Celebration of corruption

Last Sunday, Dr Doyin Okupe once again did what he does best-insulting Nigerians and assaulting their sensibilities. After months of jamborees around a nation at war by TAN, a body suspected to be an assemblage of government contractors, to celebrate President Jonathan as the best leader our nation has ever produced, the government decided to set aside its temporary setback on the battle front, roll out the drums to celebrate some of its recent victories in its war against corruption. According to Okupe, these success are to be measured in terms of redistribution of billions of naira through government improvement on the “the old corrupt system of government direct procurement and distribution of fertilizer” and  the “nation’s movement from its 144th position on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index last year to 136th position this year”.

The problem however is that many Nigerians seem to share the views of Adewale Maja-Pearce who in a piece titled. “The Nigerian Status Quo” written for the New York Times on November 16, that“The current Nigerian government is widely seen as the most corrupt since independence from Britain in 1960”. Everything President Jonathan has done in the last six years seems to reinforce this view. In fact for many, who have not only watched helplessly as few greedy politicians and their fronts confiscate our national patrimony, but also witnessed the imposition of economic policies which have failed in the West where there are rules on a people that operate without rules; or where the rules are violated by government where they exist, government is an accomplice.

Unfortunately for Okupe, this feeling cuts across party lines. Aminu Tambuwal, a PDP member until few weeks ago, is for instance on record as saying that  President  Jonathan’s “body language” did not indicate that  he had the political will  to stem  corruption in the country. He had then decried Jonathan’s penchant for setting up committees to probe corruption allegations instead of allowing the statutory bodies set up by law such as the EFCC, the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and other-related Offences Commission) and the Code of Conduct Bureau to do their job. He had then cited the oil subsidy and Securities and Exchange Commission scandals, the Pension scam as well as the ‘Oduaghate’, to buttress his allegation of Jonathan’s perceived paying of lip-service to the war against graft. Of course, sycophants surrounding the president trivialized the serious issue by asking “Is he (Tambuwwal) now a sorcerer that he now goes about reading people’s body language?”

David Mark, the Senate President betrayed his frustration in the celebrated pension scam case. Mark had asked the President who was suspected to be shielding Maina to ‘choose between maina and the Senate’. And on John Yakubu who embezzled N27.2billion and got reprieve after paying a fine of N750, 000, David Mark had observed: “for any living human being to have stolen the money of those who have laboured for this country, I think it is only God who can decide their fate”.

And not too long ago, deeply troubled Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, the senate majority leader told his subdued colleagues on the floor of the Upper House, that he was sure none of them could have imagined the level of decadence in our society. He then gave a personal testimony. According to him, his old father, a retired justice of the appeal court had authorized one of his sons to sign for his pension. The young man was made to sign for the over N7 million boldly written against his father’s name but was paid N5 million. The N2 million which he described as ‘blood money’ was forcefully taken as bribe by government officials. “If that could happen to a retired justice of Nigerian Court of Appeal whose son by the grace of God, is the majority leader of the Nigerian senate, the plight of lesser beings could be better imagined”, he had moaned

Okupe perhaps also thinks Nigerians cannot appreciate the reason their leader is often treated with disdain by Western leaders and African countries that once looked up to us for direction has been on account of his inability to tackle corruption. Except those who live by lying to the president, Nigerians know President Jonathan has been captured by fuel subsidy fraudsters, armoured car scammers, and beneficiaries of government import waivers who import the labour of other societies to the detriment of our jobless youths. President Jonathan made his choice. And this he has reinforced by his policies in the last six years.

First let us start with the pension scam. All attempts to bring sanity to the pension system have been sabotaged by the presidency. For instance the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration spent four months to investigate the alleged mismanagement of N469bn pension funds.  On June 20, 2012, it submitted a report establishing the diversion of N273.9billion between 2005 and 2011. It also discovered in December 2012 another N195bn fresh pension fraud.

Senator Aloysius Etok, the chairman of the pension probe panel also discovered that Abdulrasheed Maina spent N1billion screening 29 pensioners, another N8 million on a weekly basis on 38 security officers guarding him and was also found to have forged his transfer letter from Borno State. The man refused to honour six different invitations from the Senate which prompted the senate president to issue a warrant of arrest. While moving around with police escort, accompanying the president to welcome foreign dignitaries, Deputy Police Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba said – “We have not seen Maina. He is still a wanted man; anyone with information about him should please contact us”. Just as princess Oduah was part of the president’s delegation to Jerusalem shortly after ‘Oduahgate’ scandal; Senators Olubunmi Adetunmbi and Enyinnaya Abaribe have claimed Maina was in the entourage of the president trips to some foreign countries. For Jonathan, friendship takes precedence over the nation.

But friends turn foes when he is challenged. That was the fate of the former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi following his letter to the President alleging that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had failed to remit $49.8bn, to the Federation Account. The figure was later scaled down to $20bn. The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala later admitted that at least $10 billion remains unaccounted for, and explained that President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a forensic investigation into the missing money. The race for 2015 has eclipsed all that.  Sanusi the harbinger of tales considered unpalatable by government has been shoved out of office. In NNPC, it is business as usual.

And to further confirm that another name for the Jonathan presidency is corruption, we can take another look at the fuel subsidy scandal. The actual budget expenditure on subsidy for both petrol (PMS) and House Hold Kerosene, in 2008 was only N346.7b .The major actors were four companies along with NNPC. The four became 140 by 2011 under Jonathan. As against N245 billion Appropriated  in 2011, N2, 657.087 trillion was paid with much of the amount  not for consumed PMS but shared by government officials and PDP stalwarts including those who did not import a pint of fuel. Okupe told us we should praise the president who in an election year allowed the sons of his party’s current and immediate past chairmen taken to court for their alleged involvement in the fuel subsidy scam.

That they have not been successfully prosecuted, the president claims were because ‘the wheel of justice grinds slowly in our environment’. But the same wheels were energized to secure justice for Boni Haruna in four days after seven years grilling by EFCC to pave the way for his ministerial appointment. In the case of Ayo Fayose, after 52 court appearances and months of detention by EFCC, between 2006 and 2014, the same wheels were disabled to ensure he became governor without first ascertaining his eligibility as an impeached former governor.

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