© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Democracy Day: Buhari fights corruption, though surrounds himself with dodgy politicians, says CDD
Last five years of Buhari administration have been full of historic achievements, Garba Shehu.
THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has scored President Muhammadu Buhari low in the fight against corruption, despite his campaign promise of change.
According to CDD, many Nigerians had high hopes that President Buhari would work tirelessly to disrupt the country’s kleptocratic status quo, but he has nevertheless fallen short of his promise to “demonstrate zero tolerance for corrupt practices.”
The report titled, “Assessment of President Buhari’s Corruption Fight in the last 5 Years”, was presented by the CDD executive director, Idayat Hassan at a press conference organized via Zoom on Friday, May 29 between 12 noon and 1 pm.
The report underscores both the shortcomings and achievements of the Buhari administration in the last five years. The president assumed office on May 29, 2015.
For the shortcoming, the pro-democracy think-tank criticised some of the Buhari appointments, which it described as “questionable”.
According to CDD, several members of the Buhari cabinet in the second term were former governors accused of corruption and officials with close ties to former head of state, late Sani Abacha.
The report also condemned the Buhari government for reinstating a top pension official even though he was facing prosecution by the EFCC on corruption charges.
The president also dithered in suspending the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir Lawal from office, despite indictment by the Senate over alleged breaches in the handling of contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East.
The failure to timely suspend erring appointees pending investigations have been replicated in several instances, the report stated.
CDD also condemned the president of turning blind eye to political corruption, and frolicking with corrupt politicians especially during the 2019 campaign ahead of the general elections.
“The President has asked a few questions about how the APC funds itself, even though it is common knowledge that candidates depend on stolen public funds provided by political godfathers to fuel election campaigns.”
As minister of petroleum, President Buhari has failed to achieve reform in the sector despite his pledge, the CDD noted. Citing the example of the NNPC, the Centre blamed the president for sustaining a corrupt system at NNPC that has enriched briefcase companies than his predecessors.
Though Buhari has condemned the sleaze in the security sector under the former President Goodluck Jonathan, his own administration has also failed to rein in security votes—opaque slush funds that remain one of the most glaring examples of security sector corruption in Nigeria.
In fact, a report by Transparency International published in May 2018 shows that the amount earmarked for security votes in the federal budget has increased during Buhari’s tenure from N9.3 billion ($46.2 million in total) to N18.4 billion ($51 million in total) in 2018.
The Centre also criticised some of the economic policies of Buhari, especially the border policy which did a little to deter smugglers, yet trigger bribery and corruption at border posts.
Hassan during her presentation wondered why a government that promised so much transparency could become notorious for declining Fiscal Transparency.
Hear words: “Under President Buhari, the Central Bank of Nigeria has become less transparent and more vulnerable to political influence on fiscal and monetary policy. The bank’s oversight role has diminished and the relationship between it and the nation’s commercial banks has become too cozy. Since 2015, sales of discounted foreign exchange to privileged recipients have become more opaque than ever before. In December 2017, the government announced the withdrawal of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account—nearly half of Nigeria’s now nearly-empty rainy day fund—for ad hoc security expenditures. The government has yet to reveal exactly how this money was spent, suggesting that it was likely used to energise ruling party political structures ahead of the 2019 general election.”
Examples are the Treasury Single Account policy that allows for government transaction through a single account, and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) that helps prevent payment to ghost or absentee workers.
The CDD also praised the government of Buhari for strong anti-corruption appointments such as that of the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, ICPC Chairman Bolaji Owasanoye and the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Waziri Adio.
The Centre’s director, in fact, rated Buhari higher for recording more corruption conviction than any of his predecessors, though she noted that over half of these convictions were from cybercrime prosecutions.
In the area of asset recovery, Buhari also got a pass mark.
“The government has increasingly used innovative legal tools to seize suspected proceeds of corruption from former officials who would be difficult and time-consuming to convict,” Hassan said.
The presidency though is yet to respond to the CDD’s report, but Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesperson has tweeted earlier that the last five years (of Buhari administration) have been full of historic achievements.
“Please go to the Presidential handles and read how the decades-long wishes of the Nigerian people are being met,” he posted.