New Telegraph

MAGU,NDDC PROBES: Corruption now official, a pandemic, say Afenifere, Ohanaeze, others

Some of the major ethnic based organisations; the Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), as well as many prominent Nigerians have reasoned that the corruption allegations rocking the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are an attestation to the fact that corruption has become a pandemic under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

While the Yoruba sociopolitical group is categorically saying that corruption is now official in the country, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation said sleaze has become wide spread and a near pandemic despite the anti-corruption posture of the Buhari regime. This is coming as the AYCF reiterated that the fight against corruption under Buhari is selective and one sided, just as the Ohanaeze Indigbo noted that, with the level of impunity in the EFCC, NDDC and many other organisations, it is impossible to fight corruption with corruption.

In separate chats with our correspondents, the ethnic groups and some prominent lawyers were of the view that the revelations coming out as a result of the on-going probes of the two bodies, are too mindboggling to be ignored while urging the authorities spread the dragnet to other agencies of government, such as the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), among others.

Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, the National President of AYCF, Shettima Yerima, said it is good that there are investigations into the activities of the NDDC and EFCC, but he advised that the probe should thorough and that there should be no sacred cows, and it should not be politicised.

He said: We have always believed that the fight against corruption under the Buhari administration is selective and one sided. Be that as it may, we are closely monitoring what is happening concerning the NDDC, this is not about the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). “For now, what is playing out is accusation and counter accusation. It is good that an investigation is underway. We are following closely to make sure it is a thorough investigation and whoever is found wanting should be brought to book”, he said.

You can’t fight corruption with corruption –Ohanaeze

While expressing dismay over the deepening corruption in the country, Ohanaeze said it is worrisome that the EFCC, which should be a rallying point in the fight against corruption, and the NDDC,which ought to better the lot of the people, have become cesspools of corruption.

Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, likened the fight against corruption to “corruption fighting corruption”, just as he argued that the probes had thrown up sleazy tales of embezzlement, running into trillions of naira. Ibegbu said: “The Presidency professes that it is fighting corruption, and yet right under their nose, there is terrible corruption going on, that means they are not getting it right. And they are not bringing in people that are ready to fight corruption.

“They are bringing in criminals that have nothing to offer, that are corrupt themselves. Corruption cannot fight corruption. So the leadership recruitment system in the entire country, not only in the presidency, is very poor. “President Buhari may be a Saint, but what of the people around him? If a Saint brings in devils around him, nothing will happen. So it’s not enough to say that Buhari is a saint. They bring in people that are criminals around them, so what do you expect? ”

Afenifere: Corruption in charge

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, stated that the Buhari administration is only paying lip service to its anti-corruption mantra, noting that what is going on at the moment had been predicted but the signals were ignored by the Presidency.

The Afenifere spokesperson said it is regrettable that the practise of dishonesty, which ought to be tackled headlong, has now become the controller of the nation’s affairs, while condemning the Federal Government’s pretentious attitude to the war against corruption.

“The NDDC saga shows clearly that corruption is fully in charge of our affairs in Nigeria. When you see the level of humongous corruption which they said they are using forensic audit for and the type of corruption been perpetrated under the unknown Interim Management Committee, it is clear nobody thinks that the anti-corruption war works anymore.

“It is clear that NDDC officials now swim in corruption and it’s not only that the officials are corrupt, corruption has now become official under this administration. Corruption now acts as corner piece and this has now become a clear mockery. Nobody takes us serious anymore. Do you expect the president who has not been able to do anything in the last five years to do something now?

Corruption fight nonexistent- Lawyers

Similarly, some senior lawyers have flayed the antigraft war, saying it is nothing to write home about, while baring their minds on alleged sleaze at the NDDC and the EFCC. The lawyers, including Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), Kabir Akingbolu and Ige Asemudara opined that the unfolding events at both agencies of government are indications that the much talked about anti-graft war of the Buhari administration is a ruse.

In his comments, Candide- Johnson noted that what is happening in the country is only a deployment of law enforcement agents between private, political interests and shifting political alliances, which is an absurd political theatre, at the expense of the Nigerian people noting that there was really no fight against corruption.” Speaking in similar vein, Akingbolu, a rights activist, disclosed that the singsong of fighting corruption by Buhari’s administration is nothing more than mere ruse and deceit, even as he noted that the fraud allegations at the NDDC and EFCC show that the anti-graft war has not started.

“The brewing controversy in the management of the NDDC is a great disappointment and an eye-opener to the fact that the singsong of fighting corruption by this administration is nothing more than mere ruse and deceit. “It is also a pointer to the fact that there is serious corruption under this government and it will shock Nigerians that by the time this government is leaving, the corruption index or ratio may surpass the corruption under the previous administration.

“It is a pity that all these things are happening under President Buhari who came to power on the horse of integrity but has now let loose his guard and allow his aides to plunder the nation to a sickening level. One can now safely conclude that the nation’s fight against corruption is yet to start.

“How on Earth does one begin to explain the irresponsible wastage of our national cakes? How can the President justify or defend this disgraceful looting? Can you imagine, the poor masses are suffering and an agency was busy sharing the money it could have used to execute important and lifesaving projects to his cronies and stooges? “The president should not only set up toothless panel but he should go beyond that by bringing anyone found wanting to book. Anything short of that, the government should just forget its fight against corruption as a lost battle.

“Magu’s suspension is a big blow to President Buhari’s anti-corruption fight. This is because Magu is not likely to overcome the travails because he seems to have been consumed by the heat of his own indiscretions and know- it-all stance of little value. “I believe he did not achieve much in the agency and his reign was characterised by failure in the majority of the cases the agency handled. He was running a one man show throughout the funny tenure. “Now, it would be an aberration if he comes back because since he is seen as corrupt himself, he would have no moral justification to start claiming to be an anticorruption man.

He is a disappointment to the government and Nigeria as a whole. It will serve as deterrence to others, if he is charged for these allegations, for the purpose of proving that nobody is above the law”, Akingbolu said. Asemudara also agreed that the fraud allegations against Magu and the sleaze at the NDDC have cast doubts on the government’s intention about anti-graft war, saying that, rather than fighting corruption, the government is deeply enmeshed in corruption and corrupt practices.

He said: “Can you imagine how they are frittering our money at the NDDC? They said they spent N86 million for overseas travels between February and May 2020, when in reality the world was locked down during that period. “They quoted N1.5 billion as COVID-19 palliative for NDDC staff.

This government is a joke. Allegations have been made against Godswill Akpabio, yet he is allowed to hold sway as a minister. This government has disappointed Nigerians. It is a shame”, he exclaimed. Also reacting, an Abuja based lawyer Dr. Bright Obuah, called for separate investigations and possible prosecution, saying that what is crystal clear is that Magu and Akpabio travails remain a big blow to Buhari’s fight against corruption. He said: “Buhari’s emergence as President in 2015 owes much to his perceived incorruptibility. For many, he was the “messiah” that would end the monster called corruption but years down the line, he has done little to justify the trust reposed in him by many Nigerians.

‘Buhari committed to fight’

However, another senior lawyer, Chibuikem Okechukwu, disagreed that the President has jettisoned the war against corruption, saying that Buhari took a good step in suspending the EFCC acting chairman to show his commitment to the fight against corruption, but wants same extend to Akpabio. Okechukwu said: “One good thing about Magu’s suspension is that it reinforces the principle that nobody is above the law. The same should be extended to Akpabio, as this will add credibility to the anticorruption fight of the Federal Government. Another lawyer and rights activist, Dele Osanupin opined that Magu’s suspension was expected, considering the weight of allegations against him. “It is interesting that his investigation is being carried out by the same government that appointed him to show non-tolerance to corruption by the government. It also shows that nobody is above the law. If there is an allegation against the holder of an office, it is expected that an investigation should be launched.

Magu’s boast worrisome -PDP

The PDP has described as worrisome, the boast by Magu, that he would be cleared and reinstated, noting that the statement by Magu’s lawyer, Wahab Shittu, that the suspended EFCC boss would be reinstated is an affront on the integrity of the Justice Ayo Salami panel. The party said in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan that such assertive statement by Magu’s lawyer holds more than meet the eyes and portrayed the presidential panel as well as the presidency as having compromised the probe. The party wondered if Magu’s counsel was telling Nigerians that the activities of the presidential panel, as well as the memo by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, were all drama to facilitate Magu’s clearance at the Senate. It stated that the the allegations by the Attorney General of the Federation against Magu are in the public domain, “including alleged discrepancy in the financial records of the EFCC funds, alleged stealing of funds recovered by the commission, alleged sale of property recovered by the EFCC, details of alleged acts of insubordination, among others. “Our party hopes that this is not a case of corruption fighting back in a frantic effort to shield accused persons from prosecution. There are also insinuations in the public space that the EFCC under Magu was harassing certain judges to get conviction in cases,” the party said.

Reps summon Akpabio, IMC MD

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives committee on the NDDC has summoned Akpabio and the acting managing director of NDDC, Prof. Keme Pondei, to appear before it on Monday. This is just as the immediate past Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh told the committee via a virtual hearing, that the minister was involved in corrupt practices and that there is no forensic audit going on. The former MD who spoke on zoom from Prot Harcourt alleged that, as instructed by Akpabio, some contracts were awarded by the commission to unregistered companies, some of which got registered after they were awarded the contract. She said: “In some cases contracts were pre-awarded before the designs were given, so you find out that most of the projects were abandoned. The issue is that everyone in Nigeria has been deceived that the forensic audit is going on. “I want to say here that if Nigerians find out that the forensic audit is going on, every testimony and allegations that I have made should be cancelled and disregarded. There’s no forensic audit going on. There’s no aiding firm in Nigeria that’s of big repute. The nine companies on that list, none of our major auditing companies in Nigeria is on that list. Secondly, can I say that the forensic auditors have been procured? My answer is no. The President had written a letter to the National Assembly appointing the forensic and suspending the appointment of the board.”

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