We have all been victims and culprits of corruption irrespective of our classes. Many people attribute corruption to influential individuals who manipulate persons or institutions to get what suits them and does not belong to them shamelessly.
Ordinary individuals are used for most of the criminal acts, and are not only used as tools to carry out corrupt practices but are corrupt agents in their own respect. While corruption has been consuming us with little or no honest and sincere commitment from leaders to eradicate it, President Buhari, based on his stewardship as military head of state, 1983-1985, had an erroneous rating in 2015 by frustrated and the wretched Nigerians as the messiah whose powers transcends the tricks corruption could manifest.
No doubt, top government functionaries have always been the architects, institutions as the engineers; workers as the laborers; and all of us as bricks that hold corruption to thrive and stand firmly.
Governors, ministers, security agents, judicial officers, bank officials, and top and junior civil servants have been in the spotlight for a very long time. Lawmakers, directors-general, commissioners and managing directors are also known in the practice of corruption. Judges, lawyers, journalists, contractors, security chiefs, publishers and university vice-chancellors are equally shareholders in the ‘flourishing’ business.
Surprisingly, when we thought President Buhari would be the miraculous messiah, little did we know his power cannot end the cheating by market men and women; little did we know his integrity cannot end examination malpractices during WAEC, NECO, and even JAMB; little did we know his military experience cannot stop soldiers, police and FRSC personnel from extorting motorists at checkpoints and along the highways by the Police highway patrol teams, little did we know that cash for bail at our police stations will not be stopped.
Little did we know his sport enthusiasm will not stop Nigerian football handlers from selecting their stooges as players to represent us in matches; little did we know his aspirations cannot stop parents from offering bribes to get their wards admitted into tertiary institutions; little did we know that he cannot end ‘sex for marks’ in our tertiary institutions.
We never thought of teachers coming late to school or not coming at all, and we thought corruption was a flying bird that Buhari’s integrity would cage by electing him massively in 2015.
But since that 2015, much has not changed in the fight against corruption to the satisfaction of the majority. Buhari may have recovered some looted funds; jailed some corrupt individuals and their associates; sacked some corrupt judges; changed some directors and heads of agencies. But what becomes of the new appointees and the elected? What happened to Sen. Danjuma Goje’s glaring case of stealing while piloting the affairs of Gombe State from 2003 – 2011? Why was that case that had reached maturity in the court, suddenly discontinued while similar ones are ongoing against other suspected itchy-fingered Nigerians? Should we take the anti-corruption war seriously or subscribe to corrupt practices as a way of life and expect presidential pardon or positive directive to EFCC as the case with Goje?
What of the jail sentence of John Yakubu Yusuf of the Police Pension Scheme? He was found guilty by the Federal Court of Appeal and sentenced to six years imprisonment for stealing N24billion from the Police Pension Scheme but he is yet to start the sentence for reasons best known to EFCC and the Federal Court of Appeal that delivered the sentence. Has corruption defeated EFCC in John’s case because he is yet to start his prison sentence while waiting for his appeal at the Supreme Court?
In some states of the federation, some past governors had almost succeeded in institutionalizing corruption as a working tool in their respective states. It is no more a secret that some governors receive bribes from contractors before contracts are awarded while some are the contractors themselves. Children and family members of some governors serve as fronts or arrangees. In some cases, bribes are offered to some officials that have access to the corridors of power just to facilitate a meeting with top political office holders for those in need. These are happenings in a Buhari-led government.
For instance in Bauchi state, in 2017, the sacked commissioner for local governments and chieftaincy affairs, Barr. Nasirdeen Muhammed, at a ministerial press briefing, revealed that the government purchased horses worth N96million for the pleasure of its six first-class Emirs while portable water was then gold throughout the state. Although, the story was debunked by government, in the same state, over N2billion was squandered on the purchase of mahogany and loincloth for the burial of dead Muslims at Bauchi central cemetery alone within a period of fewer than six months while the living, were denied portable water and other basics of life by the same ministry. Then another scam of N400million in the same ministry was uncovered for a fictitious fumigation exercise in some public buildings across the 20 local governments that were not carried out but fully paid and later exposed by a shortchanged commission agent whose company platform was used for the scam. The case was later settled between the commission agent and the fraudster contractor by the EFCC. But was the fraudster made to refund what he collected from the government for a contract not executed or allowed to go free? Was he thoroughly investigated as a civil servant that involved himself in politics and contracts against the civil service rules? What of the case of N800million consultancy awarded by the same ministry to a fake consultant? But was former governor M.A Abubakar aware of all those scams? I doubt much!
In the same Bauchi state, under Sen.Bala Muhammed, those directly involved in the payment of pension and gratuity entitlements to retired or dead civil servants, demand for huge bribes before doing their statutory assignments. There was a case of a lady who had passed away while in service, her husband, a police officer in Bauchi State Police Command, endured the hardship artificially created to facilitate the payment of her entitlements, but to his greatest shock, an officer in the State Pension Board shamelessly had the guts to demand for a N3million bribe before he could release the money of the dead. What a heartless beast!
In such a situation, why should the Sen. Bala Muhammed administration continue to retain the architects of the malfeasance including their collaborating unregistered contractors who are tarnishing the image of his administration? Or should it retrieve, sack and jail the criminals for the good of the people? The buck has stopped on the governor’s table as we are watching and monitoring how he battles the odds to redirect public service in the heavily underdeveloped state that was a mining pit for the corrupt. But to bail him out, there should be massive deployments of senior civil servants, a sack and compulsory retirements including retrieval of stolen public wealth. It beats an imagination to hear and see some suspected highly corrupt public officers pounding the terrain of Bauchi Government House today as ‘trusted’ public servants and pretending to be loyalists to the government and expecting trust from the governor ostensibly for business as usual. What of those civil servants that shortchange our children in the Home-Grown School Feeding system? What of those in the ministry for land in fake Certificate of Occupancy racketeering? Some of the criminals are stationed at the State and Local Governments Pension Boards while in some ministries, corruption is a way of life as a stay-put strategy. Those guys must be sick upstairs and deserve no mercy. That’s my take.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues