As the drama on massive corruption plays out, the regime is the loser and it has clearly lost its anti-corruption image. In addition, no one within the administration appears to have the standing to be able to intervene in a manner that would assure Nigerians on the legitimacy of state institutions and their capacity to sustain the rule of law. It looks bad. It is bad.
Those of us who follow the social media are exhausted with the speed, numbers, scale and drama around corruption allegations surrounding the Buhari administration. The least that can be said is that the optics do not look good. If the optics look bad, it must be that the underlying reality is also bad. A huge whirlwind of corruption appears to be dismantling the Buhari administration and there is no adult in the room who is offering alternative narratives, suggesting therefore that the massive corruption being spoken about has a basis in empirical reality, even if some of it includes smear campaigns revolving around factional struggles and positioning for the 2023 elections.
Yesterday, I woke to the reports of high drama in Port Harcourt as truckloads of armed policemen surrounded the home of a madam who has held centre stage in news drama over the past few days – the former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Joi Nunieh. She had given countless interviews explaining in detail why and how she slapped her then boss, minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, who she said was engaged in massive corruption scandals, in addition to sexual harassment. We were all preparing for even more drama as she was billed to address an investigating committee of the Senate looking into the NDDC mega corruption issue, to spill more beans, and the police invasion of her house at 4 a.m. was widely considered as a clumsy attempt to cover up for the minister. The police might have had perfectly legitimate reasons to invade her house but the timing just looked too suspicious.
After six hours of police siege on her house, more drama erupted as the social media announced how the other drama-filled character, Governor Nyesom Wike, “stormed” her house and “rescued” her from the police by taking her to Government House. Of course, this action is as strange as Nigeria, because normally the police have responsibility for law and order and the protection of citizens, as such for someone like me with basic training in political science, the idea of a governor “storming” a police operation and rescuing a person who was to be arrested was all a bit too much. It would have been good for the police to explain why Madam Nunieh was “invaded” by them and the enormity of the crime that necessitated the 4 a.m. invasion.
It’s all very messy as the charges against the EFCC boss emanated from the Office of the Minister of Justice and the vice president is being roped in. It is also strange that another security agency, the Department of State Services (DSS) had written the Senate five years ago complaining that Mr. Magu was unfit for office…
This drama was developing, just as the one surrounding the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was approaching the end of scene one – the moment when the person who had been locking up corrupt criminals for five years was released from police detention. The main charge against him is that he had been looting the looted property that he recovered from looters. In full, the anti-crime czar was accused of living above his means, fraternising with corrupt persons and diverting recovered funds. As if that was not bad enough, he is also accused of insubordination to the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Malami. It’s all rather fuzzy as the EFCC is supposed to be an independent organ and not an arm of the Ministry of Justice. Other crimes attributed to him, according to media reports, include practicing favouritism towards select EFCC investigators called the ‘Magu Boys’, who he was routing ‘juicy’ assignments to, suggesting that Magu was practicing what we call magu-magu in Nigerian English. The allegations even include his providing a cash heist of N4 billion to the vice president.
It’s all very messy as the charges against the EFCC boss emanated from the Office of the Minister of Justice and the vice president is being roped in. It is also strange that another security agency, the Department of State Services (DSS) had written the Senate five years ago complaining that Mr. Magu was unfit for office, and all sane persons are wondering why his issues were left to “mature” for five years before investigations were commenced. The problem here is not just the lack of cohesion but the sheer incompetence of not addressing allegations that undermine the vision and credibility of the entire regime for so many years. Think about it: Allegations from the minister of Justice against the anti-corruption chief creating an avenue for reaching out to drag in the vice president.
These allegations are damaging because it is not clear how strong the evidence is, especially because of strong suspicions of factional struggle behind the affairs. The suspended acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu has written to Justice Ayo Salami (rtd.), chairman of the investigating committee, denying the allegations, including the one referring to the vice president, who has himself cried foul angrily, accusing some corrupt people of seeking to paint everybody with the same brush, and arguing that it is corruption fighting anti-corruption. The entire nation is in confusion, given the lack of clarity on whether the allegations are credible or part of dirty politics towards the 2023 elections, which appear far away but are apparently around the corner for the political class. The allegations against the vice president actually emanated from one Mr. Jackson Ude, a former director of strategy and communications under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, who published the accusation that Mr. Magu had given him N4 billion, on the basis of directives, the very day the president left the country for the United Kingdom on medical treatment.
Other allegations circulating involve the NNPC and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). The management of the NNDC declared yesterday that they are boycotting the Senate investigation into their corruption allegations, because the Committee chair and members were themselves corrupt blackmailers seeking to fleece the Commission. Yes, it’s all very messy.
On Saturday, the son of the minister of Justice married in Kano and the series of allegations turned to him. He was painted as one who was as poor as a church rat before becoming minister but is however one of Nigeria’s richest men today. I suspect that since he was already a Senior Advocate of Nigeria before being appointed into office, he could not have been as poor as a church rat, but what do I know? We were treated to video images allegedly proving massive dollar sprays at the wedding party, planes taking guests to multi-city mega-celebration events and pictures of a huge mansion he allegedly bought for his son. Since then, numerous pictures have emerged in the social media about vast properties that the minister of Justice is said to have acquired over the past five years.
Even the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, is enmeshed in allegations of massive corruption estimated as running into billions of naira. Between 2015 and 2016, CBN’s Emefiele reportedly conspired with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to illegally divert $24,263,008.56 meant to be shared to 37 sub-national units and 774 local councils. A group, Nigerian Young Professionals Forum (NYPF), United States of America/Caribbean chapter, has submitted a petition to the United States Congress, demanding an investigation and sanction of Emefiele, who is also accused of running a black-market forex cartel worth $800 million with Isa Funtua (owner of Bulet Construction Company) and other top members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabal since 2015.
Other allegations circulating involve the NNPC and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). The management of the NNDC declared yesterday that they are boycotting the Senate investigation into their corruption allegations, because the Committee chair and members were themselves corrupt blackmailers seeking to fleece the Commission. Yes, it’s all very messy. Many things are going on – massive corruption on multiple fronts, corruption fighting back by roping in others who might be less corrupt or a bit cleaner. The anti-corruption agencies are being massively discredited. As the drama on massive corruption plays out, the regime is the loser and it has clearly lost its anti-corruption image. In addition, no one within the administration appears to have the standing to be able to intervene in a manner that would assure Nigerians on the legitimacy of state institutions and their capacity to sustain the rule of law. It looks bad. It is bad.