The National Observatory, as a developmental, social watchdog received with deep trepidation the news from the nation’s corridors of power that, successive past administrations have looted our national patrimony to the precipice of bankruptcy and financial insolvency. Truly, the pervasive culture of brazen looting of the public treasury by elected, appointed office holders, civil servants and coteries of cronies has gone beyond the purview of grand larceny, statutory corruption to the realm of pure economic sabotage. We call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, to summon requisite, political will, constitutional latitude as well as social rectitude to apprehend all persons found complicit in illicit cornering of the nation’s scarce, collective resources, without any golden treatment of any politically exposed sacred horses.
Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser to the President recently at a Conference of Chief of Defence Staff castigated the immediate past administration for grounding the national economy. According to Ribadu, “…….we’re facing budgetary constraints .,,,,,,it is important for you to know that we inherited a difficult situation, literally a bankrupt country, no money, to a point where we can say that all the money we’re getting now, we’re paying back what was taken. It is serious!” This is a heavy castigation that should not be taken lightly. Some social commentators have pointed out that we have gone through this route before.
President Muhammadu Buhari cast same aspersions on his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan administration. It can be logically deduced that irrespective of partisan hues and garbs, successive governments have been highly reckless in running the macro-economic affairs of the country.
Reno Omokri estimated that over $30Billion was looted by Buhari’s cronies. An anti-corruption, civil society watchdog, Human, Environmental and Development Agenda, HEDA in one of its research publications reveals that over $825Billion, N1.7Trillion public funds was stolen by past governments. The nation keeps receiving various sums of refunds from global financial institutions and Governments ostensibly looted, starched away in foreign accounts by late maximum, military dictator, Gen. Sanni Abacha.
These mind-boggling funds along with others yet to be placed either on record or, in public domain are, what could have served as requisite lifelines to engine our national economy from comatose and put it on the path of sustainable industrial development. If the accounts of Governments since the oil boom is subjected to a global, independent, forensic audit, proceeds of public treasury loot would be found in the private coffers of top elites in the Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Abubarkar Abdulsallam, Olusegun Obasanjo administrations. It is not only an Abacha loot return that we should be focusing on.
We can freshly recall that President Muhammadu Buhari government was ushered into power in 2015 with an anti-corruption mantra that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”. High corruption profiles were revealed involving former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, ex Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, fuel subsidy scam, and a host of others. Attempts were made by the anti-corruption agencies to apprehend, investigate, and prosecute some of these cases. It is however, a tragic-comedy drama that nothing concrete came out as deterrent in the eight years of tenure of President Buhari. Rather, two former Governors, Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye of Taraba and Plateau States respectively who were found guilty and appropriately convicted were granted pardon by the National State Council. The then, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubarkar Malami also meddled in many corruption cases while on trial, declaring “nolle Prosecui”, sometimes, outright refusal to prosecute on the altar of partisan considerations. The ludicrous parlance at a point was, “ Join the ruling party and all your sins shall be forgiven”.
The ongoing trial of Godwin Emefiele, ex-Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria can be aptly dissected to discern the magnitude of corruption in the immediate past administration. Emefiele is on trial for various offences bordering on “Economic Sabotage”. The audit of the apex bank under his watch tells tons of tales of fiscal and economic rascality perpetrated by the last administrations in cohort with private sector players, politically exposed persons, and financial institutions. Scarce, public funds are hibernating in the pockets of these marauders of power while the nation is on beggarly kneels, running government on credit lines. A situation that forebodies looming collapse of the national economy if urgent, drastic steps are not taken.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu rarely has any viable option than to boldly and ferociously go after all those who have illicitly cornered our national patrimony and scarce resources. Nigeria is abundantly endowed with natural resources to occupy a top status in the comity of civilized climes and advanced economies. It is the checkered history of a nation that is a paradise lost to corruption that is holding the country’s growth at abeyance. This administration must pierce the veil of secrecy, conspiracy and cover ups that protected corruption in our national space and social fabric. Nigerians deserve to know how much was looted in the last administration and those before it, those who were responsible for this dastardly rape on our economy must be fished out to face the full wrath of prosecution and, if found culpable, conviction !
This crusade would not be easy because corruption would fight back. Corruption is deeply embedded in our national space with notorious collaboration of unscrupulous civil service bureaucrats. Government must massify the crusade to stigmatize and eliminate corruption as a dangerous, highly inimical social vice inhibiting the nation’s development. What is imperative is to kick-start a massive, affirmative campaigns for “Peoples’ Ownership” of the crusade against corruption and economic sabotage. This would entail active engagements of strategic, social partners in the civil society, organised labour, informal sector, traditional, socio-cultural, faith-based bodies, artisans, traders, women, youth, and students.
Corruption is not a legal creation; it is a social malady. Thus, it requires more than legal and institutional solutions. The entire gamut of society must rise to tackle the hydra headed monster. President Tinubu must lead the process of recovering the nation from the snares of economic saboteurs by probing the fiscal malfeasance of past administrations. It should be a social crusade that resonates across the land.