President Muhammadu Buhari is an enigma. On May 29, 2019, he reportedly came to Eagle Square, Abuja, in specially designed 2019 Mercedes Benz S-Class S560. That was for his second term inauguration. Some reports put the worth of the car at N61 million. Some others say it’s N280 million.
Whatever, this made news because many Nigerians had seen Buhari as a man of integrity, a man who lives a Spartan life. But against all expectations, the President has failed to drastically cut the cost of governance and champion open and transparent government.
Recently, some Nigerians took him to task for not making his asset declaration public. In addition, a non-governmental organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), demanded specific details of asset declarations of successive Presidents and state governors since 1999. SERAP also wanted to know the number of such declarations found to be false and in breach of the code of conduct for public officers. The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) denied this Freedom of Information request. According to the CCB, asset declaration form is private information and releasing it would amount to an invasion of privacy.
I had expected Buhari to shame the CCB by simply publicising his asset declaration. In 2015, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had listed Buhari’s assets to include 270 cows, 25 sheep, five horses, economic trees, five houses in Kaduna, Daura, Kano and Abuja, some cars, etc. Although Shehu said Buhari did not acquire any new house, bank account, and shares, it would be good to know what the President declared this year, compared to what he declared on assumption of office in 2015.
He and the state governors are public officers and public property. Hence, it is important that they keep their affairs open to the public, with the exception of what they do with their wives in the other room and a few other things. This breeds public trust and accountability.
Recall that the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was forced out of office on account of false asset declaration. Equity and justice demand that we know the assets of other elected public officers.
It would be good to know how many houses state governors declared on assumption of office in 2015 and how many they have now. Since Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State wants to come back for a second term in office, are his assets commensurate with the poor outlook of his state’s resources, where workers are owed many arrears of salary?
What is the worth of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan? I heard they spent a lot of money to campaign for their current positions. Gbajabiamila will obviously reward his core loyalists and supporters with appointment into ‘juicy’ committees of the House. Senator Danjuma Goje may likely head a juicy committee in the Senate, having stepped down for Lawan after a meeting with Buhari at the Villa. And soon after the meeting, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) withdrew from the eight-year N25 billion fraud case against him.
It is regrettable that our public officers live large while the majority of the people live below the poverty line. If not for the timely intervention of Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, council chairmen in his state would have jetted out to Dubai for a 10-day workshop. The trip was approved during the administration of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola in 2018; but Oyetola reasoned that embarking on it this time would not be auspicious, hence, he ordered the chairmen to suspend the trip. I wonder if there is no conference centre or good hotel in Osun or any other part of Nigeria. The choice of Dubai obviously has more to do with garnering some hard currency than acquiring knowledge. And this is a state whose financial condition is in a total mess.
We have been talking about the need to cut the high emolument of the National Assembly members. But the more we talk, the higher the wage bill. Good enough, some civil society groups have actually gone to court to stop the National Assembly Commission from paying the members of the 9th National Assembly some N4.68 billion said to be their take-off allowance.
How about other government agencies and parastatals? Last year, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, made a startling revelation about many agencies of government not submitting audited accounts to his office. In an audit report, Ayine said as at April 2018, 109 agencies had not submitted beyond 2013. Seventy-six agencies last submitted for the 2010 financial year while 65 agencies have never submitted any account since inception. There was also poor disclosure of receipts from some ministries and agencies like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The AuGF said, “The extensive violation of statutory financial reporting obligations by parastatals is of great concern. Stringent sanctions, including withholding financial releases and sanction of the chief executives should be imposed on defaulting agencies who do not render timely accounts, as provided in the Constitution and financial regulations.”
The AuGF may have been talking to himself, as we have continued to move on as if nothing is amiss.
We have also continued to borrow and spend money frivolously. Nigeria had exited a debilitating debt trap in 2005 under the Paris and London Club of creditors. Today, the debt trap the present government is setting for Nigerians is a story for another day.
Let’s stop deceiving ourselves. Corruption is not hard to fight if leaders are sincere. Some good examples from other nations are worth emulating. On winning the presidential election last year, Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, left the country’s national palace in the front passenger seat of a Volkswagen Jetta without any bodyguard.
“The people will protect me,” he said, adding, “He who fights for justice has nothing to fear.”
Lopez Obrador promised transformative change, including stemming corruption and violence, for Mexico. He also pledged to earn half of his predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto’s salary and to shed the trappings of power such as presidential residence and plane.
Recently, a Jerusalem court convicted the Israeli Prime Minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, for illegally misusing state funds on lavish meals in expensive restaurants between 2010 and 2013. This was despite her having an in-house cook provided by the state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself faces three corruption indictments in October this year. Though he has denied all charges, he risks imprisonment if convicted.
Netanyahu’s crimes are laughable. One, he allegedly received gifts such as cigars, champagne and jewellery from billionaires in exchange for favours. Two, he purportedly colluded with Israel’s top selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to hurt its competition in exchange for favourable coverage. Three, Netanyahu allegedly gave the country’s telecoms provider, Bezeq, some incentives in exchange for positive stories on an online website it owns.
In Nigeria, Netanyahu would be celebrated as a saint. His sins pale to nothing compared with what our rulers use their nebulous security votes to do. Who will save Nigeria? Sadly, there is no hope for redemption in the current government.
Re: Miyetti Allah’s monkey pox romance with South-East
Miyetti Allah’s romance with South-East is one of the graded steps of the Next Level of the ruling party, the APC. I have tried to find the connection between Miyetti and the South-East, as the zone’s outpost security check to no avail. I could not link it to various political promises, but the nearest to it is the much-talked-about Next Level promise of the present administration. There is already a love romance between South-West and the North and there had always existed an unexplainable love lost between North and South-East. Therefore, if Miyetti Allah could come as a palliative, South-East that had hitherto remained unvulnerable will automatically cave in and that will be nunc dimitis. South-East, or rather former Eastern Region, be wise for if South-East goes, eventually South-South is gone. May God never allow it. The idea of securing the South-East cannot come from a cattle breeders’ association. The South-East needs their product not their AK-47. The idea itself at this time is rather suspicious as well as insulting. The umbrella organisation of the South-East has spoken, the ebullient and solid governor of “God’s Own State,” Abia, has also spoken; the Igbo youths have also lent their voice. Miyetti Allah should listen and try the South-West, their natural ally.
– Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State, email@example.com.
Casmir, Igbo’s lack of understanding of modern-day politics in Nigeria is the reason why they have been ostracised from mainstream national offices and your ilk ain’t helping matters. They should stop playing politics of hatred, bitterness and anger, to get it right. They put all their eggs in a basket and have been shown their result, shikena. Politics is all about who gets what, how and when. They failed to meet 25% of total votes in South-East for APC. It was their time but not their turn because of poor performance. They were warned!
– Anonymous, +2348161114572
Governors of South-East should not allow proposed Fulani vigilance group to take place in South-East states. It is an evil agenda.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 1, 2019.