Impunity writ large – The Nation

From the report emanating from the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGoF), the last has not been heard on the exact amount that the 2015 elections cost the Nigerian taxpayer. According to the report, money running into billions of naira was disbursed to various Federal Government agencies as loans, but the agencies, including the Nigerian Army, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other federal agencies admitted that they got the money but they used it for election purposes. They said they never applied for loans and the money could therefore not have been referred to as loans.

These disclosures were made by the Senate Public Account Committee (SPAC), which scrutinised the auditor-general’s report as part of its oversight function. Chairman of SPAC, Mathew Urhoghide, said “While perusing the assets and liabilities aspect of the report, we came across certain things that caught our attention in the query by the Auditor-General. He mentioned that loans under special funds were used for different purposes. The money, drawn from levies imposed on imported materials, was given out as loans to agencies according to the documents before us.”

Urhoghide added that “The agencies are many. We asked whether they got the money, they said yes. Also, we asked whether it was given to them as loan but they said no.

“The ONSA told us the truth that it used its own to support the Anambra election by providing logistics…The money is much under various headings. There is one of N31bn, N37bn, and N922m among others, drawn from different levies.”

This is a typical example of the systemic corruption in the country. Although it took place under the watch of former President Goodluck Jonathan, it is something that is pervasive because people think incumbent political office holders, particularly at the level of the president, cannot be defeated in elections in our kind of clime. So, they can do anything and get away with it once they are highly connected in the ruling party. These disclosures are coming to light now obviously because there was a change of guards at the 2015 presidential election in which the then President Jonathan conceded defeat to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. But for that, the matter would have been treated as a ‘family affair’ and swept under the carpet.

This is sad not only in its corruption context but also because of the purpose that the money was meant for. Nigeria is a country striving for self-sufficiency in rice production. It therefore would have been expected that all hands would be on deck to achieve this objective, especially on the part of government and its agencies. Unfortunately, it is the same government officials and agencies that are subverting the objective. Definitely, this is only one of such cases where the the very people who should ensure that government’s programmes and policies succeed are the very people working against them.

We urge the Senate to get to the root of this matter. People must be taught how to distinguish between private money and public funds, and how to see the latter as sacrosanct and something to be used for the public good. Not only that, it must be seen to have been so spent. How could money meant to be disbursed as loans for rice farmers be diverted for election purposes?

We need to know how the money was released to the various government agencies and parastatals. After all, some people must have signed for the release of the funds and some officials must have acknowledged receipt. They must all be identified and duly made to face the music if they cannot give convincing account of what they did with the money. The money is too huge to be treated merely as one of those things.

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