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E-L-U-M-E-L-(II)

Well, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is holding, Dr. Aliyu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Power and other suspects in…

Well, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is holding, Dr. Aliyu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for Power and other suspects in the case, is still investigating the matter. When the EFCC finally arraigns the suspects in court, Umar and the rest of us would know for sure who did what. For now Dr. Aliyu is held more for what he refused to do; or failed to do; than for what he did. At the time the crime was committed, for instance, he was both permanent secretary and de-facto minister of the power ministry.

He was supposed to be the custodian of public funds in the ministry. The fact that he failed to protect public interest entrusted to him, makes him liable; whether he allowed what happened to happen because he was an interested party, or because he was incompetent, or both, are among the things that would be determined by the court. Among the questions he would be required to answer would be: as perm sec and acting minister didn’t he know that a contract of over N6 billion was above his approval limit? Was he not aware that the contract was not advertised, not to talk of following other due processes as prescribed by the Procurement Act?

Unlike Ibrahim Umar of Badarawa, Kaduna however, many Nigerians, this writer among them, are appalled more by the phenomenon of Ndudi Elumelu, Chairman House Committee on Power than by the involvement of a regular Nigerian civil servant in corruption.

Who doesn’t know that corruption is first and foremost a white collar crime before it trickles down to blue collar level? Secondly, the regime of late General Murtala Muhammed had provided sufficient evidence that the civil service has been a den of corruption for the past four decades. And what about the physical evidence? In every state capital, the most glittering and most expensive houses and mansions, and other luxuries of life are owned and enjoined by civil servants of varying degrees and stations: they could be local government treasurers or cashiers, or permanent secretaries at the state or federal level of the civil service. Or, they could be officials of the Nigeria on Customs Service. But with Elumelu, Nigerians have every reason to worry seriously about the future of their country. Is Elumelu a representative sample of his generation? Is his behavior, in all its ramifications, a reflection of the general trend in attitude among our legislators?

The tempting answer is yes and yes. Some weeks ago, I met Rep Rabe Nasir from Katsina. He told me, apologetically that he used to enjoy reading BarkByte, but after I’d written an article titled “House of Rogues” in relation to the House of Representatives car purchase (scandal), he stopped enjoying this column; a polite way perhaps, of telling me that he no longer reads the column. He was bitter, he said, because “Garba Deen you generalized unfairly; not all of us in the House are corrupt; I know for example that I am not corrupt and I do not support corruption in any form…”

Although I was meeting Rabe for the first time, I knew his name; in addition to having a rich security background, he was also the former personal assistant to Malam Nuhu Ribadu, former boss of the EFCC. I was in the company of Mukhtar Sirajo, former Media Adviser to Senator Ahmed Makarfi when the later was governor in Kaduna state. After discovering Honourable Rabe’s pedigree, we exchanged knowing looks with Mukhtar: the guy had to be genuine, if he was corrupt, he certainly would have joined his boss in exile by now. I was compelled to apologize to him for my generalization.

But now I am not too sure if I should not have captioned this piece “House of Rogues (II)”. Look at it this way. In the last ten years of unbroken civilian administration in Nigeria (as against democracy), the personal fortunes of in  federal legislators in particular had grown exponentially, by comparison the living conditions of the people they represent, legally or illegally, had fallen just as dramatically. And they don’ give a damn!

Second, you only need to seat down with an honest member of the Executive Arm of government (a minister, say, or GMD of the NNPC) to know the shameless manner our legislators go from office to office, from one CEO to the other, begging, threatening and blackmailing for money. Even this current scandal was predicated on what is known as ‘constituency project’; or pork as the Americans more honestly call it.

Thirdly, the question has to be asked, loud and clear: “where does the leadership of the House and the Senate stand in all this mess?” The Rural Electrification Agency projects that are to be used as vehicles for this latest multi-billion naira scam were to be located mainly in four states: Delta; where Elumelu comes from; Kogi; where Agbane, Elumelu’s Senate counterpart, comes from; Niger; where Representative Jibo, Elumelu’s Deputy, comes from; and Ogun; where, yes you got it, the Speaker of the House of R., Dimeji Bankole comes from. Was this a coincidence, was it deliberate? What criteria were used to select where to locate those projects?

And then of course the question the EFCC is most desperate to know: those 158 companies that got those juicy contracts at the expense of one of the regime’s cardinal agenda, The Rule of Law; who owns them?

And finally, where is the so-called Integrity Group? From the onset, I knew it was a suicidal choice of nomenclature. Now the integrity of the House is at stake, and they keep quiet. What do they want us to call them now: hypocrites, liars or…? As for Honourable Rabe Nasir, I still believe he is among the few exceptions to the rule; but I have withdrawn my apology all the same.