CORRUPTION PROBE: JONATHAN AND HIS MINISTERS FOUGHT BACK

PINNED against the wall with allegations that they mismanaged public resources and plundered the nation’s wealth, some of the ministers who served in the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan regrouped at the weekend. But for the fact that they were no longer in government, the gathering, which held on Sunday in Abuja, would have passed for a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, chaired by the former President.

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No fewer them 15 of the former FEC members attended what many called ‘the Abuja strategy session”, at the end of which took exception to bashings from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration that they grounded the economy. After appraising their performance in government, they scored themselves high and said they were not corrupt as being portrayed by the Buhari administration.

Not a few Nigerians have been calling for the probe of those who flattened the nation’s economy. Some even want the probe extended beyond the immediate past administration to serve as a deterrent. The All Progressives Congress (APC) said the looting by public officials under the Jonathan administration was so massive that over-looking it by the Buhari administration will amount to a disservice to Nigerians.

Its spokesman Lai Mohammed said in a statement on August 16 that only the total recovery of every kobo stolen from the public till could placate Nigerians, who have been short-changed by those entrusted with the commonwealth. Mohammed said that whoever attempts, either by deed or word, to sabotage the recovery efforts of the Buhari administration could not be seen as patriots.

The APC statement reads: “It is absolutely gratifying that Nigerians are vehemently opposed to the few who would rather have the government of the day turn a blind eye to the looted funds and, in their words, carry on with the process of governance.

“Truly, what sort of governance can go on if the billions of naira in a few hands are not recovered? In the first instance, the government needs every kobo of the funds it can muster to bring about the change it has promised Nigerians.

“Secondly, leaving such hair-raising funds in the hands of the few looters is dangerous, because they can use the funds to destabilise any government.

“In fact, no one will be surprised if the looters use their dirty funds to sponsor public demonstrations against the government’s determination to recover the funds.

“Thirdly, allowing those who privatised the commonwealth to get away is offering a thumbs-up for looting. No responsible government will do that.”

According to the APC, the government will be sleeping with fire on its roof by allowing looters to walk the streets free as ill-gotten wealth could be used to cripple governance. It alleged that the looters were already embarking on a relentless and an increasingly-bold campaign to discredit the government—- in a spirited attempt to sabotage funds’ recovery, using newspaper columnists, “talking heads” and otherwise respectable opinion leaders.

“They and their paid hirelings have tried to employ sophistry to muddle the waters, but Nigerians are much wiser, and will not succumb to the dirty antics of the looters’ megaphones,” it said.

“In fact, no one will be surprised if the looters use their dirty funds to sponsor public demonstrations against the government’s determination to recover the funds.”

The party listed some of the looting to enable Nigerians have a better appreciation of the seriousness of the issue at stake.

They are: N3.8 trillion out of the N8.1 trillion earned from crude oil (2012-2015) was withheld by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); $2.1 billion from Excess Crude Account (ECA) unaccounted for; N109.7 billion royalty from oil firms unremitted by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and $6 billion allegedly looted by some ministers in the immediate past administration.

Others are: $13.9 billion being proceeds of 160 million barrels of crude lost between 2009 and 2012; $15 million from botched arms deal yet to be returned to Nigeria; $13 billion Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends mostly unaccounted for; N30 billion questionable waiver granted to rice importers and N183 billion  unaccounted for at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The party said these “missing” funds constituted just a tip of the iceberg since they were from a few sectors of the economy – mostly the oil sector – and were discovered even before the forensic audit now being undertaken in some key areas.

“The level of looting that went on in other sectors is better imagined, hence the need for all Nigerians to rally around the Buhari administration to recover the loot, bring the looters to justice and to put in place measures to prevent such looting in the future.”

But at their strategy session, the former ministers dismissed the APC’s claim and mandated Abubakar Suleiman, a former National Planning Minister, to speak for them. The former ministers said “contrary to what the APC and its agents would rather have the public believe, the Jonathan administration did not encourage corruption; rather, it fought corruption vigorously, within the context of the rule of law and due process.”

They listed the introduction of the e-Wallet in the distribution of government-subsidised fertiliser, the development of the Government Integrated Financial Management Platform, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management Systems (IPPIS) as some of the anti-corruption measures initiated by the Jonathan administration.

At a forum during the electioneering campaign in the run-up to the March 28 and April 11 general elections, Dr Jonathan described as petty stealing what Nigerians were describing as corruption.

Jonathan’s position was a sharp contrast to Buhari’s conviction that corruption could kill Nigeria if the authority failed to decisively deal with the cankerworm.

As part of his electoral promises, Buhari, who identified corruption in public office and insecurity as frontline problems plaguing the country, promised to wage an unrelenting war against the twin-menace —if elected.

Though their best may not have been good enough for Nigerians, the former ministers said: “We are proud to have served Nigeria and we boldly affirm that we did so diligently and to the best of our abilities.”

Demanding a stop to the name-calling of those who served under the Jonathan administration and the trial by news media, the former ministers said they were pushed to defend themselves because the scathing remarks on them have not stopped.

“We have reserved our comment until now, in the fervent hope that once the euphoria that may have inspired the various attacks on the past administration wears off, reason will prevail.

“But we are constrained to speak up in defence of the legacy of the Jonathan administration, and shall do so again, for as long as those who are determined to rubbish that legacy are unrelenting in their usual deployment of blackmail, persecution and similar tactics.”

Six ex-ministers were closer to showcase Jonathan’s legacy landmarks

“No administration can be either completely bad or completely good,” the former ministers said.

The ministers said the contributions of the former President to Nigerias development deserved acknowledgement.

They mandated some of their colleagues to showcase the legacy projects of the Jonathan government for Nigerians to see that the ‘kettle is not as black as it is being painted’.

Saddled with the responsibility are: Mike Onolememen (Works); Osita Chidoka (Aviation); Ibrahim Shekarau (Education); Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Finance); Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke (Petroleum Resources) and Onyebuchi Chukwu (Health).

But critics have been wondering how some of these ministers will defend their integrity, considering the massive infrastructural deficit facing Nigeria.  The airports projects remain unfinished, their contracts immersed in secrecy despite the huge cash thrown into their execution.

Nigerian’s finances, hobbled by questionable subsidy payments, doubtful withdrawals and sheer recklessness, have been in trouble, even as Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala claims to have done well. The oil sector is being cleaned up, after it was bled almost to death by those who saw it as a big pipeline to siphon away Nigeria’s wealth.

There are, however, those who believe that Dr. Jonathan should hold his head, having put up a noble action of conceding defeat in the March 28 presidential election.

“He should be proud, continue to play the statesmen and shrug off the accusations”, a source said, adding: “Did they expect Jonathan to allow more Nigerians to die before conceding defeat? Does he not deserve to enjoy his retirement in peace?”

The source, who pleaded not to be named, urged Nigerians to show more understanding “as far as Jonathan is concerned”.

Jonathan’s legacies

  • Got rid of the fraud in fertiliser subsidies with e-Wallet
  • Supported institutional development of strong systems and mechanisms to curb corruption in the public service and plug revenue leakages.
  • Development of the Government Integrated Financial Management Platform
  • Designed the Treasury Single Account (TSA)
  • Introduced Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management Systems (IPPIS)
  • Saved over N100 billion paid to ghost workers and ghost pensioners with the introduction of biometric registration of civil servants and pensioners.
  • Cleansing of the oil sector
  • Tarred 25, 000 kilometres of roads
  • Promoted multinational response to Boko Haram insurgency with the formation of Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF)
  • Commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to audit the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
  • Introduced the Nigerian Content Policy
  • Unbundled the Power Holding Company of Nigerian (PHCN) Plc. to encourage completion in the power sector
  • Promoted the rule of law, free speech, fundamental human rights, and a robust freedom of information regime.
  • Promoted women’s rights to participate in public life and applied the federal character principle
  • Promoted inclusive governance and encouraged the Organised Private Sector to play key roles in governance

 

The mess left by PDP 

  • A mind-shattering $2.2 billion-arms scandal.
  • A $6.9 million-fraud committed under the guise of buying three mobile stages
  • A N2.5 billion-scam involving the renting of house boats.
  • N3.8 trillion out of the N8.1 trillion earned from crude oil (2012-2015) withheld by NNPC
  • $2.1 billion from Excess Crude Account (ECA) unaccounted for
  • N109.7 billion royalty from oil firms unremitted by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)
  • $6 billion allegedly looted by some ministers
  • $13.9 billion being proceeds of 160 million barrels of crude lost between 2009 and 2012
  • $15 million from botched arms deal yet to be returned to Nigeria
  • $13 billion Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dividends mostly unaccounted for
  • N30 billion questionable waiver granted to rice importers
  • N183 billion unaccounted for at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
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