Summit Wants Buhari to Strengthen Anti-Corruption Laws

Summit Wants Buhari to Strengthen Anti-Corruption Laws

…As His Administration is Being Grilled to Account for Whooping Loans, $1billion Arms Purchase …No Money Is Missing…Presidency President Muhammadu Buhari has been asked to honour international obligations on corruption so as to strengthen the various anti-corruption laws and improve the capacity for citizen participation. This plea is coming amidst charges of mismanagement of huge

…As His Administration is Being Grilled to Account for Whooping Loans, $1billion Arms Purchase

…No Money Is Missing…Presidency

President Muhammadu Buhari has been asked to honour international obligations on corruption so as to strengthen the various anti-corruption laws and improve the capacity for citizen participation. This plea is coming amidst charges of mismanagement of huge loans obtained by the administration and the one billion dollars earlier approved by the National Assembly to purchase arms in the wake of rising assault by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The request was made during a one-day summit organised by HEDA Resource Centre on Assessing Key Development in the Anti-Corruption Regime-Focusing on the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Bill held in Abuja.

The summit drew participants from anti-corruption agencies including the Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption, (PACAC), Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD West Africa), the National Assembly, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the media, labour and civil society.

In the communiqué signed by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, participants were of the view that Nigeria’s inability to honour international conventions undermines the country’s ability to deal effectively with corruption. Some of the treaties include the United Nations Convention on Corruption (UNCAC), the ECOWAS and African Union protocols on corruption.

According to the participants, corruption remains a major problem in Nigeria, which they claim is responsible for poverty, deprivation, declining confidence in government institutions and the rise in public disorder.

‘Nigeria is one of the richest countries in the world, but her citizens are some of the poorest in the world. Nigeria has a weak monitoring regime of the anti-corruption agencies’ the groups said.

Participants said success in the fight against corruption is a win-win for Nigerians. They contend it will lead to prosperity, greatness and the greatest good for the greatest number and also stem the tide of violence and misery.

The summit also urged the anti corruption agencies and the civil society to increase the tempo of anti graft crusade through strategic alliance with professional bodies like the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Society of Engineers among others while at the same time taking the campaign to the streets, through constructive engagements of victims of corruption.

The Ministry of Justice was also asked to discourage the arbitrary withdrawal of on-going corruption cases while there should be an end to MOUs that provide safe havens for looters.

The participants urged State Governments to institutionalise the fight against corruption by setting up anti-corruption agencies at the state and Local Government levels.

It stated further ‘The media, the National Assembly and all democratic institutions should sustain and uphold a language narrative that diminishes class distinction to reflect equity in the report and coverage of crime actors.’

It called for stiffer punishment for corrupt officials to serve as deterrent while adequate funds should be provided for anti-corruption agencies to enhance their capacities.

The participants also said that anti-corruption laws should take into consideration the fears, needs and aspirations of people with disability.

Account for Loans, Overdraft

Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), has urged President Buhari to “provide spending details of the overdrafts and loans obtained from the Central Bank Nigeria, CBN, by the federal government since May 29, 2015.

The account, according to SERAP, should include the total overdrafts, the projects on which the overdrafts have been spent; repayment of all overdrafts to date, as well as to clarify whether the $25bn (N9.7trn) overdraft reportedly obtained from the CBN is within the five-percent limit of the actual revenue of the government for 2020.

The organization is also urging the President to “provide details of spending of overdrafts and loans obtained from the CBN by successive governments between 1999 and 2015.”

In the Freedom of Information request dated 6 March, 2021 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of CBN overdrafts and loans would promote prudence in debt management, reduce any risks of corruption and mismanagement, and help the government to avoid the pitfalls of excessive debt.”

SERAP said: “Disclosing details of CBN overdrafts and repayments would enable Nigerians to hold the government to account for its fiscal management and ensure that public funds are not diverted, thereby improving the ability of your government to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This means that the government would not have to choose between saving lives or making debt payments.”

“Also, the recent overdraft of $25.6bn (about N9.7trn) obtained from the CBN would appear to be above the five-percent limit of the actual revenue of the Federal Government for 2020, that is, N3.9trn, prescribed by Section 38(2) of the CBN Act 2007. SERAP notes that five-percent of N3.9trn is N197bn,” the organisation claims.

Payment to Family Members

President Buhari has also been tasked to speak out on the alleged N2.5 billion transferred to family members.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), which stated this penultimate weekend, said that the recent reports of massive treasury looting allegedly involving persons close to President Buhari, has further exposed his administration as “a putrid citadel of corruption.”

The PDP asked the Buhari Presidency not to keep quiet but offer explanation to allegations in the media space that certain officials and individuals close to the Presidency defrauded the nation of the sum of N51 billion out of which N2.5 billion was wired to a member of Mr. President’s immediate family.

In a statement by its spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP challenged the Buhari Presidency to speak out on allegations, also in the public space, that 122 posh properties, valued at over N1.6 trillion seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), were shared and allocated to cronies on the directives of the Presidency.

“The Buhari Presidency should not pretend not to be aware that the media is awash with reports that a known confidant of Mr. President and certain officials of the Nigerian Customs defrauded our nation to the tune of N51 billion under a hazy ‘Revenue Assurance Fund’, out of which N2.5 billion was reported to have been transferred to a foundation allegedly owned by a female member of the President’s immediate family.

Missing Weapons

Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) has also raised an alarm over missing billions of naira approved for purchase of weapons.

He said when the newly appointed Service Chiefs assumed office, they did not find the weapons that their predecessors ought to have purchased.

The former service chiefs are: ex-Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin; former Chief of Army Staff; Tukur Buratai, former Chief of Naval Staff; Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas; and former Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar.

President Buhari appointed them as Ambassadors after their voluntary resignation from service.

In an interview with BBC Hausa service, Monguno said the failure of the security personnel to get adequate weapons is a setback to the fight against insecurity.

“It is not that we are not working to end the security challenge in the country. The President has done his own part and allocated huge amount of money to purchase weapons but they are yet to be here. We don’t know where they are.”

“I am not saying that the past Service Chiefs have diverted the money, but presently we don’t know where the money is.”

On whether investigation has commenced on the issue, the NSA said: “I am sure the President will investigate this. As I am talking to you now, even the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has started questioning where the money is. So I assure you that the President is not playing with anything that has to do with the people.

“I can’t say the money was stolen but we didn’t see anything and even the new Service Chiefs said they didn’t see the weapons. It is possible the weapons are on their way coming. Maybe from America, England and other places but as at now, I didn’t see anything and the Service Chiefs too didn’t see any weapons too.”

He said President Buhari directed the new Service Chiefs to end insurgency within a short period of time, adding that the President is committed to ending insecurity.

Leading rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has asked that the alleged missing arms money under the leadership of the immediate service chiefs, be referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation.

In a short statement Friday night, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said a direct probe by President Buhari as promised by the office of the National Security Adviser, would be wasteful and diversionary.

He also wanted the ambassadorial appointments of the retired military leaders, halted, until every dime of the said fund, is accounted for.

He said, “A probe is wasteful, diversionary and unwarranted. The case should be referred to the EFCC for investigation because it is a serious economic crime.

“The report of the Presidential Panel on Arms Procurement which probed the looting of $15 billion earmarked for purchase of arms was eventually forwarded to the EFCC.

“The ambassadorial appointments of the ex-service chiefs have to be suspended by President Buhari until they account for every dime of the fund,” Falana said

No Money Is Missing

While Monguno’s office stated that the NSA was quoted out of context and did not categorically make such a claim, the Presidency avowed that no such money was missing.

“I imagine that you are talking about the $1 billion taken from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) with the consent of state governors and was used for military procurement.

“I want to assure you that nothing of that money is missing,” Mr Garba Shehu, senior special assistant on media affairs to the President said on Friday when he featured as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

He added, “The reference by it in the interview with Hausa Service of the BBC by the National Security Adviser, I think, has been misconstrued and mistranslated.”

Shehu, clarified the controversy triggered by the claim and went further to give an insight into the procurements made by the military since the funds were withdrawn.

He noted that the procurements made have not been fully delivered and about $536 million of the money was paid directly in a government-to-government transaction with the United States government.

“In August 2018, they (the US) allowed the Nigerian Government to buy 12 Super Tucano aircraft suitable for the kind of war we are fighting in the North East. In addition to that, other arms of the military have also made procurements.

“The Nigerian Navy has done nearly 100 per cent of their procurements equipment delivered; the Nigerian Air Force has bought a number of attack helicopters – 35 i-helicopters from Ukraine,” the presidential aide outlined.

He, however, said there have been problems with the procurements made by the Nigerian Army, stressing that the equipment have been coming in bits and in pieces.

Shehu disclosed that Nigeria’s biggest procurement was coming from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“As I speak to you, it is held up in a situation which only diplomacy will resolve. The Nigerian Minister of Defence actually had a meeting with the Ambassador of the UAE to Nigeria and the idea is to resolve this so that these equipment held up will be released.

“We need them here, all these procurements are ongoing; nothing can be bought on the shelf, they are bought on order. The NSA did not make accusations of misappropriation because there is none in dealing with this matter,” he insis

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