—As private sector calls for rehabilitation of Warri, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Calabar ports
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – VICE President, Yemi Osinbajo has said that corruption has not been completely dealt with in the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration as the cankerworm has become systematic in the country.
The Vice President who stated this Monday at the 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for private sector stakeholders at the Conference Centre, Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, noted that with President Buhari on the saddle, there was fears in many quarters that anyone caught indulging in corrupt practices would be dealt with.
He said that the type of leadership would determine the type of followership, adding that, “If the president is corrupt, the entire financial system is compromised and that is what we have seen with the figures we have just seen. That is an absolutely important that we must take into account.”
He further stated that when the government was committed in fighting corruption, because of the systematic problem, corruption always fight back.
According to him, “I am not saying that corruption under this administration has been completely dealt with, no certainly not. Where corruption has become systemic such as we have in our country today, you cannot deal with it in one full fell swoop, it is not possible. In any event you still have a lot of corruption fighting back. The system fights back and its both an internal and external fight back and you have to be steadfast and strategic to win the battle.
“There is no way that you have a system such as ours that has consistently thrived on corruption and proceeds of corruption and public financing in particular, that will give up and say guys, the problem has been solved. No.
“It is a system that feeds on corruption and it affects all aspects of governance, so trying to deal with it is certainly not a walk in the park.
“But I want to say that that task has already begun and that task is being done consistently and I believe that going forward in the next few years, no matter how we are criticized, if w stick to policy especially controlling excesses and corruption in public finance, this country will make the kind of progress that it deserves to make with all the resources at our disposal.
“If we stick to the policy of ensuring that as far as public finance is concern, there is no impunity and that we hold people to account, I am absolutely confident that this country has what it really takes to make the kind of progress we deserve to make as a nation.”
Asking rhetorically what was wrong with the Nigerian economy and what should be done to correct the flaws, he said, “There are several issues many of which have already been articulated but I want to talk about what I think is the biggest problem which for some reason we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy.
“This is grand corruption in the public finance space. Sometimes the way we talk about the Nigerian economy it does appear as if it is the economy of say Norway or somewhere where all things are equal. Even when we refer to what has taken place in our economy we almost sound as if this is in every sense a very normal business environment, a very normal public finance environment but that is not the case.
“I do not think that any consideration about our economy development can be properly and honestly done without fully analyzing corruption, especially grand corruption in the public finance space.
“You see that despite record high levels of oil prices, very little was invested in infrastructure and a record level of leakages were recorded in the past few years.
“This is the fundamental issue in our economy. Corruption affects everything. It affects even judgment as to what sort of infrastructure to put in place or whether infrastructure will ever be complete. It is so fundamental that can’t even think of our economy without thinking of what to do about it.
“Sometimes when we talk about our economy we talk about the fact that we have relied of single commodity and that is one of the reasons why we are where we are. Yes, that’s quite through but the fact is that, proceeds from that single commodity were regularly hijacked consistently by a few. That is really the problem. If we had spent the proceeds from that single commodity the way we ought to, we won’t be where we are today. Most of the proceeds went to rent seekers in the industry and production.
“For example, I am sure many of us are familiar with the so called Strategic Alliance Contract with the NNPC and NDDC. The promoters of the companies made away with close to $3 billion, almost a tenth of our reserves. There is no way if someone made away with a tenth of your reserves that you will not have a major economic shock. And if we don’t deal with it, if we don’t talk about it, how will we be able to discuss our economy in a real honest way with a view to ensuring that these things do not happen again.
“In one single transaction a few weeks to the elections 2015, sums of a $100,289 million were just fretted away by a few. When you consider that in 2014 as the minister of finance has said that oil price was an average of $110 a barrel and only N99 billion was spent on power, works and housing and when we talk about the economy we talk as if these are normal by every standard.
“Nobody should talk about the economy when you have this kind of huge leakages and huge corruption. Corruption that completely makes even what you are allocating to capital projects are made nonsense of.
“We saw from the presentation of minister of finance N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation N15 billion, so the total spent on infrastructure in those three years were N153 billion and in two weeks before the elections N150 billion was essentially shared.
“So if your total infrastructure spending is N150 billion and you can share N153 billion that is completely incredible. That sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. And when we are talking about the economy, we must simply understand that that is the problem.
“Today, with less revenue, we have increased capital funding by 400% as the minister has said, in power, works and housing, in defence, transportation, agriculture. If we want to do analysis in Nigeria, it is either fraudulent or ignorant if we do not bring money that belongs to corruption into the mass.
“This is what distinguishes in my own respectful view, this administration from the other. I can say that with what I have seen, if you have a president who is not corrupt, 50 percent of your financial problems are over. This is what I have seen; I can demonstrate it with facts and figures.”
Speaking at the meeting, the organized private sector called on the Federal Government to rehabilitate ports in the eastern flank of the country like the Warri, Port Harcourt, Onitsha and Calabar ports in order to boost the economy, adding that most of the importers were from the area where the ports had been abandoned and made to be dormant.
They said that if the eastern seaports were opened, it would be easier for them to clear their goods.