Following President Buhari decision to probe certain officials of the past President Jonathan’s administration, party leaders and eminent Nigerians have been joining issue on the matter, particularly with the present administration’s revelation that billions of dollars illegitimately made from crude oil sales are stashed ways in vaults of unnamed foreign banks.
As expected, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed strong support for President Buhari’s decision to probe the immediate past federal government, saying the revelations of mind-boggling corruption that are just beginning to emerge have made such a probe imperative. ‘’Some people have insinuated that the Buhari Administration should ignore the massive looting of our patrimony and move on.
We say no responsible government can afford to do that, because it will amount to endorsing corruption and impunity,’’ the party said in a statement issued in Abuja recently by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. It said in the oil sector alone, billions of dollars have been skimmed off by pathologically-corrupt public officials, wondering how the government of the day can meet its obligations to the citizens if it refuses to recover the huge funds taken away by thieving officials ‘’It is an irony that those who are suggesting that the Buhari Administration should turn a blind eye to the incomprehensible looting are the same ones accusing the government of not doing anything.
It is even a cruel irony that the same party that presided over what is fast emerging as the worst governance in the history of our country is the same one that is daily bad-mouthing an Administration that is cleaning up its mess,’’ APC said. The party said even if all the acts of corruption that were perpetrated during the tenure of the last Administration are limited to what is now in the public domain, it is still absolutely exigent for the Buhari Administration to do all it can to bring the perpetrators to book and recover the looted funds.
‘’Where does one start from? Is it the fact that the NNPC failed to remit 3.8 trillion Naira to the Federation Account or the mind-blowing stealing of 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day? Is it the fact that the NNPC itself does not know how many bank accounts it had or into which ones the payments for Nigerian crude are made?
Could anyone have imagined that a government minister would steal the unprecedentedly-huge amount of 6 billion US dollars of public funds as being alleged? ‘’How does any sane person rationalize the fact that 1 billion dollars was unilaterally and illegally withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account just because, as the immediate past Minister of Finance has disclosed, the President ordered the withdrawal? What about the billions of Naira waivers recklessly approved to dubious importers by the Jonathan administration?
‘’Is it not clear now that the stealing and the profligacy more than anything else, including the fall in oil price – helped to drastically reduce the monthly allocation from the Federation Account from about 800 billion Naira to about 400 billion Naira, thus pauperizing the states and the local governments, and by extension the citizenry? ‘’Against the background of the stunning revelations, what message will any government be sending to its citizens and indeed the global community by looking the other way, when it could still recover some of the looted funds for the benefit of the people? This is why we are supporting the Buhari Administration’s probe decision, and calling on all Nigerians to support ongoing efforts to get to the root of the matter,’’ it said.
APC said it is now clear that the Jonathan Administration cleverly delayed giving the then incoming Buhari government the handover note so as to avoid being asked critical questions pertaining to the looting under its watch. However reacting to this call the Igbo Leaders of Thought, a body of eminent Igbo personalities, has warned that the plan to probe the immediate past Federal government should not be a ploy to humiliate political opponents of President Buhari, including former President Jonathan.
The group, led by constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze, also urged Buhari to immediately restructure Nigeria without delay. In a statement titled “Only truth and justice endures,” which was signed by its deputy secretary, Evangelist Elliot Uko, the group said the impending probe must be devoid of “witch-hunting and smear agenda.” It stressed that the probe would be reduced to a jamboree if it becomes an avenue to humiliate political opponents. Using the probe to humiliate political opponents of the APC-led Federal Government would cause problems for the country, the Igbo Leaders of Thought warned.
“Desirable as the probe and prosecution of corrupt officials of the out gone regime is we must endeavour to avoid witch-hunting and smear agenda. “Only the probe and prosecution of factual, traceable and clearly identifiable cases of abuse of office and misuse of public funds will inspire confidence and receive commendation of the citizenry and the international community. “Humiliating and deliberately degrading political opponents in the guise of probe and prosecution of corrupt officials will only reduce the whole exercise to a jamboree, that could lead to a lot of acrimony and bad blood which we believe, is the last thing Nigeria needs at the moment,” the group said in the statement.
The Igbo Leaders of Thought also insisted on the restructuring of the country into federating units as the most viable road to eradicating corruption. Similarly, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, a social crusader and a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch join issues on the matter. Stating that he is not a spokesperson for President Buhari, he however said: “I will make my comments in an objective manner. President Buhari has a right to choose who to probe and what to find out. And I have this impression that President Buhari actually had an understanding that some of the malfeasance of the former administration will be looked if they are not too nauseating. But from what I gathered, when the new government came in, the records were so bad that it will be a total disservice for the president not to look into the books. The records of the immediate past administration were so bad, especially considering the iniquitous manner with which they withdrew money from the treasury.
It will be very immoral on the part of Buhari’s regime to overlook it. One of the reasons why people like us voted for Buhari was on the issue of fighting corruption and to make sure the impunity in the system is stopped. A lot of corruption took place under the last administration. If you travel abroad and hear how much is being stolen from the treasury and stashed abroad, government officials buying properties all over the place, private jets and so on, it will be very immoral for this government to close its eyes and refrain from probing the administration.
As to probing other past regimes, including that of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, if in the process of probing Jonathan’s administration and other facts came up, I am sure there is no way Buhari will stop at that because he said even his political party members will not be spared. But he must have a limit with which he will go with the probe because if he now says that he will probe all the past administrations, which may take him as far back as 1960 when Nigeria gained independence.
I believe if former President Jonathan upon taking over the government and saw that there were some level of rot and fails to do what he is supposed to do, it is an indictment even on his own part. He owes Nigerians explanations for not even probing the previous administrations that he came after.
And now he is now assigning the responsibility to Buhari to do that for him . Meanwhile a Member of the House of Representative Mr. linus Okorie, representing Ohaozara/ Onicha/Ivo federal constituency in Ebonyi State has accused President Buhari of lacking knowledge of former President Jonathan’s legacies and achievement while in office. Okorie noted that those calling for his probe should as well add the past administration beyond the Jonathna years.
He therefore advice President Buhari to take note of the natural law that “what goes around comes around”, adding that if President Buhari cannot be fair to his predecessor, he should expect the same treatment when he leaves office. Taking a cue, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has declared that President Buhari will fully support his fight against the massive corruption that characterised the administration of the immediate past administration of Mr ChibuikeA maechi. Speaking after receiving the final report of the Transition Committee of his administration recently, Wike said that his administration is committed to recovering all funds diverted into private pockets by officials of the out gone administration. He said: ”I am confident that President Buhari will support my administration in the quest to tackle the massive corruption that characterised the Amaechi administration.
“We are aware that the immediate past administration and her officials will resort to blackmail and propaganda for the purpose of diverting attention from their corruption practices. We shall remain focused on the task of getting back Rivers State resources and assets”.
The governor commended the Transition Committee for a job well done, saying that the committee’s interim report helped his administration to take off. Submitting the final report of the Transition Committee, former Deputy Governor, and Tele Ikuru described the Amaechi’s administration as the most corrupt in the state’s history. Ikuru said that the former governor expended N812million to furnish his personal residence at the expense of the state, while N4.96b was spent on Justice Karibi White hospital with no structure on ground.
Former President Jonathan in reply for the probe of his administration, said any probe by the Buhari administration should not be limited to his administration. Speaking during the valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja before his departure from office, said that those calling for a probe of his administration should ensure that the same treatment applies to other administrations before him. The other administrations include those of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999), former President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) and the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-2010).
Jonathan said such probe should cover how oil wells and fields were allocated in the past. Limiting the probe to his administration, he said, will amount to witch hunting. His words “Some people are even calling for the probe of this government. I agree in Nigeria there are a number of things that we will probe, very many things. Even debts owed by states and this nation from 1960 up to this time, they say it is Jonathan’s administration that owes all the debt.
“I believe that anybody calling for probe must ensure that these probes are extended beyond the Jonathan administration; otherwise, to me, it will be witch hunting. If you are very sincere, then it’s not just the Jonathan’s administration that should be probed”. “A number of things have gone wrong and we have done our best to fix them. The Attorney General is aware of massive judgment debts. If we aggregate all of them, it’s almost going to $1 billion. How did we come to this kind of huge judgment debts?
-Should The Federal Government limit its planned probe to the immediate past governments or beyond it? Many prominent Nigerians are asking this question, reports Francis Moses