Ose Anenih: Change and the Institutionalisation of Corruption

“The Transparency International Corruption Index is not about reality, it is about perception” — Ayo Oyalowo, All Progressives Congress member, in response to questions about Nigeria’s fall in the TI Corruption Index.

Mai Gaskiya

In 2015 when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari swept into office on a wave of citizen optimism and cynical propaganda, he promised to do three things: make a good economy great, defeat terrorism, and fight corruption.

If there were doubts about his ability to achieve the first two things, there was scant any about his ability to deal a death blow to grand corruption, as he termed it. This was Mai Gasyiya, after all, the Man of Truth. The Unblemished; the Unbendable. He had done it in 1984, and would do it again. No quarter would be asked, or given, Nigerians were led to believe.

Five years later, and one year into his second term in office, Gen. Buhari’s previously pristine halo has become bronzed; crusted with that familiar coating of bribery and corruption. His anti-corruption czar, Ibrahim Magu has been suspended by a presidential panel of inquiry over weighty corruption allegations submitted to the President by the Attorney General of the Federation. Critics say this has less to do with the fight against corruption and that what we’re witnessing is a simple power play, as serious allegations against Magu have piled up since the 2016 when the National Assembly first refused to confirm his appointment.

In 2016 during Magu’s confirmation hearings at the Senate, the Department of State Security had written a security report indicting him of corruption and questioning his fitness for office. The President turned a blind eye to all of this and kept Magu as Chairman of the EFCC in an acting capacity. Two years later the Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun queried a N650 BILLION shortfall between amounts her Ministry had been able to verify and the actual amount recovered by Magu’s EFCC from suspected looters. Gen. Buhari also ignored this discrepancy. Magu’s EFCC made a point of refusing to investigate corruption allegations against high ranking members of the APC: Tinubu, Amaechi, Oshiomole, to mention a few members of the APC’s untouchable class.

The Mainstreaming of Corruption

You might think the above incidents of corruption are bad, but perhaps the most damning example of the institutionalisation of corruption was revealed by the Minister of State for Labour, the loquacious Festus Keyamo, SAN, who came on TV to confess that rather than ensure that all eligible Nigerians would have access to 774,000 sub-minimum wage jobs the Federal Governemnt was creating as part of her post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, the Minister would give members of the National Assembly 10% (77,400) of the jobs. The remaining jobs would similarly be farmed out to other interest groups — religious, traditional, etc. Keyamo also admitted that he would be personally deciding which banks would get to run this scheme. An interesting titbit of information, since Nigerian banks usually show their ‘appreciation’ if you direct funds into their vaults.

The total amount appropriated for this scheme is 52 billion Naira.

I believe this is the most damning example because it is the most insidious. Cloaked as a welfare package for the poor, scarce national resources are divvied up into patronage packages for the elite. This was announced to the nation without any shame or insight on national television. Imagine for a moment Boris Johnson saying that for a British citizen to get a Govt job, they would have to approach their MP, who would then use his/her discretion to decide who gets a job or not. Nigerians have kicked against constituency projects in the past; this is a constituency project on steroids.

Members of Parliament have no business dispensing executive favours. The Executive has numerous existing platforms at the LGA level it can use for this COVID-19 temporary jobs programme:

(i) The National Orientation Agency, which has a functional office in each of the 774 LGAs, is one such platform. Or, even better, the FG could collaborate with the actual 774 local government offices and let them administer the project as a separate (executive) arm of Government. (ii) The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has a robust welfare disbursement structure that covers the entire country (though the structure requires further scrutiny). (iii) The Ministry also has a functional jobs portal called N-Power through which 500,000 young Nigerians reportedly acquired jobs. The Ministry is currently using the portal to recruit 400,000 more.

Rather than explore these existing and defensible options, the Presidency has instead created a carrot being used to compromise the National Assembly, just like it created the vote-buying TraderMoni scheme to compromise voters. The implementation of this job programme as described by Keyamo is yet another way to disenfranchise Nigerians, and perhaps illegally divert public funds into private, partisan pockets.

A Corrupted Legacy

A Corrupted Legacy

Signalling and symbolism matter in the fight against corruption. It matters when the Ruling Party appoints a man like Ganduje as the Chairman of its Campaign Council ahead of the Edo elections in September. It matters when the Party includes Babachir ‘Grasscutter’ Lawal as a member of this same Council of the Corrupt; Babachir was suspended by the Presidency for corruption and is currently being prosecuted by the EFCC.

History rarely gives men the opportunity to re-write their legacies. Buhari might have been remembered as Mai Gaskiya, the strict, no-nonsense soldier who toppled a democratically elected but corrupt government in 1983.

The President, his minders, and followers must pay heed, because as corruption and impunity worm deeper into Nigeria’s soul, it seems more and more likely that Gen. Buhari will rather be remembered as Shugaban Cin Hanci — the King of Corruption.

Article written by Ose Anenih 


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