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By Soni Daniel

Nigeria is not close to claiming the diadem for the tricky battle while the battlefield is still laden with landmines that may deter any of the leading candidates from launching a holistic and brutal confrontation with the raging monster in order to flush it from the polity.

The feeling among many Nigerians is that nothing remarkable has been done in the area of fighting graft in the country.

 Those who harbour that feeling appear not to be assuaged by whatever methods and measures the leading anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, might have applied in the last eight years (or since inception) to rein in the cankerworm. 

Their cynicism might not be farfetched as they continue to hear and see humongous and frightening figures for government expenditures but witness appalling services. They helplessly watch as questionable persons rise meteorically from penury to fame and opulence once they take public office. 

They seem not to be appeased that the present administration claims that it has fulfilled its campaign manifesto to route corruption from the Nigerian psyche once voted into power. Of a truth, the cardinal programme of the ruling party was premised on fighting corruption, improving the economy and confronting the monstrous enterprise of insecurity, that has left a dent on the landscape of the country, particularly, in the Northern axis.  Has it succeeded?  The jury is still out and not ready to reconvene.

For this reason, Nigeria has been seen as a corrupt entity, a ‘spectacularly corrupt’ one at that, no matter how hard the government may struggle to defend and showcase its anti-corruption records, the amount of property and cash it has confiscated in the last one year and the number of elements it has sent to the prisons to cool their feet for sticky fingers. Nigerians need more to happen in order to take the government graft fight seriously.

It does not seem to matter that the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, has beaten his chest in absolute adulation, claiming that the agency has recorded an unprecedented haul in cash and seizure of ill-gotten fortune from corrupt elements across the country. It does not also matter that many of the young elements, who take delight in stealing money through compromising electronic mails and other digital fraud, are being routinely caught right in the act by the operatives of the anti-graft agency and promptly dealt with, thereby giving the impression that the war is at its peak.

Before Bawa, Ibrahim Magu came with so much promise but became enmeshed in a tangle of power play and alleged corrupt practices.  Virtually all those before Magu had left in circumstances considered controversial, sometimes, verging on allegations of corruption but none has ever been prosecuted. Therefore, how do you succeded in confronting corruption deploying corrupt means?

Many right-thinking Nigerians are eagerly waiting to applaud the president of Nigeria under whose watch, a big, decorated and celebrated Nigerian who is caught in shady deals or found to have converted public wealth for personal gains, should be promptly arrested, detained and prosecuted with speed as it is done to the poor in the land.

Nigerians are not keen on seeing powerful and influential politicians, who have used their positions to loot the treasury, brazenly brandishing the ill-gotten wealth around and brushing aside anyone who dares to challenge them whenever elections are called, with the anti-corruption agencies looking helpless or feigning ignorance about their calamitous deeds.

Nigerians would certainly be appeased if their next president would come out boldly to confront the monster called corruption without minding whose ox is gored in the process in order to send the right message to the nation that enough is enough. To be noted also, is the fact that an enactment that makes provision for a special court for the prosecution of corrupt cases, would be a welcome development.

Such court should also set a reasonable timeframe for the investigation and trial of persons suspected of graft contrary to the present situation in which corruption cases continue indefinitely in courts and weary the anti-graft agencies and send a very wrong message to potential thieves.

As the various presidential candidates begin to jostle for votes to emerge as Nigeria’s next president, the crucial issue of fighting graft to a standstill needs to be addressed by each of them. And, putting that serious challenge to the mind, should be top on the agenda of the incoming president.

For instance, part of the albatross of this administration in its corruption fight is the negative optics of people with corruption cases sitting and holding court with President Buhari.  There are, also, those who are facing corruption charges and, once they decamp to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are ushered into Aso Rock Presidential Villa to have a photo shoot with Mr President. 

There are more.  Even some leading political party leaders still have corruption cases against them.  There was, in 2019, a certain legislator whose condition for supporting the prospective head of his chamber of the national assembly was the dropping of the corruption charges against him.  The charges were promptly dropped.  Yet, corruption is not only about the embezzlement. 

The mere fact of abuse of office and public trust is itself a corrupt act.  How do you fight a war on corruption in a manner that suggests bias and subterfuge?

Then there is the new economic crime of crude oil theft.  Whereas the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki allegedly misappropriated $2.1b, the quantum of crude theft that happened between just July 2022 and August 2022, according to Peter Obi of Labour Party, LP, should trouble the mind.  Speaking at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, on his economic blueprint, Obi declared:

” In July, our production was 1,083,000, which means in July, we had 717,000 barrels shortage. Just multiply that by 31days, that gives 22,227,000 barrels on the average pricing of $110 per barrel, so, we lost $2,445,000,000 (two billion, four hundred and forty-five million dollars) in one month.

Even at the officialN410 to $1, (meanwhile, the real rate is N690). Let’s use a N550 to $1 average, and you multiply $2,445,000,000 by N550, you’ll have N1, 344,750,000,000, and we are owing ASUU, N1.1trillion. That’s just one month’s crude theft.

In the month of August, it became worse. In August, our supply went down to 975,000 barrels, so in August we were losing 825,000 in a day. Multiply by 31days of August, it will give you 25,652,500 barrels and throughout the month of August, it sold for $100 per barrel. So, we lost another $2.5billion. Multiply again by N550, it is about N1.4trillion. That is official stealing and we will deal with it decisively.”

President Buhari promised to deal with corruption just as Obi is promising now; also, just as Bola Tinubu of APC and Atiku Abubakar of PDP are declaring. Nigerians are waiting.

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