Since 2015, Nigeria’s Corruption Index Ranking by Transparency International has continued to deteriorate. A recent Country Report on Nigeria by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labour states that massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption currently affects all levels of government and the security services. In addition, a World Bank Report alluded to “staggering sums” unaccounted for as a result of sharp practices in fuel subsidy payments and other major government expenditures.
As if to confirm the veracity of these claims, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, has been suspended from office and detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He allegedly participated in fraud of about N80 billion.
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It’s instructive to note that prior to becoming Accountant-General, Idris worked in the Petroleum Trust Fund, National Poverty Eradication Programme, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development all of which have been involved in financial scandals.
There is no denying that treasury looting continues unabated. If truth be told, the most brazen and mind-boggling acts have been perpetrated by those appointed to office and shielded by the current administration.
It’s become an annual ritual for the Auditor-General of the Federation to report the failure of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) to render timely audited accounts, retire unspent funds; and remit revenues. He also annually reports the spending of funds over statutory limits, award of contracts without due process and even quite ludicrously payments for unexecuted contracts!
Rather than aggressively address these issues this administration prefers to place the nation further into debt by continuously borrowing. There is no escaping the truth that there is negligible effort to properly account for previous borrowing or instill probity and accountability into governance. Alas the anti-corruption war is being lost.
Nigerians have severally complained that the EFCC is far more adept at media trial of suspects than at successful prosecutions. An inordinate number of their high-profile prosecutions have been thrown out due to substandard prosecution. There are suspicions that this bungling isn’t accidental. If it isn’t intentional, then it reflects an unacceptable deficiency in comprehending the differences between what constitutes actionable evidence of financial crimes in courts of law, and what constitutes mere circumstantial speculation and suspicion.
From its inception, critics pointed out that the EFCC was poorly structured to properly investigate and successfully prosecute high-level financial crimes. Its mandate was too wide as it should be solely concerned with public funds. Its staffing should comprise accountants, quantity surveyors, computer analysts, statisticians, and legal luminaries who would specialise in asset and project valuations, accounts auditing, and successful timely prosecution of financial cases. Instead the Commission has evolved into a semi-paramilitary organisation more adept at carrying out arrests, than successfully investigating and prosecuting financial crimes which require a high level of intellect. The EFCC recently posted a message on Facebook threatening retribution to the corrupt, claiming that every looter is a wicked soul and will find no peace. Nigerians aren’t impressed, because they have heard it all before.
In 2007 the then EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu ranted and threatened to jail corrupt governors immediately they left office and their immunity expired. It turned out to be all talk and little substance.
A new approach is required if real progress is to be made in stemming corrupt practices and incessant treasury looting. The war against corruption is more likely to be won by prevention, quick detection, and expedited successful prosecution, than by raining curses! Its’ evident government needs to overhaul its feedback and control systems. With elections on the horizon, Nigerians eagerly look forward to effective leadership with zero tolerance for corruption.
It’s imperative the incoming administration addresses preventing corruption by appointing only people of social conscience. The paucity of morality and ethics in office holders appointed and reappointed since 2015 is a poor reflection of this administration’s recruitment and selection processes. Undeniably, President Buhari’s tenure will be defined not by its achievements, but by its failure to either control burgeoning insecurity, or prevent unrestrained treasury looting.
The incoming administration is not only about whoever becomes president; far more important is the appointment of the right caliber of patriotic individuals into top positions in key MDA’s. Since 2015, there have been far too many cases of allegations of high-level corruption by top level political appointees.
Retired DIG of Police, Parry Osayande, recently called for re-integration of the EFCC back into the police force as part of the fraud squad, and creation of a new agency specifically mandated to investigate and prosecute public officers and political office holders who fail to abide by extant government financial regulations. Under the current administration, the likes of Ahmed Idris got re-appointed after the expiration of his tenure as did the former service chiefs.
Whosoever becomes the next president will obviously want to reward his supporters, but they should bear in mind that the anti-corruption war can only be won if they don’t appoint or re-appoint those who will disappoint.