*3 terminal sicknesses haunting his anti-corruption policy*
Onitsha, Nigeria – In this third and concluding part of our all-important governance foundational assessment
of the Buhari administration, Intersociety has come to a firm conclusion that the anti-corruption policy direction of the present administration is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti-graft control mechanisms as clearly stated in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2005 (entered into force), which Nigeria ratified on 14th December 2004.
Buhari’s anti-graft policy direction is in all intents and purposes, haunted by “three terminal sicknesses of: moral burden or incompetence, selective application and misguided approach”. For the records, Official or Government Corruption occurs when a public office holder or other government employees act reprehensively in an official capacity for personal or material gain. It is also official misuse of powers or public resources for personal gain or with criminal intent.
Though countries or States-Parties to the UNCAC Convention were allowed to use the concept of “mala prohibita corruption” (defining and criminalizing corruption according to States), but the United Nations gave 60% attention to preventive measures as the most effective modern control mechanisms. Investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction and sentencing got 20% and international cooperation, technical cooperation and information exchange among Member-States got the remaining 20%. Preventive Measures include institutional reforms and institutional capacity building, overhauling of anti-graft agencies and laws in accordance with international best practices, stiffening sentencing processes and categories other than death penalty; and institutionalization of probity and accountability in public governance and offices as well as effective collaborations with formidable, unbiased and non-conformist civil society organizations and the media.
Most importantly, those driving the modern anti-graft engines must be transparent and accountable at all times. It is a globally established fact that the modern corruption has a commander-in-chief, which is morality corruption. There are modern dimensions of corruption, which include morality corruption, legislated corruption, electoral corruption and political corruption (grand political corruption and petty political corruption). Modern agents of corruption include fraud (criminal fraud), money laundering (including terrorist financing), bribery, criminal extortion, forgery, embezzlement, kickbacks, confidence trickery, tax evasion, tax avoidance, criminal taxation (multiple taxation and tax diversion), contract inflation and abandonment, over invoicing and false pretence. Other triggers of corruption include criminal gratification, criminal patronage, cronyism, favoritism and nepotism.
Apart from the fact that there are 22 or more anti-graft agencies and criminal enactments in Nigeria, which include the EFCC Act (2004), the ICPC Act (2000), the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004, the Advance Fee Fraud & Other Related Offenses Act (1995), the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) & Other Financial Malpractices in Banks Act (1994), the Banks & Other Financial Institutions Act of 1991; and Miscellaneous Offenses Act, the Corrupt Proceeds & Properties’ Forfeiture Act of 1999, and the Criminal and the Penal Codes of 2004; corruption and abuse of office are also constitutionally prohibited in Nigeria in Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. Section 15 (5) of the Constitution provides as follows: “the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office”.
Therefore, our firm submission to the effect that the Buhari administration’s anti-graft or corruption policy direction is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti-corruption control mechanisms is hereby rested on the above. It is an indisputable fact that every central government in Nigeria since 1966 has laid claim to fight against corruption. As recently as late 1990s and first decade of 2000s, over $1.97Billion was recovered by the military and civilian governments of Retired Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan; mainly from “Abacha loots”. Their whereabouts till date are left in the hands of God.
Yet, the two administrations above are still adjudged by many as “corruption friendly”. Despite pockets of defects in the Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC era, it remains the best civilly, institutionally and procedurally fought anti-graft campaign in the history of Nigeria. The efficiency, competence and international recognition of the Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC led to attraction to the Commission of millions of dollars yearly from international grant and development institutions. At a point, the EFCC possessed the capacity to operate and survive without the federal government subventions. The EFCC suffered presidential and executive highhandedness during the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration; leading to the appointment of corruption friendly Attorney General of the Federation and another corruption friendly person as the Chairman of the EFCC. The reprehensive act was perpetrated using a questionable former governor of one of the States in the old Middle-Belt Region.
Conversely, the Buhari military’s war against indiscipline and corruption of 1984-1985 remains the most brutal, uncivil, crude and globally condemned. The major reason why anti-corruption policies and actions have eluded Nigeria is because of unclean hands or lack moral uprightness of those leading the anti-graft campaign in the country. Corruption in Nigeria has now transformed into meta-impunity and immunity. In the world over, an estimated sum of $1trillion is still lost to the globe’s captains of corruption every year.
In Nigeria, Corruption through international money laundering is steadily becoming out-fashioned and corruption through criminal properties and investments is overtaking it. The number of hotels, filling stations, campus hostels, corporate properties and liquid investments springing up in choice cities of the country, is alarming and shocking. Corruption by money laundering is now majorly carried out through purchase of shares in national and international business companies including telecommunications and oil and gas. Ten years ago, the country’s captains of corruption particularly serving and former top public office holders hardly allowed open inclusion and mentioning of their names as owners of properties publicly suspected to have been gotten or procured illicitly, but today, their names are mentioned or associated with those properties with reckless abandon.
These explain why we held that the Buhari administration lacks moral standing or uprightness to effectively fight or control corruption. The Buhari’s anti-corruption policy direction is suffering from three terminal sicknesses: moral burden or incompetence, selective application and misguided approach (crude, militarist and constitutional and procedural incoherent measures). By the express provision of Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari is guilty of abuse of office including his presidential sole administrator-ship of Nigeria for three months running and a legion of constitutional infractions and procedural blunders. Morally, he is also unfit to lead the country to corruption free or controlled Promised Land. His refusal to declare his assets publicly is a clear case in point. Leading members of his party including serving and former top public office holders, particularly those that funded his presidential election and flew him from left, right and center with criminally procured private jets are still popularly and circumstantially suspected to be the leading friends or accomplices of corruption in Nigeria.
For instance, we had few months ago (during 2015 electioneering) thrown an open question in the direction of the Buhari’s APC. This followed public disclosure in the media of choice properties worth billions of naira, if not billions of dollars allegedly belonging to the movers and shakers of the Party. Now that President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC are in control of Nigeria’s presidency with all State apparatuses, we ask again. Who owns the following properties reported to be located in and around Lagos: Oriental Hotel, Falomo Shopping Complex, First Nation Airline, related Private Jets, Lekki Concession Company, Apapa Amusement Park, the Renaissance Hotel, the Radio Continental, the TV Continental, the Nation Newspaper, Ikeja Shopping Mall, Alpha Beta (IGR collectors), ownership of Tejuoso Market, School of Nursing & NNPC buildings, N4B property located at the Queens Drive, Lagos and associated choice properties worth billions of naira located within and beyond the shores of Lagos State? When were they established?
Also who owns certain Slok Companies including aviation jets and marine ships, Daily Independent Newspaper, Daily Telegraph, Sun Newspaper, and Compass Newspaper? This is to mention but a few.
When and how were they established or procured? Were they established or procured with or without State resources? Are their owners serving or former top public office holders in Nigeria? What were their owners’ occupations or professions before they got appointed or elected into those top public offices? When were they elected or appointed into public offices? What was their property or investment worth when they filled their assets declarations forms before being sworn in? What was their property or investment worth after leaving office as contained in their post public office assets declaration forms? Can statutory remuneration including allowances payable to top public office holders be diverted or invested? Are there private jets in the hands and ownership of serving or former top public office holders in Nigeria? If yes, how and when were they procured? Were they procured with State resources?
We further observe and ask as follows: former Governor Chibuike Amaechi graduated from the Department of English Language from the University of Port Harcourt in 1987 and worked in the Peter Odili’s Pamo Clinics & Hospital Ltd., from where he was elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly in 1999, later as its speaker and in 2007 as the governor; today, is he living far above his legitimate incomes as a former governor gubernatorial pensioner? What did he declare in his assets declaration forms as a former speaker and former governor as well as before becoming a speaker? Are properties and investments so declared far above that of a former private hospital attendant and a gubernatorial pensioner?
Chief Babatunde Raji Fashola is in his early 50s today. He graduated from the School of Law of the University of Benin in 1987 and was called to Bar in 1988. He practiced as a private legal practitioner for about fifteen years, which he started in the law chambers of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe and Belgore before joining the Tinubu’s administration (1999-2007), during which he became the Chief of Staff and Commissioner in charge of Governor’s office. He was elected governor of Lagos State in 2007. Today, are there properties and investments in his name and ownership other than those allocated (despicable) to him by the Lagos State Public Office Holders Pension Law of 2007 as a former governor and those, if any, in his name in the fifteen years of his private legal practice? Are his properties and investments of today at variance with or in commensuration with what he declared in his asset declaration forms before and after his governorship?
Prof Yemi Osibanjo graduated from the School of Law of the University of Lagos in 1979 and became professor and head of department of Public Law of same University between 1997 and 1999, before joining the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and later as its Attorney General from 1999 to 2007. Today, are there properties and investments in his name and ownership that are far above that of a professor of law? Are those properties and investments, if any, at variance with or measurable to what he declared in his assets decoration forms before and after his appointment as the Attorney General of Lagos State as well as before his swearing in as Nigeria’s present Vice President?
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar served as a Custom officer and retired in 1989 as “a deputy director” before becoming “governor-elect” of Adamawa State in 1999, from where he was nominated as a vice presidential candidate, leading to his vice presidency under former President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007). Today, are there properties and investments including a university in Atiku’s name and ownership? As a Custom officer who borrowed a federal civil service loan of N31, 000 in 1974 to build his first house in Yola, and as a former vice president and a retired Custom deputy director, are his present lifestyles in commensuration with the two public titles? Are what he declared in his official assets declaration forms in 1999 and 2007 as serving and former vice president in commensuration with his present properties and investments, if any?
What about serving Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State? Is it true that he now owns a private jet? If true, when and how was it purchased? Was there a time in his governorship that he chartered and quartered an aircraft at Imo Airport at the expense of the public funds? If true, is it possible for a governor to hire and stations an aircraft when there is functioning private aircraft of his ownership? As a private businessman, what did he declare in his assets declaration forms in 2011 before his swearing in as the civilian governor of Imo State? Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole of Edo State was a member and later President of Nigeria’s clerical or lowest labour union called “the Nigerian Labour Congress”; largely composed of holders of Secondary School Certificates or their equivalents or First Primary School Leaving Certificates; who are lowest paid in Nigerian public service. How did he get resources to fund and contest for the governorship of Edo State in 2007, which he won through courts in 2008? What did he declare in his assets declaration forms in 2007? Was what declared checked or investigated by relevant security intelligence agencies to match his social status as a former downtrodden labour organization activist? Retired Gen Olusegun Obasanjo is a retired military pensioner and former President. How did he get money to establish multi billion naira Ota Farms Ltd? Are there choice properties and investments in his name and ownership?
What about former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State who left a shocking contractual debt of N539Billion? How possible is it when Delta State is second or third in command as highest recipient of crude oil derivation funds in Nigeria? Where in Delta State are those public contracts worth unpaid funds of N539Billion located? What about former Governor David Jonah Jang of Plateau State that reportedly left unsettled contractual arrears worth over N200Billion? What about other immediate past governors and the state of their finances including billions of unpaid contractual and workforce financial obligations?
Are the likes of Retired Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar living socially in commensuration as retired military pensioners and former Heads of State? Who controls the chunk of oil block licenses in Nigeria and how did they get such licenses and who issued them the licenses? How come a number of immediate past State governors collected huge federation allocations worth billions of naira monthly, yet they could not pay their workforces? What has been responsible for chronic hike in fuel prices occasioned by importation of fuel products?
Are there fuel subsidy scams in Nigeria? Who are the owners of those refineries in overseas that refine crude oil and import back into the country at exorbitant prices? What about privatization of the power distribution companies in Nigeria? Are Nigerians getting what they expected? Various contracts are said to have been awarded for reconstruction of the Onitsha-Enugu Dual Carriage Way and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way in the Southeast. Other than portions reconstructed by former Peter Obi administration as well as the portion presently being reconstructed by Willie Obiano administration all in Anambra State, were there funds released for others? If yes, to who was the money paid and how much and when? What is the level of work done in comparison with the funds released? What is the rationale behind the introduction of “Public Private Partnership” on 2nd Niger Bridge Project?
The overall intent of the questions above is not tilted towards drawing a judgment to the effect that the persons mentioned above are already guilty of corruption but to inform that they are not above being publicly questioned or invited for purpose of criminal investigations so as to account for their public governance stewardship and accountability any time they are called upon or criminally invited. As serving and former top public office holders in Nigeria they must be ready to account for their public governance stewardships at all times particularly when there are sustained public concerns. This is more so when issues of probity and accountability are not statute bared in the eyes of the law.
The grand import of these is that “corruption fought selectively and parochially” amounts to corruption fighting corruption. And it cannot stand the test of time. If the Buhari administration is serious in fighting and controlling corruption, which we seriously doubt, then it has to be total or holistic. To be able to fight and control corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Yemi Osibanjo must lead the way by first making their assets declarations public, uncorrupted and un-doctored; in addition to provision of concrete answers to those questions above. This is what we meant and still mean by those leading fight against corruption in Nigeria must fight same with clean hands.
Emeka Umeagbalasi (B.Sc., Criminology & Security Studies)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
+2348174090052 (office), firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Uzochukwu, Oguejiofor-Nwonu, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program