The 49- member senate caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party had alleged that the anti-graft war under President Muhammadu Buhari lacks transparency and fairness. But the presidency has reaffirmed its commitment to the fight regardless of party affiliations. OLUSESAN LAOYE reports
The ongoing war against corruption being spearheaded by the President Muhammadu Buhari All Progressives Congress, APC, federal government is now under severe attack from the opposition and other stakeholders. They argued that the anti-graft war is targeted against the opposition and individuals who are not in the good books of the present administration. However, some political leaders have decried the idea of politicizing any good intention of the government in a bid to have such programme abandoned.
Those who have come out to speak vehemently against it are members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who feel that the anti-graft war of the federal government so far, has been selective and does not appear to be total in its promise of eradicating corruption in the system.
The PDP in particular has accused the government of President Buhari of only focusing and putting its search light on those who served under the immediate past government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who are members of the party. Their argument was that if actually the present government intends to fight corruption it should not focus on the last administration alone, but should look at corruption holistically right from 1999 when this political dispensation started.
Some people also argued that for the Buhari administration to succeed it must not look at the politicians alone, but should look back to the root causes of corruption in the country, which also indicates that Buhari must be bold enough to probe his predecessors both civilian and military.
This is where the Halliburton scandal comes in which many Nigerians are insisting that it must be revisited by the Buhari’s government. They pointed out that if perpetrators of various financial scandals were brought to book and exposed, it would go a long way to bring sanity into the system and make Nigerians to be on their toes. It will also make public office holders to shape up and recognize the fact that they are called to serve.
Right now the ongoing anti-corruption crusade of President Buhari is generating controversy and also instilling fear in both past and present political office holders and civil servants, who had occupied sensitive positions in the past.
Since President Buhari came back from his U.S. trip where he met with President Barack Obama, who discussed the fight against corruption and insurgency in Nigeria, Buhari has been more resolute in combating corruption and the Boko Haram insurgents. As a result, he has swung into action and many people are now being held accountable for what they have done with their positions in the last four years.
Although Nigerians are surprised that Buhari who had during his presidential campaign told the people that he would not handle the issue of corruption the way he did when he was the military head of state, but would ensure corruption is minimized and put to check in his four years as the President is now out to fight it as well as deal with those who are found guilty.
It was said that this was the idea which the President had even when he was sworn in on May 29, but it was argued that his perception about the way he intend to deal with corruption changed when he got to office and the magnitude of what he saw. Sources disclosed that Buhari was taken aback when he saw the magnitude of fraud allegedly perpetrated by the previous government of Jonathan to the extent that he was quoted to have said that if need be, former President Jonathan would be recalled to come and account for his deeds while in power.
Jonathan loyalists think that Buhari is not being fair to his predecessor and have criticized him for trying to probe Jonathan’s administration. This also generated some arguments between those in power and loyalists of Jonathan who argued that Jonathan did his best for the country.
What is however on the front burner now and which has pitched the APC against the PDP is the ongoing war which has identified some notable public office holders and politicians to be involved in money laundering.
It will be recalled that Buhari before he started his campaign against corruption had said that based on what he saw ‘’right now’’ that there is no way he would not deal with some ex-ministers and officials who embezzled government funds. He said that he had observed that some of the government agencies have not been held accountable or audited since the past four years, while some even extended beyond that period.
This was why he eventually reiterated this statement that ex-ministers would definitely go to jail for their actions while in government, when he had an interactive session with Nigerians based in the USA during his last month’s visit to that country.
As part of efforts to block loopholes in the finances of the government, Buhari has directed that the accounts of some of the major agencies which return huge revenue to the country be audited and investigated. He had also directed the past practice whereby revenue generated are spent without due process to be discountenance forthwith, and that they should now remit all revenues from the agencies to the federation account before any further disbursement to the agencies and the appropriate quarters.
Right now the commission in charge of fighting corruption the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has swung into action and spread its dragnet on immediate past governors. The former governors said to be on the list of the commission are that of Enugu, Eboyi, Niger, Kano, Lagos, Akwa Ibom etc. Some ex-ministers who are being mentioned in the list are that of the petroleum resources, Finance, defense, while others are being compiled. Some of the agencies under probe are Customs, NIMASA, and Department of Petroleum Resources.
The present war against corruption has degenerated into controversy and battle between the two major political parties, the PDP and the APC who for the past three weeks have been throwing brick bats on each other.
While the APC believed that the present government was doing the right thing to bring sanity into the system with the war against corruption, those in the PDP, who had enjoyed power for an uninterrupted 16 years and now in the opposition believed that in as much as they don’t oppose the government fighting corruption since it was one of its cardinal programmes, they feel that the arrests so far made have been selective and not broad based.
The PDP believe that only members of the party in Jonathan’s government have been arrested including the NIMASA boss and others. The PDP parliamentary caucus at the national assembly led by the Chief Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa ibom State, who is also the minority leader in the senate called on Buhari to be just and fair in his fight against corruption as it has been found out that the EFCC has started doing selective interrogations, rather than putting its search light on everybody found to have been engaged in corruption irrespective of where they came from or their political affiliations and connections.
Also, the Ekiti State governor, Otunba Ayo Fayose, last week accused Buhari of not being sincere with his anti-corruption policy, saying he has started using it to witch-hunt the oppositions. In Rivers State, the corruption issue has turned to be a serious war between the past government of Rotimi Amaechi and the present administration of Nyesom Wike. Even the two political camps of the APC and the PDP are not left out of the accusations.
Among the APC stalwarts who have been critical of the last government on corruption are the governors of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Mallam Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna state and the national publicity secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Muhammed. Oshiomhole for instance said that he would in particular want the petroleum ministry probed. He also castigated the finance ministry and was particular about its former head, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
The Edo State governor, Oshiomhole had alleged that the DPR of the NNPC had made some illegal deductions which he was ready to contest in the law court. He alleged that the department spent state funds outside its budgetary allocations for 4 years. He disclosed that it has deducted 40% from accruals from royalties among others amounting to billions. “If the budget of the department is N4billion per year and you collect N2billion in one month it means that you are going to collect close to N24- N30 billion while the total expenditure of the department was supposed to be only N4billion.’’
While reacting to the ongoing fight against corruption, the general secretary of the textile and garment union, who is also one of the deputy president of the NLC, Comrade Isa Aremu told Hallmark that as far as they are concerned the NLC is not against the move by the present government to fight corruption but was of the opinion that that the fight must be seen to be just and fair to all concerned.
He pointed out that the present government should not be seen to be bias in its quest to clean the country of corruption.
Other prominent Nigerians who spoke on the issue are Chief Richard Akinjide, and Dr Fredrick Fasheun. Chief Akinjide, the former Attorney General of the federation said that he agreed that there is corruption everywhere in the country and wants the present government to pursue the battle against it with all seriousness and not to be seen to be vindictive.
In his own submission, Dr Fasheun, who is the leader of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in an interview with Hallmark, said that Jonathan’s government should not be persecuted. He stressed that corruption war should include all the people around Buhari, who have been indicted in corrupt practices. He said that Buhari could claim to be clean but he could not vouch for a lot of people around him known to be involved in corruption.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Buhari, Mr. Femi Adesina has said that the present government would do what is right for the country and that nobody would be witch hunted. He said there was the need for the President to fight corruption based on the magnitude of what he saw in some agencies. He disclosed that the huge amount of fraud discovered was alarming and it would be wrong for the President to turn his back on them since that is one of the major issues he has promised to tackle.