President Muhammadu Buhari left no one in doubt on his will to combat corruption head-on as soon as he was sworn in on May 29, 2015. The monumental graft of the immediate past administration was unearthed few months into the lifespan of his administration. He promised that no stone would be left unturned in returning stolen Nigerian Commonwealth back to the till.
First to be arrested was the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki for diversion of $2.1 billion and N45 billions arms deal money. Several military officers were later arraigned for sleaze totaling N94.7 billion! Even the former customs boss – Inde Dikko is being probed over N40bn fund unaccounted for. Politicians, especially of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) stock were also rounded up by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Prominent among those arrested were the party’s former publicity secretary, Olisah Metuh, former Aviation minister and the Director of Media and Publicity of PDP’s presidential campaign, Femi Fani-Kayode as well as former finance minister, Esther Nenadi Usman.
The two former ministers were docked over an alleged N4.6 billion fraud. The money was part of the campaign funds for their party’s presidential election last year. Former governors were not left out in the astonishing corruption perpetuated by the immediate past administration. A serving governor was also fingered in the slush fund. He, with former Defence Minister, Musiliu Obanikoro, were alleged to be involved in the sharing of N4.7 billion released by the Jonathan’s administration for the 2014 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
A governorship aspirant in the Osun election is also telling the EFCC what he knows about the money. The list is endless. But the opposition PDP has come out to accuse the Buhari administration of fighting a selective anti-graft war, alleging that all of them (APC and PDP politicians) have sinned, but Buhari is just fighting a selective battle. They claimed that many of his ministers and party leaders are also corrupt.
Governor Ayo Fayose even claimed that the president is one a revenge mission against perceived opponents. But the Speaker of the House of Representatives who is an All Progressives Congress’ chieftain, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, was quick to defend those arrested so far. He said the roll call tilted towards the PDP chiefs because they had been in power for 16 years before their party was defeated last year.
The APC politicians, he said were in opposition all the years the PDP ruled and were not exposed to slush money. “If we are talking about corruption, naturally it will relate to those that had opportunity to serve in government… if you were to weigh members of opposition that are in government now and had the opportunity to serve, those that would have tendencies to engage in pilfering of resources, majority will come from PDP”, Dogara had said.
Amidst this ding-dong was when an online medium broke the news that the Chief of Army staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai owns some choice properties worth $1.5m in Dubai which were alleged to have been acquired illegally. While responding to the allegations, Lt. Gen. Buratai said that those behind the write up were defeated insurgents and terrorists who have migrated to the cyber space.
The army was quick to come to Buratai’s defence. In a statement, Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Usman, while not denying that the COAS owns the properties, said that they “were paid for in instalments through personal savings”. $1.5 million paid for in personal savings. This has got Nigerians reacting, wondering how an Army General could manage to save $1.5 million. Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) while commending Buratai’s feat of leading the Nigerian Army to defeat Boko Haram in the North East called on the COAS to resign honourably or be kicked out by President Buhari, adding that the war on corruption is a must-win for the administration.
Second republic House of Representatives member, Dr. Junaid Mohammed lamented that it defied logic that Buratai had not been asked to give account of his stewardship while his predecessors from other parts of the country were currently facing trial over their roles in embezzling funds meant for arms procurement. “Nobody with any sense of decency or justice can leave Buratai in service,” the medical practitioner concluded. Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba cultural association, Yinka Odumakin argued that the posture of the Buhari administration, which has cleared Buratai, cast a serious doubt on the genuineness of the anti-corruption war of the administration.
“It is preposterous to ask the Federal Government that cleared him to now fire him… but he is obviously a blight on the anti-corruption war. Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John cardinal Onaiyekan also echoed this view. “Proven allegation of corruption against the Army Chief would seriously pollute the anti-graft war of the present administration if not addressed.
The Federal Government should have advised Buratai to defend himself before the EFCC and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to show transparency instead of stoutly rising to his defence. The allegations are weighty. One wonders how a serving officer would be able to save millions of dollars to invest in choice offshore properties and other businesses.
The Chief of Army Staff needs to clear the nagging questions urgently with the relevant agencies. Federal Government, in this case should remain neutral as this matter casts a large shadow on this administration’s anti-corruption stand. The goodwill that the Buhari administration has enjoyed will be eroded and its credibility will suffer a big blow if this issue is swept under the carper.
President Buhari sincerely must subject Buratai and other perceived corrupt aides to corruption probe if this war is to be taken seriously.