11 Dec

The week ahead – Media trials undermine the war on corruption

Former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has confirmed that she approved the transfer of at least N61.4 billion ($300 million and £5.5 million) from funds recovered from former dictator, Sani Abacha, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. The transfers happened a few weeks to the general elections this year. Dasuki, a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, and the founder of DAAR communications, owners of Africa Independent Television and Ray Power radio network, Raymond Dokpesi, are being investigated for their roles in the disbursement of $2.1 billion and N643 billion meant for the procurement of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.

Meanwhile, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, has denied being a sponsor of recent pro-Biafra demonstrations. In a letter to President Buhari.  Anyim claimed to know those behind an alleged plot to associate him with the protests, and asked for extra security for himself, his family and his associates. He also asked the government to verify his assertions.

Still on the Biafra issue, the All Progressives Grand Alliance this week urged President Buhari to squarely address the feeling of marginalization in the South East geopolitical zone in order to end the separatist protests. The Indigenous People of Biafra, the main body behind the protests however described statements from the APC in the South East assuring of an Igbo president after the tenure of President Buhari as “political compensation” and “a kite being flown by some Northern elders”. Emma Powerful, an IPOB spokesperson claimed that Igbo people were no longer interested in Nigeria’s affairs.

The petrol scarcity looks to be easing up following the Federal Government’s approval of a N407.07 billion payment to oil marketers. The amount approved includes payment for arrears accrued during the 2014 fiscal year, as well as payments for 2015. In her statement, Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun explained that the approval was granted after President Muhammadu Buhari issued a directive that the oil marketers be paid immediately in order to end the petrol scarcity within the country. The payment came just after the World Bank advised the government to discontinue the fuel subsidy.

The Senate investigation into the REMITA software has taken on a new turn with the CBN and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) giving different details. CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, both denied having any knowledge of the 1 per cent approved charge for remittances through REMITA. The Accountant General of the Federation, Idris, said that he had refused to sign the document requesting for payment of the one per cent to the company and blamed the CBN for the payment. But Emefiele, while accepting that the 1% charge was too high, was unable to state categorically who authorised the charge. He blamed the inter-department committee between the OAGF and CBN for approving the charge.

Counsel

  • The admission by the former Finance Minister to approving illegal payments without the Senate’s approval, is an admission to undermining the Constitution. We wonder why the Attorney General’s Office has not stepped in. For weeks, we have watched as a media onslaught has been conducted against people with close ties to the last administration. We call on the AGF to, working with the EFCC, conduct thorough investigations into their activities, charge them to court post haste, and secure convictions. The gravity of the accusations are such that after all the media circus, a failure to convict will undermine the entire structure on which our democracy is built.
  • The same call extends with the separatist case. A lot of the issues, ranging from the trial of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, to the accusations against former SGF, Pius Anyim, need to be solved in the courts, and not in the media. Our prosecutors have a lot of work to do, and should be actually working, as opposed to being seen to be working.
  • We acknowledge the gradual easing up of the petrol scarcity, but as our research has shown, there are gaps that need to be plugged so that this cycle of supply; demand-by-marketers; artificial-scarcity; payment; supply will be broken. The subsidy on the consumption of petroleum products is both unrealistic and unsustainable, and we expect that the Buhari government will have the will to put an end to it.
  • On the deal between the CBN, the OAGF and SystemSpecs, the company that owns the REMITA platform, we advice that the government take care in cancelling the deal. Nigeria must learn to respect agreed contracts. There are clauses in that contract that allow for a renegotiation, or a negotiated end to the entire deal, which all parties will find acceptable. That is the way to go. The blame game between the CBN and the OAGF is however, very embarrassing.