Unending Corruption in High Places

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Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd) was elected president in 2015 largely based on his supposedly anti-corruption profile. But corruption has become the order of the day with him and his APC government. Indeed, state officials corrupt enrichment has become more prevalent under this regime.

Nigeria ranked at the 126th position in the 2015 Transparency International’s Corruption Index. The country’s position on this Index kept sliding and when the 2019 Index was released in January, it occupied the 146th position out of 180 countries.

When this year’s ranking would be done, the position will be worse. In recent months, exposés of large-scale thieving from the public treasury keep coming out, week after week. At the beginning of July Mr Ibrahim Magu was sacked as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) boss for looting N35bn of recovered loot, apart from accrued bank interests and other instances of bribery.

It should be recalled that there were reports of Mr Magu’s fraudulent character before he was appointed acting chair of the EFCC. This was one of the reasons given by the senate for refusing to confirm his appointment, twice. But the president insisted on keeping him in acting capacity despite a letter from his government’s secret police to the senate saying Magu would be “a liability to the anti-corruption fight of the present administration.”

Nigerians had not gotten over this shocking news when allegations of even more stealing in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) emerged. N81.5bn was claimed to have been spent on spurious items between 29 October 2019 and 31 May 2020. The plot of the NDDC drama of the absurd thickened when the minister of the Niger Delta, Mr Godswill Akpabio appeared at a public hearing of the House of Reps committee on Niger Delta inquiring into the allegations.

He publicly declared that members of the National Assembly were major beneficiaries of (obviously questionable, inflated) contracts issued by the Commission. As he was about to spill more beans, Mr Thomas Ereyitomi, Chair of the committee was heard on live TV desperately saying “”It’s ok Honourable Minister. It’s ok, it’s ok. It’s ok Honourable Minister. It’s ok, don’t talk again, off your mic.”

Mr Akpabio was facing a N108bn corruption investigation by the EFCC from when he was a PDP governor, when Maj-Gen Buhari appointed him as minster, after his defection to the APC. There were widespread demonstrations in the Niger delta at the time. But Buhari insisted on having this known crook as head of that “juicy” ministry.

Barely a week or two after this sickening display of the band of thieves in government rubbing how they were stealing us blind together in our face, another larger case of corruption took the front burner.

Alpha Beta, a tax consultancy firm owned by Mr Bola Tinubu, the unofficial “leader” of the APC and former governor of Lagos state was involved in a N100bn scam of unpaid taxes. SimmonsCooper Partners, a law firm owned by Prof (Pastor) Yemi Osinbajo, the vice-president (and attorney general of Lagos state when Tinubu was governor) was complicit in this fraud.

And in the first week of August, Ms Sadiya Farouq, the minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development came out to say her ministry had spent “just” about N523.3m on the federal government’s school feeding program, in just three states, during the lockdown. This was in response to news reports that the ministry spent N13.5bn per month.

Apart from the tendency of government officials to lie, which makes it difficult to ascertain that the news report she “debunked” were false, there is no evidence to confirm that any amount actually got to the families of children at home during the confinement. From the beginning, the “home grown school feeding programme” had been more of a racket for settling party loyalists in different states, even before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mr Bashir Abubakar, an assistant comptroller-general of customs who was hailed for rejecting a $412,000 bribe from tramadol dealers two years ago was disgraced out of the service at the beginning of August. Officially, his sack was for negligence.

But news reports have it that he was sacked for leading a raid on the warehouse of a suspected rice smuggler in Daura, Maj-Gen Buhari’s hometown, on a tip that there were bags of illegally imported rice there. The rice smuggler, some reports say, might have been fronting for Maj-Gen. Buhari.

The stink of corruption clearly goes to the very top of government. But it is one which pervades every single aspect of elite politics and business, including in “legalised” ways. For example, the amount of money which governors receive as “security votes” outweighs the combined annual budgetary provisions for the army and the police, according to the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).

Transparency International revealed the figures behind “these secretive, unaccounted-for, cash expenditures” in a study it conducted in 2018. They “add up to over $670 million (N241.2 billion) annually”.

These, like the monies being pilfered on a near daily basis by government officials from the local government councils to the big pot of the federal government, could significantly contribute to funding free quality healthcare and education for the working masses.

The bosses in business are also stealing from us, apart from their direct exploitation of our labour power. In 2019, the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which uses public money to buy up debts from ailing banks (which it is then supposed to recover), informed that it was being owed N5tn this was 60% of that year’s federal budget. And 67% of these debts were owed by just 20 individuals which included Ifeanyi Ubah, Wale Babalakin, Jimoh Ibrahim, Josephine Kuteyi and Chimaroke Nnamani.

It is high time working-class people say enough is enough. We must stop corruption in its tracks. The businesses and properties of corrupt business (wo)men and politicians must be confiscated and put to use for public good. But as we have clearly seen, including with the looting of recovered loot in the EFCC, it is impossible to rely on the governments and agencies of the elites to stamp out corruption.

We must fight for the fullest transparency in all governments and big businesses financial dealings and monitor the appropriation of public funds to reduce corrupt practices. But ultimately, it will take a government of the working people, by the working people for the working people to bring an end to systemic corruption and make sure that public funds are used by us to improve our lives and working conditions.

The workers’ government, with democratic accountability to the grassroots of working people can be installed only with revolutionary system change. Corruption is written into the DNA of capitalism. We must overthrow this corrupt, exploitative system and establish a socialist society.

by Yusuf Lawal

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