Posted by News Express | 22 July 2020 | 1,192 times
Two scenarios are unfolding simultaneously in Nigeria, which have occupied much of our media space and national conversations. These are the currently running Big Brother Naija (BBN) and the investigation of the spate of corrupt practices at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the National Assembly. The reactions of Nigerians to the two incidents tell you why Nigeria is in a cesspool of corruption and the quandary of gross underdevelopment.
The responses of Nigerians to these two matters explain why Nigerian political elites are emboldened to ensure that the vicious circle of mass poverty, political instability and wanton destruction of the opportunities of advancement by the youth are maintained without let or hindrance. Ironically, the younger generation of Nigerians has embraced the hedonistic lifestyle of watching irrelevant television soap of Big Brother Naija that teaches nothing but nudity and debauchery.
These twin events are at the same time related and unrelated and by so doing have defied the law of logic which states that nothing can both be and not be at the same time. Nigeria, it would seem, defies all natural laws. For instance, the natural law that goes to show that natural resources are to be harnessed for the greatest good of the greatest percentage of the people has been twisted to mean that the bulk of the natural resources of Nigeria are to be deployed to service the Hedonism of the ruling class.
I make the above assertion bearing in mind that the two scenarios have become major talking points in both the orthodox and unorthodox or rather main and online media, because of the earlier mentioned scenarios playing out on television and from the National Assembly.
However, one thing that strikes me most is that majority of young Nigerians are in no way moved by the stench of filth and corruption oozing out of the green chambers of the National Assembly. So the youths are not moved to stage any protest to demand comprehensive accountability and transparency.
The apathy and lack of interest among the youth is symbolised by their inclination to stay glued to their paid television and watch the nudity that is the Big Brother Naija show rather than find time to stage street demonstrations. Clearly, the timing of the television programme that coincided with this investigation of the National Assembly's lower chamber is harmful to our national interests.
There is the suspicion that the ruling party may have organised the charade of a show by the South African satellite TV owners known as Multichoice so as to serve as perfect distractions from the groundswell of mismanagement of the National wealth of Nigeria by the government at all levels.
The Youth of Nigeria are missing an opportunity of a life time to regain control of the political governance of Nigeria by not minding how the current holders and wielders of political powers carry on with their duties.
This is because, if you look at a place like the United States of America and much of Europe, whereby there have been massive street protests in support of the Black Lives Matter, the clear majority of these demonstrators are young people.
The spate of street protests over the killing by the police of a black man, George Floyd, have understandably led to revolutionary changes and the entire globe is right now recognising the need for the black populations of the world to be treated with dignity and honour, like all other members of the global community of humanity.
It was to the credit of the persistent protests on the streets of the United States of America that made the prosecutors to file charges of first degree murder against the police officers that killed the black man.
In Nigeria, the youths are busy watching the soap opera known as Big Brother Naija while right before our faces, there are revelations of mind blowing corruption by the political elite, who ought to set the standards of good governance. These members of the thieving political elite are progressively robbing the nation of the resources that ought to be used to fix the broken down infrastructures to train the manpower of the younger generation of Nigerians.
Watching the appearances before the Federal House of Representatives Investigative Committee on Niger Delta Development of Commission under the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Godswill Akpabio and the acting managing director of NDDC, have thrown up a lot of issues that can be situated on the urgency of the now for the younger population of Nigeria to give more energetic attention to what goes on in government to avoid a collapse of Nigeria.
The dramatic scenes that played out at that public hearing in the Federal House of Representatives, reminded me of the book Straight to hell, which is the true tales of deviance, debauchery and billion-dollar illicit deals. The book written by John Lefevre was described by a British tabloid, the Daily Mail as a book which ‘makes the Wolf of Wall Street look like a pussycat.”
This is same way that the emerging spiralling evidence of widespread corruption within the NDDC has made politicians look like thieves who should be jailed.
These disclosures of how a set of Nigerian political office-holders who ought to clean up the mess within the system of governance of the NDDC was also implicated in widespread theft of the resources that ought to be deployed to fix the decadent infrastructures of the crude oil-rich but criminally neglected and marginalised Niger Delta Region.
To borrow from Lfevre’s book, Nigerians witnessed the felonious mentality of Nigeria’s current political class and should serve as a clarion call for all good Nigerians to work hard to ensure that we achieve a letting the bad political eggs out of Nigeria’s political space so we do not stand by and see the eventual collapse of Nigeria.
This house looks like something that could fall at any time, if no remedial and revolutionary actions are put in place to effectively bring about good governance standards. The way to go about it is for the young people to embrace governance monitoring duties and to mount social pressures for the right steps to be taken to follow due process in the discharge of official duties by all and sundry.
Unfortunately, it looks like those who currently occupy political offices, especially those species running the affairs of the NDDC, have mastered the art of fraud, described in the book as: “If you can only be good at one thing, be good at lying... because if you are good at lying, you are good at everything.”
The above dubious and ridiculously illogical mantra contained in the Straight To Hell is the working document of most members of the ruling political class today. This attitude must change. Who then stand in the vantage position to change the bad situation for good if not the youth who constitute the clear majority of the population of Nigeria? This monster of corruption has become a hydra-headed creature which must be clinically crushed.
Can we recall with a law professor that the promulgation of the Anti-Corruption Act 2004 is, no doubt, a turning point in the history of criminal law administration?
This, he argues, is because the law not only created all manner of conceivable offences, just to catch a prospective corrupt person, but also created an independent body – the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) - whose responsibilities include investigation and prosecution of offences under the Act. It is now about ten years (it's actually over a dozen years) since the Act came into being; and we are yet to see the impact of the law, given the President’s enthusiasm on the date of the signing of same into law. This perspective of the law teacher included in his book written years back is about the same kind of impression most people have about the ICPC and the second institution created by then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Related, the author added that apart from the above legislation, the Obasanjo administration also promulgated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, 2004, to help other existing statutes to fight corruption in the country.
This, according to the university Don is, notwithstanding constitutional provisions against corruption that are often overlooked such as: the Code of Conduct for Public Officers; power of the legislature to conduct investigations into actions of public officers; the Auditor-General’s powers to audit public accounts; power of the electorate to recall erring legislators, and impeachment provisions against corrupt chief executives, to mention but these.
Like Nostradamus who saw tomorrow, the author stated that notwithstanding these laws, the problem of corruption continued with its crushing effects on the country’s image, her development and growth as a nation-state.
His words: “For the year 2000, Transparency International (TI), ranked Nigeria as the 1st out of 89 countries that were studied by the anti-corruption NGO. Since 2001, we have maintained second position until 2004 when the country was placed on the overall 2rd position as the third most corrupt nation on earth. On October 26, 2009, Chief Olabode George (former PDP National Vice Chairman, South West Nigeria) was convicted with five others by Federal High Court, Lagos for corruption. Also in the same 2009, five Chief Executives of five major banks in Nigeria namely: Intercontinental Bank Plc (Erastus Akingbola), Oceanic Bank (Mrs Cecilia Ibru), Union Bank Plc (Bartholomew Ebong), Afribank (Sebastine Adigwe) and Fin Bank.” The Crime of Corruption in Nigeria: Laws, Issues and Solutions by Ben O Igwenyi, MON.
The book was written some half a dozen years back. And, as we can see, the challenges posed to our development by the high levels of corruption among top federal government officials are significant.
Tope Ajeigbe wrote that even the Devil will tremble. He then asked: Do you really understand this NDDC matter? He responded by stating that an Interim Management Committee of the NDDC Spent N81.5 billion as sundry expenses, including graduation ceremonies in the United Kingdom during lockdown; Spent N3.14 billion for COVID-19 palliatives for staff; Spent N1.3 billion on community relations; Spent N85.6 million for travels during lockdown between February and May 2020; Spent N122.9 million on condolences between February – May 2020; Spent N23.8 million on consultancy; Spent N2.6 billion on medicals; Spent N790.9 million as imprest; Spent N1.9 billion on Lassa fever; Spent N706 million on legal services; Spent N1.121 billion on public communication. Then, he observed: “In all these spending, nothing was ‘spent’ for the common man for whose purpose the Commission was set up.”
This is interesting. Hearing the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs making the unbelievable claim that the Interim Management Committee blew away billions of naira around the issues of COVID-19 - because 60 per cent of the mandates of the commission revolve around health - makes me weep for Nigeria.
How can an agency set up to bridge the infrastructural gaps in the crude oil-producing communities be said to be exclusively set up for health care? Is NDDC a specialist hospital? This is ridiculous. The minister also claimed that over 60 per cent of the contracts in NDDC were awarded to legislators, so he can keep his job.
If we may ask, is the oath of office he swore not supposed to direct him to comply by the due process of the law and not to be governed by his selfish interests to retain his job by all means? In a sane society, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs would have been invited by the Police or EFCC to clarify that statement, which amounts to admittance of wrongdoings.
The circus show continued with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, giving the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, 48 hours to name the lawmakers who received contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Akpabio, as we have stated times without number, had said before a House committee on Monday that 60 per cent of the contracts awarded by the NDDC was given to lawmakers. The minister’s claim had generated controversy and questioned the integrity of the committee set up to probe the alleged N81 billion fraud perpetrated by the NDDC.
Addressing the House on Tuesday, however, Gbajabiamila, who has been a federal lawmaker since 2003, said he had never received any NDDC contract before.
He, subsequently, gave Akpabio 48 hours to reveal the identities of the lawmakers that received the contracts or face severe sanction.
The Speaker said: “This is my 5th term here and I have never for once collected anything from the National Assembly and I know I speak for a great majority of members of this House, a great majority. And, because of that, I will take this allegation and accusation very seriously.
“And I will give the minister (Akpabio) 24 to 48 hours. Clerk, I want you to back this up with a letter from this House. Give the minister 24 to 48 hours to publish the names, the contracts so given, the dates, because, obviously these things will be documented; unveil the companies of the 60 per cent projects that were given to members of the National Assembly.”
Gbajabiamila’s ultimatum received applause from a large section of the lawmakers.
These are grandstanding that won't take us far.
What should be done is for the Federal Government to constitute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the management of the NDDC, and for all the officials named in the heist of the resources of the people of the Niger Delta Region to be rounded up and prosecuted for theft.
A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.
President Muhammadu Buhari should be quick to rescue his collapsing anti-corruption crusade, which is believed to be a huge gamble and a monumental fraud.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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