Anti-corruption war and honesty of purpose

Governance is about building public trust and goodwill between the leadership and the people. It is about telling the truth and being clear on the vision and mission of governance so as to enable the people to buy into the vision. Collectively, the leadership and the people achieve national goals and set standards. It is also about leadership by example and demonstrating unwavering commitment to legal and policy standards. Effective leadership is also concerned with the rule of law and its due process; no one indeed is above the law and certainty of outcomes of prescribed citizen’s behavior. It is also about the basic concept of justice which requires treating like cases alike and unlike cases differently.

It is within the foregoing context that this discourse analyses the ongoing war on corruption of the Buhari administration. Nigerians have shown by their votes and conduct that they are tired of corruption as it has been stated to be one of the major factors holding the nation down and promoting underdevelopment. The Buhari administration promised to fight corruption to a standstill and without fear or favour to anyone or any set of persons. Thus, corruption was to be fought on a non-discriminatory basis and every offender would have their due day in court or a tribunal that determines their innocence or guilt.

However, recent events in the polity on the anti-corruption drive have given a majority of Nigerians great cause for concern. It appears that some persons are above the law and are not subject to the ordinary laws of the land. That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Department of State Services, two agencies of the Federal Government, could be involved in a public spat about the invitation of former officials of the later to come and answer charges is such a big shame. It was simply a question of officials of the two agencies pulling guns at each other, blocking the public’s right of way and I dare say, disturbing the public peace because the logic of the rule of law could not be followed. What is so special about former officials of the DSS going to respond to EFCC’s invitation? Maybe, it is the way the EFCC has simply replaced investigation with long periods of detention of suspects hiding under the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

 On a side note, it needs to be clearly stated that detaining suspects for long periods of time adds nothing to the investigations in terms of providing evidence of probative value. Also, the poor relationship existing between the leadership of the agencies could have accounted for this stand-off.

Clearly, this is not the way to fight corruption and it does not show leadership that could be replicated. What one finds most disturbing is that since this event happened, nothing has been heard from the President to who the leadership of the two agencies report to. Some would say that silence is golden. In this case, silence cannot be golden. A definite statement in favour of the rule of law needs to be heard from the President. The impression created is that no one is in charge and the leaderships of the two agencies are answerable to no one.

The ongoing hearings in the National Assembly over the controversy surrounding “Mainagate”, where Nigerians have been regaled with all manner of tales, is a sad testament to the level of depravity that masqueraded and still masquerades as governance in the country. In the public domain, emanating from the hearings is a tale of issues from the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the leadership of security agencies and even Abdulrasheed Maina himself. The impression is about lack of coordination, and governance in silos where every agency is running its own “show” without engaging others. At best, information from the proceedings creates the impression of a jungle where there are no rules.

Every day, Nigerians are regaled with recovery of looted funds and property running into trillions of naira. However, the little from the humungous recoveries that was budgeted to be used for funding the 2017 federal budget did not actually materialise. If we have recovered a trillion as the authorities would make us believe, why is it difficult to use N500bn from the said recoveries to fund the budget? Consistency is needed in statements from public officials so that credibility will be the watchword of governance. A situation where what is stated by public officials is found to be different from reality erodes the credibility of governance and sets the society on a free fall.

Some months ago, the allegations over the mismanagement of funds, breach of procurement rules and repudiation of sound governance principles came from a  very highly placed official, being the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu. The Senate indicated its intention to probe the allegations, set up a committee and gave the committee a deadline to report back. Thereafter, media reports carried front page headlines accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of intervening and giving instructions to the leadership of the Senate that the probe should not see the light of the day. Surprisingly, the President, whether on his own or through his spokespersons, made no efforts to disclaim the headline news. Over two months down the line, the probe has not started and seems that it will never start. Nigerians will also recall the “grass-cutting” controversy of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir lawal, and the reluctance of the anti-corruption agencies since the story broke out to effectively engage the suspects.

Nigerians are simply demanding honesty, transparency and accountability in the war against corruption. Let no one embellish the facts; let Nigerians get to hear it as it is. Nigerians also need to hear about the challenges related to the war against corruption so that public discourse can be engendered on how to overcome these challenges. Corruption should never be used as a weapon of blackmail. Insinuations, media trials and ideas about “corruption fighting back” will not win the war. Painstaking and forensic investigations are needed as a basis to earn convictions for big and organised corruption. Tell Nigerians about actual recoveries. No one should be above the law and the impression should not be created that there are sacred cows. Nigerians will always support a fair and decent war on corruption based on the rule of law. Otherwise, we may end up playing to the gallery and satisfying some sentiments; but at the end of the day, we leave corruption unscratched and intact.

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