Accountability Lab says Buhari's anti-graft war, a waste of time

Accountability Lab says Buhari’s anti-graft war, a waste of time

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Accountability Lab says Buhari's anti-graft war, a waste of time

Former President Muhammadu Buhari

The Accountability Lab has voiced dissatisfaction with the extent to which corruption flourished during the previous administration led by Muhammadu Buhari.

Blair Glencorse, Executive Director of Accountability Lab Global, stated in an interview with journalists Friday in Abuja that the anti-corruption battle under Buhari’s leadership floundered at every stage, from inquiry to prosecution to policy change.

According to Glencorse, former President Buhari began his tenure with great power and promise and could have made more progress in constructing solid institutions had he not lost trust in his second term while fighting corruption.

He claimed that the development was not due to a lack of understanding or awareness of the issues by civil society organizations, noting that organizations such as Yiaga Africa, Enough is Enough, Connected Development, Accountability Lab, and others have consistently tried to alert the government on how political interference weakens institutional independence, but he has remained deaf to all calls.

“Former President Buhari took office in May 2015 and was reelected for a second term in 2019, campaigning on anti-corruption, security, and economic development,” he explained. Based on his robust anti-corruption drive, government agencies and civil workers appeared to have a fresh sense of vitality when he took office. Nigerians even posted images of frozen beer and drinks, attributing the brief improvement in power supply to Buhari’s “integrity” body language.

“While there have been initiatives to combat corruption under Buhari’s administration, it is critical to assess his legacy–both achievements and shortcomings–as a military ruler and then a democratically elected president.”

“For many years, corruption in Nigeria has been in the spotlight at all levels of government, with deep-rooted unethical practices plaguing the state for generations.”

“Corruption is notoriously difficult to quantify, but even indices that measured Nigeria’s integrity demonstrated how far we fell short – for example, the Index of Public Integrity ranked Nigeria 102nd out of 114 countries.”

“However, research from the Chatham House Africa Programme’s Social Norms and Accountable Governance Project found that many Nigerians, eight out of ten, believe corruption is morally unacceptable.” Most of us detest corruption, but it persists.

“Buhari has called himself a “man of integrity,” but how can a morally upright man preside over so much unwanted graft?” President Buhari stated during his presidency that political officeholders who were convicted of corruption would face prosecution, but the reality of politics swiftly became obvious.

“Those who provided political support and votes were quickly accepted, despite questions about their morals and behaviors.” Other politically exposed individuals (PEPs) have not been held accountable. For example, a former governor and serving senator who aspired to be the Senate President of the 10th Assembly was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Federal High Court for N7 billion in fraud but was later released by a Supreme Court decision.

“An Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) report claimed approximately N9.4 billion in bribes between 2018 and 2020 as a result of exorbitant amounts offered to judges in political cases.” Buhari commended the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, as a man worthy of emulation.

“Meanwhile, Abacha was named one of the world’s most corrupt leaders, and it is estimated that he stole between $2 and $5 billion from Nigeria.” The stolen cash are still being repatriated by the Nigerian government.

“Procurement issues are a case in point.” According to the ICPC, over 60% of corruption charges are procurement-related, as a result of public workers abusing procurement systems.”

“In Nigeria, the average bribe paid for a government contract or public procurement opportunity is N31,955, according to corruption patterns and trends.” Before the 2015 elections, Buhari stated in a paper titled “My Covenant with Nigerians” that if won, he would form the National Council on Public Procurement, as required by the Public Procurement Act 2007.

“However, the government has continued to approve unaccountable sums of money through the Federal Executive Council, usurping the NCPP’s powers.” Government institutions have become breeding grounds for unethical activities and behaviors, which have profoundly damaged the well-being of the majority of Nigerians, aggravating poverty and entrenched inequalities.

“All public officials, including the President, are obligated to act in the best interests of the people they serve.” Accountability ensures that persons in public life be open, honest, and accountable for their actions and the consequences of their policies.

“Part 1 of the fifth schedule of the Nigerian Constitution provides for a Code of Conduct for public officers, and section 8 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, states that a public officer shall, at the end of four years and the end of his term in office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities, as well as those of his unmarried children under the age of 18.” These provisions, however, are rarely enforced.

“For example, Premium Times requested Mr. Buhari’s assets declaration details from the Code of Conduct Bureau using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.” The bureau refused to release the document, which revealed gaps in the provision of paragraph 3(c) of the Third Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, which makes assets declarations of public officers available for inspection by any Nigerian citizen, subject to the terms and conditions prescribed by the National Assembly (via the FOI).

“Today, holding public office is not a privilege and an opportunity to serve our people as it should be; it is an aspiration for those who hope to subvert the system to support their wealth creation.”

“However, we have seen examples of exemplary public servants who have been outstanding, such as Dr. Yemi Kale, two-time Statistician-General of the National Bureau of Statistics, who was named and famed as an Integrity Icon for producing credible, reliable, consistent, and timely data on national issues and concerns.”

“Civil society is critical in this type of situation.” Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have worked with the ICPC to create the National Ethics and Integrity Policy.

“This policy promotes an integrity, transparency, and accountability culture in the public and private sectors.” It also improves the non-functional Code of Conduct for Public Employees, which was supposed to enhance public accountability by public officials.

“While Buhari praises himself for recovering “unaccounted trillions” of naira from corrupt officials, civil society organizations (CSOs) supported the passage and signing of unpopular bills in response, such as the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management); Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition), Whistleblower Policy; and Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition).”

“When we are let down so dramatically by so-called ‘integrity’ people in our society while also suffering from weak policies with poor implementation, citizens must step up to demonstrate and shape the behaviors we want to see.”

“Nigeria’s number one citizen promised to lead but did not follow through on his promises or public accountability commitments.”

“Accountability is essential not only for preserving public trust, but also for fostering a healthy democracy.” Buhari will be remembered not as a man of integrity, but as a man of opacity as he departs office.”

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