[President Muhammadu Buhari]
One thing that has retarded Nigeria’s growth in the area of technology, economic and social advancement in the country is corruption. Corruption which implies doing
things in unusual and abnormal ways have denied Nigerians of many golden opportunities in the time past.
We have seen corruption in many places. With high level of corruption, nepotism has been the order of the day. Today, an applicant needs to get someone somewhere before he secures job in any government establishment. The ugly development in our National life was the reason why many Youths in Nigeria have to cut corner to make their way through in employment listing. Many collect letters from high personalities directed to ministry, department or agency boss as job placement in Nigeria are not done on the bases of merit and competence.
In our educational sector, many secondary school Students hardly read well to pass WAEC, NECO or JAMB examination. With corruption, many Students bribe exam invigilators to allow them perpetuate all manners of examination malpractices and this was why many examination centres in Nigeria have been cancelled on an account of massive cheating.
Corruption has also sounded a great blow to our National life in the area of budget implementation and execution. It is either that fund for capital projects are inflated or it is being diverted to private pocket and this was why we have many uncompleted projects growing with weeds across the States of the federation in Nigeria.
The endemic corruption in our daily life was what prompted retired General Muhammadu Buhari during his campaign tours to say that he shall declare total War on it if elected the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. To show his bitterness on the level of corruption, he maintained that if “we don’t kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will kill us”.
President Muhammed Buhari since his assumption into office May 29 has been conscious of his political dealings. The delay in his ministerial appointment was not anything other than to bring corruption to its knee when he finally constitutes his cabinet. President Buhari in his quest to make a difference said he is looking for people of high integrity with unquestionable past records as Ministers of federal republic of Nigeria.
Today, President Buhari’s body language is being perceived by many Nigerians that he is truly set to tackle corruption or fight corrupt elements in Nigeria. Adduce to this, few weeks ago federal government of Nigeria formulated policies geared towards addressing corruption in Nigeria. One of these was presidential directive mandating all revenue generating Ministries and Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to direct their earning only to federal government account with Central Bank of Nigeria as against separate accounts being operated by them with different commercial banks in the time past.
This directive has really worked as revenue of federal government in the last two months increased and this account for the reasons why all tiers of government of Nigeria have had their monthly federal allocation figure increased by 20%.
With this, many have therefore maintained that President Buhari is fighting corruption as all manners of revenue leakages have been blocked. Whilst i will not disagree with this school of thought on this assumption, i want to say that more still need to be done as mere sending corrupt officials to court to face corrupt charges which President Buhari is envisaging would not address corruption in Nigeria. Let me therefore maintain that more need to be done on the laws against corrupt offenders in Nigeria.
Thus, the present penalty on corrupt offender does not discourage people from corruption. The plea bargain in our judicial system is one that has rubbished the fight against corruption in Nigeria. Under plea bargain, when corrupt official sense of being found guilty in any corruption charges he can negotiate with court to release part of the looted fund and for the charges to be dropped.
With the plea bargain, many high personalities in the time past have returned pantry sum out of huge amount stolen and the charges were therefore dropped thereafter. I want to say that if the present administration is poised to fight corruption, President Buhari needs to look into this.
This becomes necessary as plea bargain has created an impetus for people to steal more as they know when dragged to court and sense of being found guilty, he would ask for plea bargain to enable them go away with chunk of stolen wealth after forfeiting pantry.
For a successful fight against corruption, the plea bargain should be scrapped once and for all. President Buhari should send a bill to the National Assembly calling for the abolition of plea bargain in our judicial if not his resolve to recover stolen wealth might not yield desire results in Nigeria if we still have something like that in our law.
Also, our National Assembly members should enact law mandating anyone guilty of having looted public fund to forfeit all the stolen wealth or properties with no option of fine. The guilty individuals should also be made to pay interest of the equivalent interest bank rate the court believed must have accrued on the properties or fund over the years to federal government in the case of federal offences or State should that offences related to the state. They should be made to face hard labour of cleaning public gutter in any place where they committed the offences with no option of fine too.
To me, these are the only ways Nigerians would be discouraged people from engaging in corrupt practices. Anything short of these would amount to playing to the gallery by the administration of President Buhari.
I am saying this because President Buhari’s plans to strengthen and to empower Economic and Financial crime commission (EFCC) and other related crime agencies alone without adopting these would not stop corruption and it shall be business as usual with no changes. For tangible results, he must first do what i have pointed out in this article.
Shaibu Stephen Ojate is a Journalist and public affairs commentator writes from Abuja. He is reachable on 08052666344 or 08102658380