A lot of noise is being made about alleged revelations of money meant for the purchase of arms diverted for other purposes now known as Dasukigate. The amount is said to be $2.1 billion which roughly translates to more than N400 billion. Not surprisingly—gullible Nigerians are excited and carried away by the revelations and by implication the so called war on corruption as declared by Buhari. But the excitement is driven by ignorance, collective amnesia and hypocrisy of large sections of the Nigerian public. It is also driven in part by the deliberate propaganda of the authors of the so called war on corruption. But Nigerians need not be excited because not only is there nothing new being revealed, Buhari is in reality not fighting corruption.
Corruption is so widespread in Nigeria that even organisations such as the EFCC and ICPC created to fight it are corrupt. Ibrahim Lamorde the immediate past chairman of the EFCC is on the run, accused of massive corruption. The executive and the political class are unquestionably corrupt across party lines, while the Nigerian constitution actually facilitates corruption with immunity from prosecution given to the president and governors. This means that no matter how much a president or governor steals in full view of the public, he cannot be prosecuted. There is also the obnoxious security vote given to the political leadership by the constitution, to which they are not required to render any account. So a president or governor can simply allocate any amount he likes to security votes and use it as he deems fit.
Then there is the issue of the judiciary and sentencing. Some corruption cases have been in the courts for upwards of 8 years and even in rare instances where the culprits are found guilty, the sentences are so paltry (most often fines) that there is no disincentive to corruption. Any real and serious fight against corruption must therefore start with wide ranging institutional reforms which will include granting the EFCC autonomy to free it from corrupt executive interference and influence peddling as is presently the case. The creation of special courts and introduction of mandatory sentences to limit the time such trials can last and ensure that adequate mandatory sentences are given for corruption cases. A speedy constitutional review to strip governors and the president of the immunity they now enjoy from corruption and other such criminal cases and the introduction of a cap to security votes and a specification of what such funds can be used for including a requirement to account for it.
There is also the need to introduce regulations as it concerns election campaign funding and other such avenues of misuse of funds. These reforms and the blocking of loopholes through which funds are looted amongst other institutional reforms would ensure that corruption is finally reduced to the barest minimum while the mechanism for checking corruption would be institutionally enshrined in the system. Notably, for all the noise and propaganda about corruption, Buhari is yet to initiate any institutional reform or mechanism to fight corruption. He is only involved in selectively arresting his opponents from the opposition party and throwing up wild allegations in the media most of which might not meet with much success in court. Nigeria has been through that road before with as much fanfare and excitement as we are witnessing now, but in the end nothing came out of it and corruption remained endemic. General Sanni Abacha arrested scores of individuals for various corruption cases, set-up the failed banks tribunal and overwhelmingly targeted his opponents. But not a single institutional reform was done and as it turned out from the Abacha loot still being returned, it happened that while his anti-corruption charade was going on, massive looting by himself and his cronies was going on behind the scenes. In the end corruption became even more prevalent.
Obasanjo’s civilian administration was notable for selectively arresting his opponents. Again no institutional reform was done and in the end no real gains were made. As the Halliburton and power scam would later show, corruption was just as endemic in his regime as it was in previous regimes. Yar’Adua’s administration made stunning revelations of a $16 billion power scam by Obasanjo’s administration but after much excitement nothing came out of it. When Goodluck Jonathan came into the scene, mind boggling revelations were again made about the oil subsidy scam running into trillions of naira. The nation was ecstatic but nothing came out of it and without any institutional reform the status quo just continued. Buhari is therefore only doing the same thing that previous administrations did that in the end didn’t achieve any real results.
There is nothing being revealed about Dasuki’s disbursement of funds for elections that was not already well known. It was never a secret that governors, the president and others seeking election spend so much money in the process. From states to the presidency this money runs into billions in every election circle—and the money comes from nowhere else but the public treasury. For Obasanjo’s third term project, it was widely reported that N50 million was paid to each member of both houses of the national assembly to facilitate passage of the amendment. Every election in Nigeria is subject to such abuse and Buhari also stands indicted as he received billions of looted funds from APC state governors that owed salaries and pensions in their respective states to fund his campaign. If therefore, Buhari is really serious about stopping such abuses, he should be proposing legislation to regulate campaign funding.
Then there is also the issue of the authenticity of the so called Dasukigate arms scandal. While he is accused of disbursing $2.1 billion meant for arms, which is more than N400 billion, his charge sheet in court only accuses him of misusing N13 billion; a far cry from the alleged $2.1 billion and no mention is made of arms. This, alongside the fact that both former president Goodluck Jonathan and the house of representatives have confirmed there was never any $2.1 billion budget for arms raises more doubt about the authenticity of the allegation. The selectivity of the probe in the same vein as Obasanjo and other regimes did also raises doubts about its credibility. All those arrested are overwhelmingly PDP opposition party members, while members of the APC many of whom were formerly in the PDP that have several indictments are untouchable. There is this curious situation where many people who received money from Dasuki with some even publicly boasting that they will not return a kobo are in full view, yet the great majority are free while a select few opponents are arrested and prosecuted. This blatant double standard further reveals the falsehood of buhari’s corruption charade.
How about due process and transparency? We are often told that some people have returned money, yet the details of the amount returned and those who returned it is never disclosed. We were told the only APC member rtd Brigadier Jafaru Isa arrested and conveniently released a few hours later returned N100 million, but that was the last heard of it. No proof was ever brought that such money was returned and or where it is held. It is possible that excuse was given to justify his release while PDP members remained in detention. It also not known from where the EFFC derived the powers to convert itself into a bank, receive money from people and release such persons without trial. Not only is there no transparency about any alleged returned loot, who returned them, the total amount returned and where it is held, the so called corruption war is largely dictated by Buhari who peddles his influence (an act of corruption) by dictating who to arrest and who not to arrest.
And to the extent that no one knows if any money has really been returned and how much has been returned, it is possible that much of any such recovered money (if true) will go missing since its all shrouded in secrecy. It is thus obvious that Buhari is not really fighting corruption but only using the same methods of witch-hunting/selective corruption probe that his predecessors used that achieved no results. No corruption war can succeed without institutional reforms and without it being all- encompassing/holistic. A selective corruption war that protects Buhari’s corrupt cronies while going after his opponents is corruption in itself and cannot succeed. This week Ehud Olmert the former Israeli PM began his 19 months jail term for bribe received when he was mayor of Jerusalem. That is how to fight corruption not creating a legion of untouchables as Buhari has done and then go after some opponents pretending to fight corruption.
Whenever Buhari becomes serious about fighting corruption, he must begin by first giving EFCC operational autonomy to allow them function without his corruptly dictating who they should arrest and who they shouldn’t—ending the era of untouchables and selective corruption war alongside other necessary reforms. Anything else is a mere charade that is bound to fail.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu