Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari underscored his commitment to the battle against corruption with the announcement that the prosecution of treasury looters would begin in a matter of weeks. He also inaugurated a Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption to advise his government on the prosecution of the war against corruption, and appointed prominent professor of law and civil rights activist, Prof. Itse Sagay, as its head.
A number of suspects are already being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over corruption allegations, while a directive has been issued to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government (MDAs) to remit all government revenue into a Treasury Single Account (TSA) to promote transparency and probity in their operations.
We strongly commend the Federal Government for these promising first steps in the battle to free Nigeria from the ravages of corruption.
These are, indeed, indications that the war against corruption has started in earnest, and we stand firmly with the president in what he has described as his irrevocable commitment to breaking the vicious cycle of corruption by putting suspected treasury looters on trial and recovering stolen public funds. His affirmation that Nigeria has to break the cycle of corruption before it can make progress is the bare truth, and we urge all Nigerians to support the government in this war to send a strong message that public corruption will no longer be tolerated in the country.
We condemn the insinuations in certain quarters that the president’s frequent statements on his anti-corruption initiatives may distract him from governance. We do not think they can. Corruption is a serious crime that Nigeria needs to make a clean break with, as it has brought virtually all sectors of our national life to their knees. Infrastructure, power supply, education, health, the economy and most other sectors in the country are gasping for life on account of rabid treasury looting that has cost the country trillions of naira in the last five years, with $150 million of the loot said to be stashed in banks abroad.
Public sector workers are owed many months arrears of salaries, while many state governments can no longer fulfill their responsibilities in many areas, including payment of pensions. The time has, therefore, come for Nigerians to stand firm against corruption and be one with the new government in the effort to reduce it to the barest minimum.
There are, indeed, no two ways about it. Nigeria must either kill corruption, or corruption will kill the country. The choice is ours, and it is a choice we must make now with President Muhammadu Buhari leading the way, to ensure that we will have a country to bequeath to our children.
It is, therefore, strange that the president’s statements on his plans to bring treasury looters to book have been ruffling feathers, with claims in some quarters that they are not in Nigeria’s best interest. The Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar-led National Committee on the Peaceful Elections, unfortunately, lent its weight to this position last week when it visited the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in Abuja. The Committee was reported to have counselled the Federal Government against “too much talk about the promised probe”. It said this was necessary so that the government would not “get distracted from the core business of governance on account of the probe”
It is important that all well-meaning Nigerians speak with one voice on the matter of corruption. There should be no breaking of ranks on the matter, and we must never regard any talk about it as an unfruitful distraction.
Corruption is a big issue in the country and we must all continue to talk about it, and also act on it, to send a strong signal to all public officers that it will no longer be tolerated in the polity. Not properly dealing with corruption under the guise that it is a distraction will only encourage the present public officers to also loot public funds with impunity.
The prosecution of the war against corruption should not stop the government from implementing its change agenda in the country, as both activities are not mutually exclusive. What is necessary, as the Peace Committee has also stated, is that the president must strictly adhere to the rule of law in his battle against graft.
As we have had occasion to state before, the battle against corruption must not be prosecuted in a way to suggest that it is a witch-hunt of any particular past or present public officer. It must not also deliberately exclude any treasury looter, no matter how highly placed.
Billions of naira in public funds have been committed to sundry projects in many sectors of national life such as power, the railways, roads and other public infrastructure with very little to show for it. The probe should unearth how the billions of naira were expended. Nigeria has severally been listed among the most corrupt nations in the world.
All hands must be on deck to correct this perception. We must not create the impression it is necessary to slow down the president’s campaign against corruption.As Nigerians await the commencement of the prosecution of those who are suspected to have looted the treasury, we advise that the trials should be open, non-selective, fair, all-encompassing and targeted at recovering the looted sums. -The Sun