Buhari’s Shielding Of Alleged Corrupt Aides Weakens Anti-Graft War – Report
By Chikezie Omeje
The Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in its February 2017 report on the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, has said the approach of the president to allegations of corruption against his key aides had made majority of Nigerians to see the war against corruption as lopsided.
The report is an assessment of the Buhari administration on 13 corruption-related campaign promises made in the lead up to the 2015 general elections. According to the report, of the 13 specific campaign promises of PMB to fight corruption in the country, the incumbent has only been able to achieved 1, which represents 7.7% of the 13 promises, being the official declaration of assets of the President and Vice President.
In the report titled Buharimeter: PMB Performance Report #Corruption, CDD notes several concerns that may mar government’s effort in pursuing its anti-graft war in Nigeria. One of these is the President’s lackadaisical attitude to the corruption allegations against the Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal and the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
The report says: “Recently, the credibility of the anti-corruption war seems to be withering following the President’s approach to unravelling corruption allegations against Babachir David Lawal (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) and Abba Kyari (Chief of Staff to the President). Many conceive setting up of Committee in the Ministry of Justice to investigate its inner cabinet members as more of politics of double standard and this reinforces the perception that the fight is one-sided and only targets those in opposition”.
The report claims the president made 13 promises to Nigerians on corruption but 20 months down the line, he has succeeded in fulfilling only one, which was achieved when he publicly declared his assets and liabilities a few days to his 100 days in office.
The report however acknowledges that the government has been making frantic efforts towards achieving 6 (46.2 percent) of the promises while no action has been taken at all in the last 21 months to fulfill 6 (46.2 percent) of the promises.
.Promises on which actions were being taken include the implementation of some vital recommendations of the NEITI report, entrenchment of accountability mechanism among MDAs, audit of government workers to weed out ghost workers, reduction of cost of governance through stringent spending, banning of first class first class flight travel and presentation of national plan to fight corruption.
According to CDD, the fundamental promises that received no action towards their fulfilment in the last 21 months of the administration are: “Inauguration of the National Council on Procurement as stipulated in the Procurement Act; Work with National Assembly towards immediate enactment of a Whistle Blower Act. Work with National Assembly to strengthen EFCC and ICPC by guaranteeing institutional autonomy including financial and prosecutorial independence and security of tenure of office; Make the Financial Intelligence (FIU) an autonomous and operational agency; Encourage proactive disclosure of information by government institutions in the spirit of FOI Act; and Introduce a legally enforceable code of conduct for all public officials, including elected representatives with stringent sanctions.”
While acknowledging a positive trend in government’s efforts towards the fulfilment of campaign promises, the report notes a “significant” misplacement of priories in efforts to fulfil some promises.
“For example, instead of prioritising guaranteeing financial and prosecutorial autonomy, as well as security of tenure of office to EFCC and ICPC, we have only seen two private amendment proposals for an establishment of witness protection and detention unit, and protection of rights of suspects. While these efforts are considered worthwhile to strengthening EFCC capacity in the delivery of its mandate, it is more fundamental to address the core issues of institutional dependence of the anti-graft agency.
“While the public declaration of assets and liabilities by the President and the Vice President remains enmeshed in controversy, the degree of responses from government appointees continues to be unencouraging. Within this reporting period, it is only the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr Waziri Adio, who has made his assets and liabilities public. Even some Ministers are reportedly alleged by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) of noncompliance with procedures of declaring their assets and liabilities with the constituted authority.”
Although, government has introduced Whistle Blower policy, and claimed to have recovered $151 million, N8 billion looted fund⁵, no concrete step has been taken to provide legislation for whistle blowing.
Likewise, noticeable actions are yet to be taken towards the achievement of 6 of its 13 promises which represent 46.2% of government campaign promises on corruption.
Amongst issues raised include government’s misplacement of priorities in the decisions of promises to implement, whereas, vital issues are left unattended. More so, evidence is yet to be seen under the present administration of punitive measures meted to public officials who are non-compliant to procedures of declaring their assets and liabilities with constituted authority as well as directive on a ban of first class travel by some government officials.
The report also raised critical issue of blatant disregards by the administration to principle of rule of law and respect for human rights in its anti-graft war.
According to the report, the credibility of the anti-corruption war seems to be withering following the President’s approach to unraveling corrupt allegations against Babachir David Lawal (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) and Abba Kyari (Chief of Staff to the President).
It also draws government’s attention to the need to work towards the passage of Whistle Blower Act as means of providing protective measure for whistle blowers who are using the recently formulated policy to expose corrupt Nigerians.
It concludes by establishing the imperativeness of a release of the government’s anti-graft strategy document.
One of the major campaign promises of the administration is to present its National Anti-Corruption Strategy. This is to provide a coherent and strategic framework to tackle incidence of corruption. Given this, it is important that the government immediately release to the public its anti-graft strategy document.