Mixed grill over national anti-corruption war

By Casmir Igbokwe

Last Monday was international anti-corruption day. As a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) of the Federal Government, I was in Abuja to join in evaluating the fight against that monster.

At the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre where the event took place, I watched as speaker after speaker spoke about corruption. The Head of the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Lilian Ekeanyanwu, for instance, rated Nigeria’s fight against corruption as being above average. In case you don’t know, TUGAR is the secretariat of the Inter-Agency Task Team with anti-corruption and accountability mandates in Nigeria.

According to Ekeanyanwu, only very few countries have achieved the number of high-profile convictions for corruption as Nigeria. “It is only one country that has a death penalty for corruption, but many others are still struggling to sanction the calibre of people we have successfully sanctioned in Nigeria,” she said.

As expected, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) agreed with Ekeanyanwu. In a statement last week, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the launch of the Open Treasury Portal (OTP). It is expected that the OTP will ensure open governance, transparency and help in tackling public sector corruption.

As part of the OTP requirements, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are to publish daily reports of payments from N5m, monthly budget performance, quarterly and annual financial statements published on the OTP portal which can be accessed by all.

The APC enthused, “In the fight against public sector corruption, the OTP complements other initiatives such as the administration’s full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has increased the level of accountability and transparency in the financial resources of the government; stoppage of budget padding, contrary to what we witnessed throughout the 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pruning out thousands of ghost workers through stricter implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS).” Good!

But, should we now chant hurray that we have won the war against corruption? Far from it! The Chairman of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the NACS, Mr Andrew Gandu, lamented the slow pace of the monitoring and evaluation process of the NACS. The committee met in Abuja last week to map out strategies for monitoring and evaluating different Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) from early next year. It is hoped that this will yield positive dividends this time.

Besides, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, recently slammed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department for Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for illegally deducting N1.5trillion out of the N6.4trillion they generated in 2017.

In its audit report for 2017 released recently, the Auditor-General’s office noted that the NNPC generated N2.41 trillion but deducted N1.3 trillion before remitting the balance of N1.07 trillion into the federation account. The DPR generated N733.05 billion but deducted N26.77 billion before remitting the balance of N706 billion into the federation account. On its part, the FIRS generated N2.66 trillion but only paid about N2.45 trillion into the federation account. These deductions, Ayine said, violated Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.

In the MDAs, Ayine said several payments amounting to N26.6 billion were made with a total of 140 infractions in such payments. These MDAs made some expenditure without presenting payment vouchers contrary to the provisions of the Financial Regulation 601.

Awarding of contracts is another area where there are many infractions. According to Ayine, “The degree of violation of the Public Procurement Act ranges from ignoring due process, over-invoicing/contracts’ prices inflation, payments for contracts/services not executed and other forms of deviations from the Act.”

There could be many other infractions the Auditor-General is yet to unravel. Recently, the Senate reportedly refused to allow the Auditor-General audit its capital expenditure. What is the Senate hiding?

Ironically, the same Senate reportedly mandated its finance committee to probe the Central Bank of Nigeria over non-remittance of N20 trillion into the Federation Account. The CBN allegedly collected the amount as stamp duty from banks and other financial institutions from 2016 till date. As the Senate President put it, “I was under the impression that we had over N20trillion somewhere. It will interest you to know that we don’t even have N1trillion.”

It will interest the Senate President to also know that the security votes the presidency and governors collect every month are misused. Why the Buhari regime has not abolished these votes remains a matter for conjecture.

The Federal Government may pride itself as having ensured the conviction of certain corrupt ex-governors and some others. But it needs to purge itself of allegation of selective justice. Last week, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro (SAN) urged President Buhari to stop the selective anti-graft war. The NBA President is of the view that the subversion of justice by any means whatsoever amounts to extreme corruption.

Little wonder a new public survey released by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) indicates that corruption remains a serious problem in Nigeria despite government’s often touted commitment to eradicate it.

We need to emulate Algeria in our fight against corruption. In that North African country, citizens are not docile. They march to the streets to protest against the mismanagement of the country by the powers that be. Last April, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down amid nationwide protests against his regime.

The Algerian courts are also powerful. Last week, a court in the country convicted two former prime ministers and some senior ministers for corruption. The two former premiers are Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal. Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years while Sellal bagged 12 years for squandering public funds.

In all, Nigerians should see the fight against corruption as a collective one. It is not just for the government because government functionaries are not the ones suffering the pangs. Until we tackle it holistically and collectively, whatever we are doing now amounts to an exercise in grand deceit.     

Re: Onuoha Ukeh and ‘The Powers That Be’

Dear Casmir, in Nigeria the powers that be are those who trespass the maxims of equity. I am a Nigerian and an asset of state because I ignored my country’s money. Equity is my origin, my clan and my tribe. Whatever one sows he will reap.

  • Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Casmir, thanks for the beautiful review of Onuoha Ukeh’s book – ‘The Powers That Be’. About three years ago, he started publishing my contributions in his Friday column – Public Sphere. To me Onuoha Ukeh is ‘fela’ of journalism,’ a senior advocate of the masses. His pen is worth more than the best weapon of mass destruction. The book will serve as an indelible mark of his effort to fight impunity, injustice, hypocrisy, corruption, pretension & various sins of the affluent in this society. Send my congrats to him & let the masses be informed where to buy the book. 

  • Pharm Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

The man called Ukeh has reached the apex of his profession. His articles have changed so many narratives in journalism industry. He has paid his due as a journalist. His Friday articles are educative and informative. It is a book Nigerians should make effort to buy and read. It is reference and prediction point book. More power to his elbow.

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Dear Casy, Onuoha Ukeh is a great journalist, intellectual and prophet. All you have written about the man are real. Nigeria has become a paradox since the evil men removed Shagari’s govt in 1983. Since then till now, govt in power has destroyed the masses. We now have evil leadership and idiotic followership. Let me remind them that the society they abuse today must hunt their children tomorrow. My kudos to you and our son, Onuoha Ukeh. 

  • Eze Chima, Lagos, +2347036225495

Cas, there is Igbo adage that says what an elderly person sees sitting down, even if a child climbs iroko tree, he will not see it. APC is a strange bedfellow.  This is just a preamble, as Machiavelli advised a prince that the first step to consolidate his power is to first kill those who helped him to get the power. Igbo are the target. Allen Onyema is paying for his magnanimity; border closed; car mart ransacked; Kalu convicted; appointment zero just to incapacitate the Igbo. 2023 politics has just started.

  • Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884

Hello Casmir, I thank you for the incisive review and comments on the work done by Journalist Onuoha Ukeh.  I want to quote you – ” Nevertheless, the author’s resort to spiritualism or preaching reduces the impact of the message.” I beg to disagree with you! My opinion is that any work that does not refer to the Word of God, in one form or the other is incomplete. The spiritual world rules the physical space we see. Any Christian who does not preach or minister the Word to all religion, tribe, language, colour, race or creed is a baby or incomplete…

Casmir, Casmir, Casmir; please check yourself if you are in faith – do you worship God in truth and spirit? See Joshua 1:8. See 2 Peter 1:1-14. Better still attend Bible School if you have not done so. I recommend Word of Faith Bible Institute (WOFBI), Living Faith Church World Wide (Winners Chapel). Remain blessed!

  • Col. R.N. Oputa, Retd. Owerri, Imo State, regoputa@yahoo.com
  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 16, 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: