By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
When Gen. Muhammadu Buhari indicated interest in the presidency in 2014, there was a frenzy of excitement about his candidacy on account of his antecedent as a spartan, no-nonsense military head of state who fought corruption to a standstill in his 20- month administration.
Backed by a constellation of progressive interests, including leading intellectuals, the progressive camp, and the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s political machine, they saw a mythical bogey of corruption in the previous regime and former president Jonathan as it’s arch promoter. Today seven years on, the much vilified administration looks like a bunch of puritans in the face massive looting in this administration.
President Buhari contested on cardinal pillars of fighting corruption, employment and security among others. But seven years into his presidency, corruption seems to work on two legs.
As Dr. Sam Amadi, human rights lawyer and university don puts it, “It is the greatest irony that under a regime that clamped many PDP politicians into jail for corruption, its ultimate underwriter of probity and accountability is being held for massive corruption beyond what the administration has accused officials of the previous government of. It betrays a deep seated lack of understanding of the pathology and dynamics of corruption in Nigeria that the Buhari administration has not just failed in its anti-corruption war, but has complicated and compounded corruption in Nigeria.”
In the life of this administration, there have been allegations of corruption against its principal functionaries in a way that has called into question the integrity of the Buhari administration as having zero tolerance for graft. In a long series of corruption against the administration’s top functionaries, the latest is the N80 billion corruption allegation against Ahmed Idris, the suspended Accountant – General of the Federation, which has taken corruption to sickening level.
Idris was last week arrested for graft. Following this allegation, the federal government on Wednesday suspended him, indefinitely, following his arrest on Monday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The anti graft body on Wednesday said it has identified 10 housing estates and nine mansion in Abuja, Kano, Dubai and London owned by Idris. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, ordered his suspension via a letter dated May 18, 2022.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the Minister on Media and Communications, Mr. Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, the suspension was “to allow for proper and unhindered investigation into the serious allegations” against him, in line with Public Service Rules.
He said the suspension took effect from yesterday, (last Wednesday) adding, “He is suspended without pay, and during this period, he is not expected to be at work or have any contact with the office.”
The companies used in laundering the funds had, allegedly, been linked to family members and associates of the suspended accountant-general. Before his arrest, Idris was reportedly summoned repeatedly for interrogation but he failed to honour the invitations. President Muhammed Buhari appointed the suspended AGF on June 25, 2015. He succeeded Jonah Otunla, who retired on June 12, 2015.
It was gathered President Buhari and Idris was together in his day at Petroleum Trust Fund, which he led as chairman and tapped him for AGOF; he was reappointed for a second term of four-years in June 2019, despite misgivings by labour groups who had said the accountant-general should have retired after turning 60.
Audit reports from the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (OAuGF) had over the years consistently indicted the AGF’s office for various lapses. Senate probe of the ministry of Humanitarian and Emergency Management last led to a suspicious fire in the OAGF, where documents requested by the Committee were allegedly kept.
The same Wednesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had detained a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere, over various corruption allegations totally N47 billions. Sources said Mr. Ekere was detained after he surrendered himself at the commission’s office in Lagos last Wednesday.
“Mr. Ekere has been under investigations for years. He surrendered himself for arrest on Wednesday after realising that the commission was closing in on him,” a source familiar with the matter said.
According to reports, the 56-year-old, who served as the managing director and chief executive officer of the NDDC between 2017 and 2018, is being investigated over allegations of contract inflation and award of fictitious contracts during his time in office. Mr. Ekere, who allegedly committed the offences starting from 2017, according to sources, reportedly laundered funds from NDDC accounts through contractors to buy choice properties in Lagos.
Mr. Ekere, who hails from Akwa Ibom State, one of the mandate areas of the interventionist agency, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress in 2015.
He is a close associate of former minister of Niger Delta, Senator Goodwill Akpabio.
He was the leader of the G22, a group of 22 disgruntled PDP governorship aspirants for the 2015 governorship, who defected to the APC after losing the governorship primary election of the PDP to the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom State, Emmanuel Udom.
Also last, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, dismissed chairman of EFCC, who has been on suspension over corruption allegations, was promoted to the rank og Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG. A Judicial Commission, led by Justice Ayo Salami, former president of Court of Appeal, allegedly indicted him of abuse of office. The report never saw light of the day.
Recall that in 2019, the anti-graft agency, EFCC, filed a 10 count corruption charge against a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal over N300 million IDP contract scam. A separate charge was also filed against Ayodele Oke, the former head of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, who was removed from office after millions of dollars belonging to the agency was found in an apartment.
According to the charge sheet, dated January 30, 2019 the accused persons were brought before a high court of the Federal Capital Territory for the alleged offence.
Another case that shocked the nation to the marrow had an ironic twist to it.
It all began when Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari listing several allegations against Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to Malami, “Magu was not acting in the overall best interest of the country and the policies of this administration due to its Mismanagement and Lack of Transparency in Managing Recovered Assets; Diversion of Recovered Assets for Personal Enrichment; Neglecting to investigate the P & ID case as directed by the President; Flagrant Disobedience to Directives and to Court Orders due to the following;
Malami alleged “there have been contradictory figures emanating from the Acting Chairman. It is quite disturbing that conflicting figures are being circulated in the public space by EFCC as the amount of recovered funds.
He further stated that ” It is pertinent to emphasize that the lack of proper record keeping and discrepancies in the recovery figures is a dent on the anti-corruption drive as well as raising integrity issues that can lead to loss of public confidence.
The recovery agencies, particularly the EFCC, must be seen to be above board and not committing the same infractions the EFCC was set- up to curb.
“The crucial findings and recommendations of PCARA as it relates to the EFCC, noted the following infractions/deficiencies in the asset recovery activities of EFCC thus:
“For Foreign currency recoveries, EFCC reported a total naira equivalent of N46, 038,882,509.87 while the naira equivalent of the foreign currency lodgments were N37, 533,764,195.66, representing a shortfall of N8, 505,118,314.21. These inconsistencies cast a serious doubt on the accuracy of figures submitted by the EFCC. It is the committee’s view that the EFCC cannot be said to have fully accounted for cash recoveries made by it.
“While EFCC reported total Naira recoveries of N504, 154,184,744.04, the actual bank lodgments were N543, 511,792,863.47. These discrepancies mean that EFCC’s actual lodgment exceeded its reported recoveries by N39, 357,608,119.43. This is an apparent case of manipulation of data in a very brazen and unprofessional manner and this has greatly eroded the public confidence in the anti-corruption efforts.
“The PCARA also found that in certain Interim Forfeiture proceedings by the EFCC, there were noticeable differences between the amounts stated as per the Court Order and EFCC Schedule itself. Magu was subsequently retired but not before he was promoted to the position of assistant inspector general of police.
Another case that really paints the Buhari administration in black relates to the corruption allegation against the former managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman. Hadiza is said to have single-handedly awarded and approved contracts without the knowledge and approval of the supervisory Ministry of Transportation to the tune of N46 billion.
There is also the alleged issue of her refusal to remit VAT deductions running into billions of Naira and in foreign currency denomination to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Before her suspension and eventual dismissal, she was accused of excessive spending that led to excessive increase in administrative and operational expenses; extra budgetary expenditures of close to N1 billion on hotel accommodation and under-disclosure of expenditures on hotel expenses and the diversion of funds of about N369.7 million through the Nigerian Port Today, a newsletter.
NPA under Hadiza was said to have blatantly contravened government policy on the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and its records relating to CSR fell short of the level of compliance with the Public Procurement Act, 2007. Procedures were said to have been flagrantly violated while huge expenditures running into billions of naira could not be justified.
For instance in 2018 alone, she was said to have spent a whooping five billion Naira on CSR projects. Many of these CSR projects were said to be bogus, filled with inflated prices and many unverifiable items.
Professor Charles Adarelemo, a political economist told Business Hallmark that “it is ironic that the integrity administration turned out to be the most complicit in corruption. The pardon given former governors -Dariye of Plateau state and Nyame of Taraba – speaks volumes on the legacy of corruption this administration will bequeath to Nigeria.
Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, director of Entrepreneurship at Redeemers University, told BusinessHallmark that “the legacy of this administration in respect of war against graft is full of deceit and double standard. Many of the administration’s top officials have been indicted one way or another.