T he revelations made recently by both former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that the erstwhile President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was characterised by profligacy have confirmed the positions of BudgIT, Transparency International, TI and Basel Anti-Money Laundering Index by their reports. But should the pauperized Nigerians be continuously regaled with startling statistics and huge figures of financial recklessness, while the perpetrators walk out streets as free men? That is the million-naira question. In fact, the painful paradox of the sordid, socio-economic quagmire we have found ourselves enmeshed in is the fact that Buhari came to power on the paradigm of integrity.
Unfortunately, available indices have proven without an iota of doubt that his government left the country and the people much worse than they met them. For instance, according to BudgIT, a civic organisation, Buhari left a huge debt profile, high inflation rate and an economy in the doldrums. With reference to the Budget Office, between 2016 and 2022 the administration raised a total budget of N26.67 trillion but spent N60.64 trillion, leaving a deficit of N39.97 trillion! As if that was not scary enough, the domestic debt rose from N8.84 trillion as at December 2015 to N44.91 trillion as at June 2023. And the external debt skyrocketed from $7.35 billion in December 2015 to $37.2 billion as at June 2023. What that transmits is that Nigeria’s debt profile escalated from N42 trillion to N77 trillion. Yet, that was not all there was to the economic flip-flops that out rightly decimated the human development index of the average Nigerian citizen, grappling with survival. The debt servicing was taken from N1.06 trillion to N5.24 trillion from 2015 to 2022, equating to a debt servicing-to-revenue ratio growth from 29% to 96% in a country where millions of the hapless citizens were driven deeper into the mire of extreme poverty. That was contrary to the then president, Buhari chestbeating about the purported lifting of millions of lives from penury to prosperity.
But fact-based figures do not lie, do they? The answer is right before us all. It is understandable therefore, what the 14th Emir of Kano, Sanusi means by his statement that: “They treated the economy the way they liked and refused to listen to the experts”. If not so, how do you explain the situation that had the CBN under Godwin Emefiele supplying money to the Federal Government from N18 trillion in 2015 to the tune of N55 trillion in 2023 without meaningful impact on infrastructural development and the quality of life of millions of Nigerians? Meanwhile, corruption had a free reign under the Buhari-led administration. According to the Transparency International 2022 Report, Corruption Perception Index TI ranked Nigeria amongst the most corrupt countries in the world! Though it moved from 154 to 150 out of 180 countries, the indices are crystal clear. That perhaps, explains why the then suspended Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Idris Ahmed, who allegedly stole the humongous sum of N109 billion, retuned N30 billion to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and not much has been heard about the redolent sleaze ever since! And of course, so also is the N24 billion fraud allegation against another former AGF, Jonah Otunla that has suffered legal delays. In a similar vein, we are not surprised that the allegations against some federal ministries, departments and agencies by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) that they padded the 2021 budget to the tune of N300 billion and that of 2022 budget to N100 billion by duplicating projects have not been thoroughly investigated to bring any culprit to justice.
Worse still, a civil society organisation (HEDA) compiled a list of 25 top corruption cases worth a whopping N900 billion back in 2021 but media reports allude to the stalling of the investigation into what truly transpired, all under the Buhari-led government. And as the Minister of Petroleum, the screaming scandal of the stealing of an average of 437,000 barrels of crude oil per day, amounting to $10 billion from January to June of 2022 right under his watch remains uninvestigated and no attempt has been made to bring the masterminds to book! Surely, we cannot be fooled by the mere mouthing of “integrity”. Our source of serious concern is that governments are not run under an obnoxious culture of crass corruption in high places the way and manner it has played out here, in recent years. How can the unpatriotic perpetrators be given a slap on the wrist and told to “go and sin no more” while other citizens who steal peanuts are sent behind the bars? The wrong notion this has given is that it pays to steal once you are in a political office or a highly placed civil servant. This was of course, demonstrated with the questionable pardon granted Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame – both former state governors – while serving their prison terms for corruption matters engaged in while in government. In this entire shameful feature of the government openly embracing corruption practices by the so-called high and mighty, it is the hapless citizens that bear the brunt. Also, it has de-branded Nigeria to such an extent that well-meaning foreign investors would prefer to look elsewhere. It has therefore become imperative for the new administration to brace up to fight the rampaging monster of corruption head-on. Investigations must be thorough and all those found guilty should be brought to speedy justice, no matter whose ox is gored. Doing so will sound a crisp clear note of warning to all and sundry that corruption does not pay