For the integrity of the government and the country, President Goodluck Jonathan should address the issues in the latest corruption allegations against his administration and not try to appeal to political sentiments, writes Vincent Obia
Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal on Monday alleged that President Goodluck Jonathan was indirectly aiding corruption in the country. Tambuwal bemoaned what he called Jonathan’s unenthusiastic attitude towards the prosecution of clear corruption cases involving members and friends of his government, saying, “By the action of setting up different committees for straightforward cases, the president’s body language doesn’t tend to support the fight against corruption.”
Among corruption cases the speaker cited to buttress his allegation are the N225 million BMW armoured cars scandal involving the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, the fuel subsidy scandal, the pension scam, and the alleged mismanagement of trillions of naira from private citizens by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Tambuwal said the National Assembly had investigated most of the cases and come out with reports that the government could work with in a sincere fight against corruption. But rather than use the reports, the Jonathan government chose to set up its own inquests that ended up being a mere soft-landing for the indicted persons, particularly friends of the administration, Tambuwal alleged.
The allegation by the speakers coincided with a revelation by the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, that $49.8 billion from the proceeds of crude oil export expected to be lodged in the apex bank by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation was withheld by the corporation. The amount represents about 76 per cent of the total crude oil revenues from January 2012 to July 2013.
There was yet another allegation by the All Progressives Congress that Jonathan was using the Ecological Fund, which was set up to address environmental problems across the country, as a tool of patronage dispensed only to states whose governors are in his good books. In fact, Interim National Publicity Secretary of APC Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the president had granted N2 billion each to 17 states, none of which is governed by APC, the main opposition party in the country.
These are weighty allegations that talk about one of the nastiest problems in Nigeria today, entirely man-made, which is corruption. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo alluded to some of the allegations in his widely-publicised letter to President Jonathan released Wednesday.
A few political scoops in recent times have inspired so much discussion and debate like the latest corruption allegations against the Jonathan government. Issues such as this have the tendency to almost certainly divide the country between the government and its supporters, on the one hand, and others perceived to be enemies of the government, on the other. But the discussion or argument that would excite the corruption-weary populace and the world is the one that addresses the roots of the issues raised in the various allegations.
The latest corruption allegations are certainly contentious. They are coming at a rather restive period in the life of the country, when every sense of reasoning by politicians appears to be overshadowed by the 2015 politics. And they are coming from persons perceived or imagined to have fallen out with Jonathan – of course, under Nigeria’s abnormal definition of loyalty, no one expects any “lover” of the administration to see anything wrong with its actions.
Sanusi has said he will not seek a second term at the expiration of his tenure in June next year. The CBN governor, who took over from Professor Chukwuma Soludo on June 3, 2009, is perceived as controversial. Sanusi has the knack of voicing his convictions, however, controversial they are perceived. His advice to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to trim his omnibus seven-point agenda to a manageable and achievable number had rankled with the administration that appointed him.
It may, thus, to be tempting to think that Sanusi is becoming more like himself, as he edges towards his exit from the CBN. But such sentiment is not the fundamental issue for now.
The NNPC has denied the charge of withholding funds meant for the national treasury. It said the 24 per cent of oil receipts acknowledged by the CBN governor was the amount it was directly responsible for remitting to the CBN while the allegedly unremitted 76 per cent was paid to “agencies that are statutorily empowered to receive them for onward remittance into the Federation Account.”
But questions remain as to why the agencies have not remitted the funds, when they ought to be remitted, and who is supposed to monitor and ensure the prompt transmittal of the funds to the government’s official coffers.
Tambuwal, too, is perceived to be increasingly affiliated to the opposition.
But dwelling on the superficial sentimental considerations rather than the substance of the questions raised would be an unfortunate confusion of the issues involved in the latest corruption allegations.
This is more so when the voices warning about the rate of corruption in Nigeria are not confined to its shores. The anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranked Nigeria as the world’s eighth most corrupt country in its 2013 Global Corruption Barometer. This and other horrible corruption records continue to reverberate through the globe.
So on the corruption allegations, Jonathan must forget political sentiments and focus on the big picture for the health of the polity and its future. As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it in his message at this year’s International Anti-corruption Day, December 10, “To achieve an equitable, inclusive and more prosperous future for all, we must foster a culture of integrity, transparency, accountability and good governance.”