IT is really sad that the Nigerian ruling class has failed to realize that it is in their own-best interest and that of those supporting them in government circles, to ensure that the interest of the ‘majority’ is considered into the country’s political and economic calculations. “Power should speak the truth to itself to endure”. Failure to learn that ‘mass disaffection’ could lead to a violent eruption (that even military repression may not always contain), which could squander the remnants of what many now term Nigeria’s ‘fragile democracy.’ No doubt, corruption (especially in high places) has been the bane of Nigeria’s developmental progression. And times without number, the custodians of the nation’s resources have often reiterated their resolve to fight corruption at all levels. The question is; have they been winning the fight? Or are they overwhelmed by the fight? Or has the fight been ridiculed with gross ‘insincerity’ that has made grow more rather being reduced?
These are questions we wish to consider in looking at Nigeria’s long-fight against corruption, with special focus on the present administration. However, one fundamental truth and principle that practically explains where we are, what we are, and where we will be as a nation, is the fact that “the dominium usually assumes the (real) character of its ruler.” That is, every nation, state, society, family and entity usually assumes the character of its ruler/leader. For instance, Nigeria under Abacha is different from Nigeria under Obasanjo. Nigeria under Yar’Adua is different from Nigeria under Jonathan, and so on and so forth. And that is because the ‘character’ of these rulers/leaders is different from one another. And like an ‘unseen hand’, their individual ‘body language’ in the fight against corruption is different from one another. There are certain things you can do now in the Nigerian polity and practically get away with it, which you cannot ‘easily or readily’ do and easily get away with it in the time of some past leaders like Obasanjo or Yar’Adua.
And as far as we are concerned and without mincing words, it is as if the situation in Nigeria is getting worst with a very successive ruler/leader since the inception of Democratic rule in 1999. Rather than things getting better, they are getting worse. It is as if we are taking one step forward in some sectors of the economy and at the same two steps backward in most sectors of the economy, including the sectors where little progress are made. Even with all the different public and private probes often instigated by members of the National Assembly, to find out what went wrong in these sectors, there is still nothing tangible to show forth. Nigerians are yet to witness a comprehensive, well-deserved, prosecution of a serving or ex-public officials that were found wanting to have misappropriated public funds meant for the general good of Nigerians.
With the present administration as a classical example, never have we witnessed such number of incidents and insecurity that has led to the loss of thousands of innocent lives in the country’s democratic history. But that is not what we are looking at here. We are looking at the level of corruption and impunity in the current government that has practically rendered and made the Judiciary and anti-graft agencies as toothless bulldogs and laughing stock. Not to mention the witnessed broad day light robbery of electoral mandate and electoral fraud; perversion of justice; abuse and disregard for the rule of law; indiscipline and mediocrity of high proportions in public service delivery.
The one that bugs us most, which is the topic of discussion, is the level of corruptions and impunity that has been evident at all levels of governance since the inception of the present administration. When public office holders are allowed to go scot-free or merely given a slap on the wrist for stealing public funds meant for the general good of all, then the system is practically adding kerosene to the already burning fire. At least in time past, we have seen the prosecution and sentencing of an Inspector General of Police, former State Governors and some other high profile cases. Even though some may argue that back then, precisely Obasanjo’s time in office, such fight against corrupt public officials was ‘selective’, the fact still remains that “there was evident fight against corruption” to a considerable degree. This cannot be said of the present administration. That is why the EFCC of today cannot be compared to the EFCC of the past when Nuhu Ribadu was its Chairman. Why can’t our present political leaders fight corruption like the late Nelson Mandela of South-Africa and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana did when they were in government? At least the present government should locate the more than $49Billion (about N79Trillion), that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reported ‘missing’. Or explain the recently reported missing N40billion on rice importation. Or explain to Nigerians what the administration has been doing to the country’s depleting external reserves and excess crude account funds? Or at least prosecute those behind the fuel-subsidy scam that has practically been swept under the carpet. It is only then that the international community will start taking this administration seriously, as not paying lip-service to the fight against corruption.
Recently, it was reported that President Goodluck Jonathan had said during the kick-off of his Presidential campaign in Lagos, that “It is better to prevent corruption than chase culprits,” and that his government has put institutions in place to tackle graft. According to him, “there is no government that has put in place structures to tackle corruption like we have done in the past four years. It’s better to stop them from stealing your money than going after them when the money has been stolen. We have built a system that stop people from stealing the money. Fighting corruption was not just about arresting people, parading them on television and dumping them in prison. Our government will never engage in the illegality of arresting people without just cause.”
However, we cannot help but wonder how has the present administration ‘prevented’ (or is preventing) corruption in the country? Is this the reason this administration has been indifferent and lurk worm in chasing and prosecuting obvious corrupt government officials and people in high places? By saying the present government prefers to ‘prevent corruption’ than chasing culprits, what then is this government doing that would serve as ‘deterrence’ to others who intend to engage in high-profile corruption? Would they not focus on beating whatever ‘preventive measures’ (if there is any) the government has put in place, and steal as much as they can from public purse since they know the possibility of being chased after is very slim? Also, we do not believe the present government is correct by saying that “there is no government that has put in place structures to tackle corruption like they have done in the past four years.” What about the anti-graft agencies?
It is well known fact that one of the major achievement of former President Obasanjo, which has outlived his time in office and still very relevant today, was his being the only past leader that was able to establish (through the National Assembly), institutional structures/framework for the fight against corruption. Other past leaders like General Murtala Mohammed, General Mohammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon regime tried their best to fight corruption and indiscipline in government circles, but the moment these governments and their regimes were over, so does the war against corruption. But Obasanjo came in as a civilian president, and established two anti-graft agencies-the Economic and Financial Crimes Corruption (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and other related offences Commission (ICPC). So with this, even after Obasanjo left office years ago, the fight against corruption remained. The only problem is that the success or failure of these anti-graft agencies is largely dependent on the “willingness” of the government of the day and the cooperation of the judiciary, to honestly and holistically fight corruption without fear or favour.
Unfortunately, whether we agree with this or not; the present administration has failed in using the EFCC and the ICPC to adequately fight corruption in the country since it came on board. Even the ‘prevention of corruption’ the present government is talking about and using in their campaigns, can also be carried effectively by the EFCC and ICPC if given the free hand. During Obasanjo’s time in office, the mere mention of the name EFCC or ICPC makes people panic in fear (especially those guilty of corruption). But today, that high-regard for the anti-graft agencies is no more. Back then, Nigerians witnessed the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases against supposed ‘sacred cows’ in government, business and corporate circles. But all of that has changed now. And the evident ‘lack of will’ by the present government in the fight against corruption has trickled from the top and down to all the other agencies, arms, parastatals and Ministries of government.
Take the Federal Road Safety Corps Commission (FRSC) for instance; it can best be described as one of the most corrupt agencies in the country at the moment. The FRSC has been turned into a place where the relevant top authorities do whatever pleases them through their officers, against poor innocent motorists on Nigerian roads. The FRSC authorities exhibit ‘abuse of power’ with reckless and impunity simply because they know that no one at the top level can do them anything. The same sets of officers who are said to be corrupt are the ones now that are made to head sensitive Stations of the FRSC across the country. The ones in Delta State, specifically the FRSC Office along Orhuwhorun Road (DSC), Warri, are very good examples of what we are saying here. This is just a slice of the level of ‘indiscipline’ and ‘corruption’ that has pervaded every sector and agencies of the current administration. This also shows the level of ‘weakness’ the present government has when it comes to enforcing discipline and fighting corruption.
Like we said, we agree with the fact that the Obasanjo administration was said to have used these anti-graft agencies to fight some of his enemies, but the bottom line is that at least, there was some measure and considerable evidence of the fight against corruption in high places. It is absolutely different from the present administration where every dick and harry in government circles have developed the appetite to do whatever pleases them and go scot free.
Perhaps, that is why some months back, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Alhaji Waziri Tambuwal, deployed President Jonathan’s failure to act promptly to prosecute fraudulent cases diligently exposed by the National Assembly, as the bane of the blossoming corruption in the country is shameful. Worst still, Tambuwal said the anti-corruption agencies read the body language of the president and prosecute cases selectively. Otherwise, cases like the $6.8Billion fuel subsidy probe result, the Security and Exchange Commission probe, the clandestine and shady oil bloc deals in the Petroleum Sector and recently, the bullet-proof car purchase scandal and others should have been prosecuted by the executive arm of government with their agencies.
It is really sad to note that in all of this, all that the present administration has been known to do is to set up committees to either probe or look into them, but at the end of the day, nothing concrete comes out of such exercises. In fact, all that the Presidency could respond to the statements made by the Speaker back then, through President Jonathan’s Special Adviser, Dr, Reuben Abati, was that “the Jonathan administration is not going to fight corruption on the basis of mere speculations.” In other words, what the present administration is telling Nigerians is that everything we have heard and observe about the fuel subsidy scam, the pension scam etc, are ‘mere speculations’ as far as this administration is concerned. Abati also said that “the Presidency will not condone any act of proven corruption”. We are then forced to ask, what happened to all the high profile corrupt cases where compelling evidences were provided, like the ‘video’ and ‘tape’ recorded proofs provided on the $620,000 bribery allegation against Hon. Farouk Lawal and Otedola? Has all that been swept under the carpet? God help us in this nation.
In as much as the points raised by the Federal House of Representatives Speaker is very much valid, however, we would like to remind him that Nigerians find it appalling that the Nigerian National Assembly members are still the highest paid lawmakers in the world; when the Minimum Wage in the country is merely N18,000. We find it out of place to observe our public leaders in government circles earning millions and hundreds of millions of naira annually, when millions of Nigerians are living below one dollar (about N180) per day; when more than 60 percent of Nigerians do not have access to regular power supply. Even Nigerians that are privileged to earn a six digits salary figure are still ‘struggling’ to keep their heads afloat from sinking with the ‘high cost of living’. But if our economy is buoyant, and there is availability and affordability of food and basic social amenities, the issue of minimum wage will not arise in the first place. For everybody will be ‘comfortable enough’ with the much or little they earn.
The cross of the matter is that corruption is the major ‘sickness’ we have as a nation. And if we do not holistically cure this ‘sickness’, majority of the Nigerian citizenry will remain worst off. The Nigerian Government seriously needs to turn a new leave in its fight against corruption by being more accountable and transparent in handling public funds. This was how we were left speechless and in absolute shock when it was reported that the Federal Government on June 18, 2014, dropped a nine-count charge against Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Head of State Gen. Sanni Abacha, over alleged complicity in the theft of N446.3 billion during his father’s administration. What we find most appalling about the said Federal Government’s withdrawal of the suit against Mohammed, was that there was no concrete explanation given to justify the suit withdrawal, other than what they described as “fresh facts” that emerged. But the citizens of Nigeria, whose public funds is what is at stake here, were not told what these “fresh facts” are. What can we call this? How would the international community look at us a nation that claims to be fighting corruption, when such celebrated cases like the one against Mohammed Abacha, are practically swept under the carpet with legal technicalities and jargons? We find it really sad that this is allowed to happen in this present administration and nobody is raising their eyebrow or ask questions.
It is rather unfortunate that despite the high level of corruption evident in government circles across the federation and the regular cry out by the Federal Government and anti-graft agencies regarding their pose to fight corruption headlong in the country, Nigerians are yet to witness an appropriate prosecution and adequate prison sentencing of ex-government and serving government officials or top government functionaries, particularly former state governors and their cronies. It is either they are given just few months to remain in custody while their corruption cases are dilly-dallied, after which they are allowed to go scot free, to go and continue enjoying their ill-go then wealth, or their trials are delayed, outrageously struck out and swept under the carpet. This has made many to have lost faith and trust on the anti-graft agencies and the Nigerian Judiciary, considered to be the last hope of the common man in getting social justice and equity. Why is it so hard for corruption cases involving high profile officials and top elites, to be dealt with the full wrath of the law like we see in other developed countries? Why can’t the current Nigerian government and its anti-graft agencies seriously frown at and abhor fraudulent practices in government circles like we see happen in other countries like USA and UK?
It has also been observed generally that the present administration of President Jonathan does not respond/reply constructive letters written to him concerning national issues. It is either such letters are never brought to the attention of the President or he simply does not care. Whereas, political leaders like President Barack Obama, who can be regarded as the busiest President in the world, still find time to reply letters written to the White House. We can testify to these facts based on our past and present experiences in the scheme of things.
In Nigeria’s social – political index, corruption probably ranks highest. This has continued to be a major trauma for government and other stakeholders in the business of enthroning ‘accountability’ and ‘good governance’. More worrisome is that corruption has reached a cancerous state. And the culture of impunity has practically rendered useless, whatever fight being mustered against corruption. Another reason why it is difficult to adequately fight corruption in Nigeria is that our system of justice, even at the best of time, is protracted, it is delayed. We have a system that has not been able to deliver justice, even in civil matters, not to talk of complex fraud cases. Also, the Nigerian Law Courts can be said to be ‘more active’ during past regimes like that of Obasanjo, than we have presently. The issue of granting inappropriate court injunctions to restrain or prevent anti-graft agencies from prosecuting/arresting corrupt public or private officials, have adversely affected the fight against corruption. Also, the issue of prolonged and delayed adjudication of appropriate justice concerning corrupt cases has made Nigerian’s and indeed, the international community to lose faith in the country’s judicial system’s ability and capacity to adequately fight corruption.
Nigerians will not forget in a hurry, when some months back, a High Court at the Federal Capital Territory sentenced a former Assistant Director in the Police Pensions Office, Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf, to two years imprisonment with an option of fine N750, 000.00, after he admitted that he connived with others to steal N23 billion that should have been used to pay retirement benefits. The judgment had attracted series of comments/complaints from Nigerians who feel that the punishment was too insignificant when compared to the weight of the crime committed. Nigerians including us were outraged by the verdict given to. Mr. Yakubu Yusuf, one of the eight civil servant accused of stealing N40 billion from Nigeria Police Pension Fund. He had pleaded guilty for stealing N23 billion, and the judge, Abubakar Talba, sentenced him to two years imprisonment with an option of paying just N750, 000. That was the reason for the national outrage. But in the din of the uproar, a lot of us missed the profound message Mr. Yakubu Yusuf was sending the nation!
He glaringly told Nigerians, “I only stole N23 billion. Government has already seized my 32 property!” In other words, he stole “only N23 billion” when he could have stolen more! It was out of patriotism you might say, that he decided to limit himself to N23 billion; chicken change, you must agree. After all, the money was there to be stolen and he stole only N23 billion. And “my 32 property” seized (wrongfully) by government were proceeds of the “only N23 billion” he stole. So, why should he be crucified? Why the hullabaloo? This is the exact picture Mr. Yusuf was painting to Nigerians by making such outrageous statement. Perhaps, Mr. Yusuf is of the impression that if Nigerians had made more noise over his exposed theft, he could refer us to the series of scandals that went on in the National Assembly and challenge us to show him one person that has been convicted. He could even remind us of the rot in the NNPC. He could point to the trillions of Naira budgeted annually that gets us nothing in return. He could even recall the Permanent Secretary who, in the early months of Obasanjo’s administration, stole “only N400 million and got away with just nolle prosequi.
What else could give Mr. Yusuf the audacity to express that he only stole N25 billion, of money that was readily available and waiting to be stolen, and the nation is outraged? We believe the said judge appreciated the generosity of Mr. Yusuf and reciprocated his ‘goodwill’ with a ‘handshake’ instead of a ‘handcuff’. Have we ever stopped to wonder why it is possible in Nigeria for someone to steal N1 million of public fund, and he/she is not found out? He or she goes on to steal N10million, and then N200million and so on, and yet the system does not find out? Obviously, there is something fundamentally wrong with our country that the Yusufs of this world are pointing out to us; Nigeria, as presently structured under the present administration, can only sustain corruption!
If concrete efforts are not made by the custodians of the numerous human and material resources evident in the continent, to close the increasing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, the rich and the poor, the government and the governed; then the goal of addressing the level of poverty in the country will continue to be a day dream.

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