Anti-Graft War: Transparency, Please


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a forthnight ago ordered the arrest of the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki, who had for a while, been under house arrest, along with other former security chiefs. The order we understood, followed the report of a 13-man Presidential Investigation Committee which allegedly uncovered large-scale misappropriation of funds meant for the procurement of arms to prosecute the war against terror.
The committee whose mandate we were told, was to probe the procurement of equipment for the armed forces and Defence sector from 2007 to date uncovered extra budgetary interventions totalling, N643,817,955, 885.18 and a foreign currency component of $2,193,815,000.83. According to the committee’s report 513 contracts were awarded at $8,356,525, 184.32, N2,189,265,724,464.55 and £54,000.00 most of which failed.
Presidential Spokesman on Media, Femi Adesina who made public the President’s order also explained that the amount of foreign currency spent on failed contracts was more than double the $1 billion loan which the National Assembly had approved for borrowing to fight insurgency  in the North East.
Perhaps more worrisome is the committee’s claim that between 2012 and March 2015, the NSA awarded fictitious and phantom contracts to the tune of N2,219,188,60.50, $1,671,742,613.58 and £9,905,477.00. These were said to be for the purchase of four Alpha Jets, 12 Helicopters, bombs and ammunition, but were not executed and the equipment were never supplied to the Nigerian Airforce, neither are they in the forces’ inventory.
Strangely, almost same day that his arrest was ordered, Col Dasuki protested that he was never heard all through the course of the committee’s work.  According to him, he was neither invited informally nor formally to answer questions concerning his role, only to be indicted without trial.
These indeed are issues that should be addressed properly if the anti-graft campaign is to record any meaningful success. For instance, is it true that the former National Security Adviser (NSA) was not heard all through the committee’s work? If true, does that not amount to shaving ones’ head in ones absence?
President Buhari had repeatedly assured Nigerians that the war against corruption would respect due process and indeed the rule of law. That persecution without trial akin to those horrible years under military regimes would have no space under the current campaign.
That is why The Tide is disturbed that the arrest of a man, the calibre of Col Dasuki could be ordered without granting him fair hearing, and putting him under house arrest for over two weeks. From all indications, the former NSA has been presumed guilty of all the crimes of financial misappropriation even without formal trial.
We think that there is need for more openness in the way the crusade is being carried out to avoid rumours and speculations of victimization. Without such openness, the administration can lose the support of Nigerians in the fight, especially if it is allowed to wear any political colouration.
Only recently, President Buhari revealed that treasury looters have started returning some of their ill-gotten wealth, but that the federal government wanted all.  The Presidency did not name such repentant looters nor do Nigerians know how much has so far been returned.
Already, some Nigerians have started questioning the methodology and scope of the anti-corruption crusade. They want to know if Plea Bargain is a consideration and if so, how many Nigerians under investigation are leveraging on the facility.
If every corrupt Nigerian is to be jailed there won’t be enough space for all. This is why Nigerians think that the priority ought to be recovery of stolen funds. Even so, it should, not be a reharsh of the Pension Fund scandal, where, a loot as huge as N30bn earned the culprit a mere slap on the wrist.
Also, upon the announcement of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Nigerians were amazed to find the multiplicity of accounts operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Since then, the citizenry has remained keen on knowing how much was actually recovered and those behind these scams. Nigerians want clear answers as to who and what firm are facing trial. Or are the trials  secret also?
The Tide fears that the secrecy behind the anti-corruption campaign could lend credence to lingering criticisms that it is targeted mainly at the opposition. To succeed, the anti-corruption crusade must prevent such, be open and be fair to all.
Without the required transparency, respect for rule of law and fair hearing, the campaign would be reduced to a mere political witch-hunt. That is not what Nigeria needs now, to remain afloat.