YNaija Analysis: Pres. Buhari must back his anti-corruption rhetoric with action

Ever since President Muhammadu Buhari first ran for the presidency in 2003 and until he finally won in 2015, one of his strongest and most consistent promises has been his pledge to fight corruption in Nigeria. While every politician usually makes this promise, President Buhari has the added advantage of being perceived to be an honest man and having not dipped his hands in the public till despite holding various positions in government to even being Head of State.

Indeed, at the inception of his administration, he seemed to be keeping true to his promise as investigations were opened into various frauds that took place in the administration that preceded him, and top-ranking officials such as the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki and former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh brought to court for embezzling funds meant for equipping the military in the fight against Boko Haram.

However, President Buhari has also shown a penchant for overlooking allegations of corruption against members of his own government, and sometimes even exonerating them. For example, his letter earlier this week to the Senate defending the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir David Lawal on allegations of awarding a N230 million contract to his own company for grass-cutting in a camp for internally-displaced persons, was rather disappointing.

Rather than the President ask that the relevant anti-corruption agencies investigate him and if sufficient evidence is found, bring him to trial, while he distances himself from the stench of the SGF, the president is choosing to risk his reputation by casting aspersions on the work of the Senate ad-hoc committee investigating mismanagement of IDP funds whose report indicted Lawal.

Babachir Lawal’s case is not the only one where top-ranking members of the Buhari administration have been accused of corruption: his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari has been accused numerous times of having collected a N500m bribe to reduce the fine to be paid by the telecoms giant, MTN for flouting NCC rules on SIM card registration.

Not only that, it was disclosed that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai owns property in Dubai which seemingly could not have come from his salaries and allowances as a military officer and was not declared by him among his assets when he became army chief.

Yet, there is no evidence that investigation into these allegations has commenced nor is there any confidence that they will be charged to court. Worse, it does not seem likely that they will be relieved from their positions anytime soon.

This is not to mention numerous allegations of corruption leveled against Minister for Transportation Rotimi Amaechi and Minister for Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Fashola from their time as governor of Rivers and Lagos States respectively. Like the others aforementioned, the allegations against them have been swept under the carpet and essentially forgotten.

This then begs the question: are members of the Buhari administration immune from prosecution? Or does the president feel a need to prosecute only those in the immediate past administration? Where is that much-touted political will to fight corruption no matter who is involved?

It becomes increasingly hard for Nigerians to be convinced that President Buhari is sincere in his fight against corruption when he ignores allegations of corruption against top members of his government, and in some cases, even defend them.

This is worsened by the fact that there is yet to be a single conviction against any of the top government officials in court since 2015 on corruption allegations. This means that no achievements have yet been gotten in the anti-corruption fight so far.

Also, the President has failed to make any institutional or legal reforms for this task: whether by improving government processes to make it harder to steal government funds, strengthening agencies involved in investigating and prosecuting corrupt persons, or seeking the creation of laws such as the Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture Law and a Whistleblowers’ Protection Law that will improve how corruption is tackled.

In a matter of months, this administration will be at the halfway mark of its tenure. As it approaches it, it needs to be told that they need to back their rhetoric of fighting corruption with action – strong, visible action.

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