ekere, a politician from Akwa Ibom State was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to head the NDDC in 2016.

He resigned in 2019 to pursue his ambition as a governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Akwa Ibom State, where he lost to the incumbent, Udom Emmanuel of the Peoples Democratic Party.

That corruption abounds in Nigeria is an incontrovertible fact.

The corrupt man is everywhere, the man on the street, the man next door, the man in the church or mosque, the man in the market or the departmental store, the policeman on beat patrol and the soldier at the checkpoint. Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage.

The rate of corruption is so high that the House of Representatives once contemplated hanging for treasury looters as a solution to corruption. Corruption is a clog in the wheel of progress in Nigeria and has incessantly frustrated the realization of noble national goals, despite the enormous natural and human resources in Nigeria.

It is most painful that corruption cases have been on the increase despite anti-corruption crusades.

“CBN"

Corruption dynamics in Nigeria reveal that politicians and public office bearers have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that they are not able to translate their anti – corruption “gospel” into action; theirs is to devour rather than share the “national cake.”

Today Nigerians continue to languish in extreme poverty and yet Nigeria is one of the few African countries with abundant natural and human resource endowments.

Nigerian political leadership (ruling or opposition) should be more serious when dealing with corruption if economic growth and development are anything to go by in Nigeria.

While Nigerians blamed military administrations for high cases of corruption, the return to democracy in 1999 has failed to stop the monster.

In 1999 when the Olusegun Obasanjo administration came on board, it carried out institutional reforms aimed at dispensing democracy dividends which the country was yearning for.

In order to tackle corruption which had eaten deeply into the fabrics of the country, Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practice Commission.

These sister agencies were charged with the responsibilities of investigating, apprehending and confiscating proceeds of corruption believed to have been corruptly acquired by government officials, organizations or corporate bodies.

“Upon assumption of the Buhari administration, many Nigerians expect a paradigm shift in the war against corruption. However, the war against corruption under Buhari has become a joke taken too far”

EFCC during its formative years was led by Nuhu Ribadu. The fear of Malam Ribadu then was the beginning of wisdom among the corrupt individuals. The commission was able to arrest and prosecute highly corrupt governors, ministers, business moguls and other government officials.

Until it was later politicized to achieve political gains, EFCC recorded remarkable achievements.

Regrettably, successive administrations have failed to strengthen the war against corruption in the country.

The EFCC which was established to go after corruption has suddenly turned to a toothless bull dog.

The commission has become a tool for political intimidation. Government has used it to harass or witch-hunt perceived political opponents.

Upon assumption of the Buhari administration, many Nigerians expect a paradigm shift in the war against corruption.

However, the war against corruption under Buhari has become a joke taken too far.

The recent pardon granted to former Plateau and Taraba States governors by the Council of States has been condemned by Nigerians. Joshua Dariye stole N1.6 billion while his former colleague Jolly Nyame diverted N1.4 billion from their respective states.

In saner climes, Dariye and Nyame would have served their maximum jail terms. The pardon granted to the duo has indeed eroded the gains achieved by the Buhari administration’s war against corruption.

It is a known fact that the pardon will embolden corruption and render the war against corruption meaningless in a country where corruption has become the order of the day.

Government officials will steal public funds with impunity believing they will be pardoned by the government.

Of the 36 state governors 1999-2007, 33 were accused of defrauding their states. Several are still undergoing trials.

The judicial system has been unable to convict most Politically Exposed Persons; some pronounced guilty by lower courts were set free by appellate courts.

Hopes raised by the convictions of Dariye and Nyame that justice will nab the elite have been dashed. Impunity reigns and will continue as long as influential politicians escape justice for their crimes.