Details of corruption allegations emerging from government ministries, departments and agencies are shocking to Nigerians, who are consequently swooning against the fact that the Presidency of Bola Ahmed Tinubu is still very young, barely seven months old; and besides, the entire Nigerians are on serious belt-tightening measures arising from the harsh economy and high cost of living.
It is certainly not a time that anyone, particularly state officials, should be perceived to be frittering public resources away or enriching themselves unjustly.
Current allegations of corruption, which are being investigated, involve a former minister, who worked with former President Muhammadu Buhari. They also involve a current minister in the same office. President Tinubu has an opportunity to show Nigerians that his administration has zero tolerance for corruption, and that it is willing and able to be transparent and accountable in his government’s activities. On that note, the investigations he has ordered for all the allegations should be thorough; and the outcome should be dissipated publicly such that culprits are prosecuted diligently and if found guilty, sanctioned in accordance with the extant law.
Last week, President Tinubu had ordered the suspension of the National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Social Investment Programme Agency (NSIPA), Halima Shehu, in connection with the movement of N17 billion from the NSIPA account to some suspicious accounts within two weeks. She was taken in for questioning by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Extant legal provisions bar movement of monies from public accounts into private accounts.
A former minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, was also invited for questioning over allegations of mismanaging a staggering N37.1 billion during her tenure. The sum was allegedly laundered by officials of the ministry, which she headed. She too is telling EFCC officials her involvement in the misappropriation.
Not done, Betta Edu, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, now suspended from office by the president, was also invited by financial crimes officers for ordering payment of N585.2 million into a private account, among other infractions. A letter, which she purportedly authored, requested the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer the sum to the account of one Oniyelu Bridget as grant for vulnerable groups. The AGF acknowledged receipt of the letter from the minister, but said she refused to act on it.
While the allegations remain under investigation, Nigerians shudder at the magnitude of the revelations, especially in a government that is yet to clock one year in office. The social media is awash with details of mindboggling sums that are moved in brazen and reckless manner, at a time suffering Nigerians are reeling under government’s highhanded economic reforms. And it is worse that it is the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management that was set up to alleviate poverty and hardship in the land that is now being investigated for corruption.
This brings to memory the campaign slogan by former President Muhammadu Buhari and members of All Progressives Congress (APC), including Tinubu, that if Nigeria did not kill corruption, corruption would kill Nigeria. That was the rallying stunt of APC in their bid to woo voters in 2015. Buhari was marketed as Mr Incorruptible, the one who would clean the Augean Stable and rid Nigeria of the odious image of a ‘fantastically corrupt country,’ no thanks to former British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Sadly, Buhari did not leave Nigeria any better than he met it. With the report of the Special Investigator that probed activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), during the Buhari years now out, Nigerians are still struggling to comprehend the quantum of sleaze that went on under Mr Integrity.
At this point, this administration should go the whole hog to investigate other departments and agencies whose activities blatantly short-circuited the due processes established in extant laws. If the avowed mantra of APC at inception was truly to kill corruption, Tinubu should summon rare courage to do so where Buhari had failed.
For instance, the sums that were wasted in floating that misadventure called Nigeria Air under former aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, should be investigated. The activities of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited in the last eight years should be brought under public scrutiny.
President Tinubu should remember his promise to stamp out corruption in his Renewed Hope Agenda document. In that manifesto, Mr President said: “We will continue the work of the current (Buhari) administration in reforming the civil service to fight corruption, reduce bureaucracy, streamline agencies and decrease inefficiency and waste.”
Let it be known that this administration has not even commenced the task of fighting corruption and closing the leakages as Mr President promised. In the first place, there is little that is ennobling to emulate in the last administration as far as fighting corruption is concerned. Let this administration de-couple from the past sloganeering and empty promises; to show courage and tame corruption. Let the Tinubu government distinguish itself by enthroning transparency and accountability.
All those who are linked to the ongoing scandal and investigations, no matter how remote, should be thoroughly drilled in a transparent manner. Let there be no gagging or closet investigation in a manner that will delay or deny justice to any party.
The investigation and trial of the former governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, leaves so much to be desired. He was hounded in detention before the Private Investigator was hired. The same allegations that are contained in the leaked report of the Investigator, which had not been released officially, had all been in the public domain several months ago. It had been a media trial all the way, which at the end of the day could harm and abridge the substance of the case(s) and put a question mark on the government’s anti-corruption campaign.
As usual, the social media is agog with unverifiable and salacious details regarding the Humanitarian Ministry and the NSIPA affair. We call on the EFCC and other investigators to rise above sensationalism and unveil substantial evidence that will expose and punish criminality.
Corruption is killing Nigeria. Let President Tinubu, the Judiciary and National Assembly rescue Nigeria. Enough of mimicry and grandstanding in the guise of fighting corruption.