Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Will President Buhari probe his campaign financiers?

“Some of those who sponsored the President’s election have not done any other jobs apart from holding public offices. Yet, they provided private jets and funds with which the President campaigned across the length and breadth of Nigeria. He should let Nigerians know where they got money to buy private jets and the several billions of naira spent on his election”  - Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State speaking through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, on August 5, 2015.

One of the main pillars of President Muhammadu Buhari campaign in the lead up to the 2015 presidential election is anti-corruption. In fact, many Nigerians voted for him based on their belief that he will fight corruption to a standstill. During his tenure as Military Head of State between January 1, 1984 and August 27, 1985, Buhari launched War against Indiscipline (WAI) and set up military tribunals to probe the administration of Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari whom he toppled in a coup. Many ministers, governors and commissioners were sentenced to long years of imprisonments having been pronounced guilty by the tribunals.  While the public applauded him, the victims and their families kicked. They claimed that it was a political witch-hunt devoid of due process and fair hearing.

In the recent past, particularly after his inauguration as a civilian president on May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari popularly called PMB has informed the public intermittently that he is ready to fight corruption. He made the promise to President Barack Obama during his recent visit to United States.  On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, the president while hosting the members of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Retd.) led National Peace Committee (NPC) was quoted as saying that “Those who have stolen the national wealth will be in court in a matter of weeks and Nigerians will know those who have short-changed them.”

Indeed,  a  statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, quoted the President as telling Abubakar and members of his committee that his administration was irrevocably committed to doing all within its powers to break the vicious cycle of corruption, unemployment and insecurity in Nigeria. Buhari also told members of the committee that the Federal Government, under his leadership, would not only ask for the return of stolen funds but also ensure that those who stole the funds are put on trial.

Well said! Mr. President has also been walking the talk.  He has ordered that a single treasury account should   be established at the Central Bank of Nigeria for all federal revenues to ensure greater probity, transparency and accountability in the collection, disbursement and utilisation of national funds. He has sacked and replaced some heads of government agencies such as that of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the National Security Adviser (NSA). News report also has it that he is shopping for credible and fearless judges to prosecute his anti-corruption war (See The Punch, August 17, 2015). Even the anti-corruption agencies have suddenly revved up their activities as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC)  are now speedily arraigning ex-governors and corrupt public servants in courts including freezing and seizing their assets.

While all these are happening, the All Progressives Congress is busy grandstanding.  The party in a press statement issued on Sunday, August 16, 2015 through its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed  alleged that a whopping $56bn (N11tn) was stolen under the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan .  Mohammed stated, “Some instances of the looting are as follows: N3.8tn out of the N8.1tn earned from crude oil (2012-2015) withheld by NNPC; $2.1bn (N413.7bn) from Excess Crude Account unaccounted for; Department of Petroleum Resources’ unremitted N109.7bn royalty from oil firms.

“Others are: $6bn (N1.2tn) allegedly looted by some ministers of the last administration; 160 million barrels of crude worth $13.9bn (N2.74tn) lost between 2009 and 2012; $15m (N2.96bn) from the botched arms deal yet to be returned to Nigeria; $13bn (N2.56tn) in NLNG dividends mostly unaccounted for; N30bn rice waiver; and N183bn unaccounted for at the NDDC.”

The immediate past ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party however came out strongly to rebut the claims of APC. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement, described Mohammed’s statement as “reckless, irresponsible and highly provocative.” Some of the chieftains of PDP including its governors forum had said that the party members are being molested through media trials and that the new government’s anti-corruption war is selective.  One of those who had made that assertion is the incumbent governor of Ekiti State, Peter Ayodele Fayose.

The Ekiti governor not only asked PMB to probe his election sponsors as highlighted at the beginning of this piece, he also said among other things that the Federal Government anti-corruption drive is  mere noise-making, witch-hunt and diversionary tactic to hoodwink the public into overlooking the seeming failure of the government to deliver on its electoral promises.   (See The Punch, August 6, 2015)

The Nigerian public, I must state, is less concerned about party membership of the looters of our patrimony and commonwealth. After all, a sizeable number of APC chieftains today were gatekeepers and influencers in PDP until recent. The question is: Will Buhari probe his campaign financiers?

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja