Despite the pledge by the All Progressives Congress to fight corruption comprehensively, Rights groups and civil society organisations have insisted that Nigeria, under President Buhari have remained a hub for corruption.
Recall that the APC, at its inception in 2015, had promised to fix Nigeria’s economy and secure the country, insisting that “Nigerians must rise to fight and kill corruption before it kills them.”
Yet, in 2019, Nigeria, under Buhari, was ranked 146 out of 180 and climbed three steps down to 149 in the Corruption Index ranking released by Transparency International.
Now, rights and accountability groups have alleged ”unbridled thievery” under the current administration, warning that the scale of corruption has remained ”huge, systematic and utterly overwhelming”.
In an exclusive interview, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP alleged that the Buhari administration appeared not to be committed to fighting corruption as it promised.
A Deputy Director at SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, alleged there was an absence of political will to fight corruption in Buhari’s administration.
On Sunday, a report by SERAP had alleged a missing N3 billion from the Federal Ministry of Finance and listed corruption allegations running into hundreds of billions of naira in federal ministries, departments, and agencies (MDA’s)”
The group also indicted the National Assembly over numerous corrupt practices, alleging that ”the over N3 billion which cannot be accounted for by the Ministry of Finance “is just a penny dropped in the amount of money that the Auditor General said could not be traced.”
These claims are aside from the series of corruption allegations running into hundreds of billions of naira against individuals under the present administration.
The report said, “These include outright stealing of funds meant for running costs in the National Assembly and non-remittance of money deducted from staff and members of the National Assembly to relevant agencies.
”It also covers a disturbing failure to account for millions of naira spent by MDAs, failure to retire unspent funds, award of contracts without due process, spending of funds above statutory limit without official approval, payment of funds for contracts never executed and non-remittance of revenues generated by MDAs, among others.”
Aside the corruption allegations by SERAP and vindication of same by the Accountant General of the Federation, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), had through its Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye during his speech at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption and Presentation of Public Service and Integrity, disclosed that the anti-graft commission uncovered 257 duplicated projects worth N20 billion in the 2021 budget.
Following that revelation, SERAP had asked Buhari to direct relevant agencies to investigate, claiming that a grave violation of the trust of Nigerians must not be swept under the carpet.
SERAP’s Oluwadare insisted that if President Buhari is serious in the fight against corruption, he ought to order an investigation into the allegation by the anti-corruption agency to determine if individuals or groups of persons are responsible for the violations.
“The least we expect from this administration, particularly from the President who appoints the Director-General, is to order an investigation into this allegation by the anti-corruption agency to determine whether they are individuals or groups of persons or even institutions. They should be called in and these sums of money mentioned by the Director-General of the federation recovered and thrown back into the public pocket”.
Another organisation, the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) had in a statement nailed President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing “different species” of corrupt practises to continue to fester unchecked in his administration.
The group in a statement by Abiola Owoaje in Abuja alleged that rather than commend SERAP, the federal government has ridiculously embarked on a smear campaign against the organisation casting aspersions on the group’s motive and raising abstruse issues concerning its “funders”.
Owoaje said such reactions from the federal government were shameful, disingenuous and a distracting tactic that lent credence to growing perceptions of insincerity in its ‘fight’ against corruption.
The group urged President Buhari to urgently reinvigorate the anti-graft war by sincerely strengthening the anti-graft agencies, especially the ICPC and the EFCC, through enough budgetary provisions, and protection from political interference.
“The time is ripe in Nigeria for the establishment of Specialized Courts to quicken the dispensation of justice in the trial of corruption cases. The three arms of government should work in tandem to ensure that there is no ambiguity in the different statutes prescribing due punishment for corrupt offences,” the statement read.
However, despite government denials, Oluwadare has advised President Buhari to ensure that the allegations are not treated with levity.
He asked the President to make this a primary message that needs to be sent that his administration will not tolerate corruption, “but in reality, what we see is more elaborate.”
Calling on the Federal government to fund Anti-graft agencies, Oluwadare requested the amendment of the constitution that guides the action of the commissions for a better result in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
“For the Anti-graft agencies, the laws that guide their activities including the constitutions and various laws are not perfect laws”.
“What we have seen so far is the absence of political will at the highest level and also the political tyranny. Lack of political will to enforce laws and that itself is creating problems,” he insisted.