Opinion: Corruption war: Is Buhari still in control? – By NIRAN ADEDOKUN
Everyone who loves Nigeria must be worried about two things that seem to define the character of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
One is the disgraceful level of incoherence and rivalry amongst agencies of government and the other, the President’s incredible seeming lack of concern about these rivalries and a number of other worrisome things.
Over the past two years, we have seen snippets of scramble for territory and lack of co-operation between agencies at the centre of the President’s corruption fight and security of lives and property in the country.
This came to a head last week when attempts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest two former intelligence chiefs, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita and Ayodele Oke, erstwhile Directors-General of the Department of State Services and National Intelligence Agency respectively, were foiled by operatives of both secret agencies.
The EFCC, in fulfilment of its mandate moved on the residences of the retired security chiefs, who have been accused of misappropriation of funds meant for security purposes, only to meet a formidable wall of resistance.
I do not know what motivated the EFCC’s decision to make a spectacle of these failed arrests by having the full complements of media men on its team, but events of that morning tarnish the image of the administration in no small measure.
This is more so because we have seen hints of the bad blood between these agencies over and over again. It is true that such inter-agency rivalry exists everywhere but a government that cares about its own image and the success of a cardinal objective like the fight against corruption would have tackled all the demons at play.
You will recall that the Senate had on two occasions refused to confirm the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as chair of the EFCC. On both occasions, the Senate cited recommendations from the DSS to the effect that Magu lacked the character that the office demands.
That the DSS would file such reports, the first and second time, without the knowledge of the President, points to some high level malfunction in the government apparatus.
It is of course possible to argue that the DSS report signposts the lack of interference in the agency’s duties by the President. But then, the question will also be asked: “Why has the government refused to replace Magu if it has so much confidence in the DSS and its report? And if does not, why has the leadership of that agency remained in office? When there is a crisis of confidence at that level of government, something should of necessity give, unless in situations where overall leadership is compromised.
One has endeavoured to highlight the foregoing to buttress the point that this ego trip between the DSS and the EFCC could have been nipped in the bud were the government paying attention to the damage that the endless public scuffle does its reputation.
Had the President weighed in at the initial manifestation of these hostile tendencies, we might have spared the obscene event of last week.
The feebleness of the central authority will become more apparent when we recall that even the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice has been in an on-and-off confrontation with the EFCC. Yet, all these bodies and offices were set up to serve the interest of Nigeria, the same interest that is now in jeopardy for reasons that has nothing to do with the people.
The President’s lackadaisical disposition is evident on another critical front. Buhari had put us on notice that he would go all out to fight corruption from day one. And he has indeed initiated a number of moves, which, according to the administration, has led to the recovery of loot in the hundreds of billions.
That is truly commendable. But nothing symbolises the ineffectiveness, even half-heartedness of the administration’s anti-corruption fight like the failure President Buhari to lift a finger against any of his close aides accused of corrupt practices till date.
Oh well, the President caused an investigation into allegations of abuse of office against the disgraced Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal. But that did not happen until Nigerians shouted themselves hoarse on the implications of turning a deaf ear to the allegations.
Lawal himself would show Nigerians the quantum of disdain he had for the office of his benefactor when he asked journalists: “Who is the Presidency,” in reaction to questions about his suspension by the Presidency. Lawal was eventually relieved of his office in October, two clear months after the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo-led investigative committee submitted its report.
Curiously, while the EFCC is currently trying to arrest Oke, who was the second subject of the Osinbajo panel, nothing has yet been heard about the fate of the former SGF. Very likely, it is not time to pick up his file.
Another issue on which the President’s silence suggests inertia is in the accusations against the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris.
Senator Isah Misau representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District had accused Idris of misdemeanours bordering on extortion and sexual exploitation, yet the IG remains in office!
Not only that, Idris has got the office of the Attorney-General to arraign his accuser in court for injurious falsehood even when there has been no investigations into the assorted allegations against him, at least to the knowledge of the public.
Does the IG then have the moral authority to lead the war against corruption when these allegations hang on his neck like the charmed bangles on the Abiku’s feet?
Then, enter former chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reforms, AbdulRasheed Maina, and the controversy surrounding his reinstatement into the federal civil service.
Although evidence exists that several members of Buhari’s cabinet were complicit in the return of Maina, the President has taken no step other than ordering the dismissal of Maina from the civil service.
Events last week however point to the fact that even the presidential instruction for Maina’s dismissal might not have been executed after all.
Speaking before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee’s investigation on Maina’s reinstatement, Maina’s counsel, Mohammed Katu, stunned everyone when he insisted that his client was still in the service, receives his salary and had been asked to treat 23 files in his capacity as acting director even after the presidential order dismissing him!
It is one week after that revelation and the Presidency has behaved like nothing happened. No investigation has been ordered into this frightening disregard of the presidential instruction, there has not even been a whimper from the Presidency.
But it even gets worse. On that same day, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, also suggested that the letter which advised the Federal Civil Service Commission to reinstate Maina could not have “genuinely emanated,” from his office.
When the chief law officer of a country says things like this, it calls for serious concern. Does it mean that Maina or his supporters presented a fake letter or that someone at the AGF’s office criminally issued that letter without the knowledge of the AGF? Whatever it is, Malami’s statement is a red flag that should have raised questions about the level of impunity and incompetence going on at various level of government.
The truth is, President Buhari is really slow at taking actions when members of his government are concerned.
In the 30 months or so that he has been in power, top-ranking officials of his administration including his chief of staff, chief of army staff and minister of interior have been fingered in one impropriety or the other, yet none of them has got the boot. It does seem that President Buhari is oblivious of all these complaints or just too weak to deal with the little foxes in his garden. Punch