The Muhammadu Buhari Presidency has rejected former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s claim that there is more corruption in Nigeria today than when he, Jonathan, left office, listing steps it has taken so far to tame the monster and the gains it has recorded so far, stressing that “the former President and his party have nothing to say about achievements.”
A statement by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity) said: “The Presidency rejects former president Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s astonishing claim, to the utter surprise of many, that there is more corruption in the country compared to when he left office. This is absolutely untrue. The facts on the ground today run contrary to his outlandish claim.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, in pursuit of the war against corruption, has set a number of local and international records, one of which is to call judicial officers in Nigeria to account. He is the first to set such a record. Not only that, this is the first time that top military commanders and Service Chiefs are brought to trial and convictions were achieved on account of corruption.
“Also, this is the first time a ruling party is convicting high profile citizens including former governors, who are members of same party. This is the first time the international community is acknowledging the efforts of a government of Nigeria in this regard as manifested by the selection of President Buhari by the African Union as the Anti-Corruption Champion of the continent.
“For the records, this is the first time a ruling party is investigating ranking officers of the administration, including some at the very top.
“In addition to the many firsts recorded by President Buhari’s administration, the government has introduced a lot of changes, considering that the laws relating to the fight against corruption cannot reasonably be static.
“In line with its aspiration to be ahead of the growing sophistication of corruption and financial crimes, the administration has initiated new legislations and proposed amendments to different sections of laws, among which are:
• The Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017;
• Anti-Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017;
• Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill 2017 (NFIU);
• Proceeds of Crime Bill 2017;
• Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill, 2017 and
• The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2017.
“Owing to these efforts and support all of relevant stakeholders, NFIU Act has been passed and President Buhari gave his assent on July 18, 2018. The administration is currently working with the legislature for an expedited passage of the Proceeds of Crimes Bill to make the anti-corruption war more effective.
“Nigerians should dismiss Dr. Jonathan’s hollow boast that he, not President Buhari, introduced schemes such the Biometric Verification Number, BVN, Treasury Single Account, TSA and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPS). Of what use is the announcement of good policies without the will to implement them?
“Since President Buhari assumed office, Nigerians are witnesses to the huge success recorded through the implementation of the TSA where some government agencies that had over the years remitted peanut amounts or nothing at all are now periodically pumping billions into government coffers. Prominent among these remittances include the ones made by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“While it is also true that the BVN was introduced in 2014 to ensure that all bank accounts have biometric identification of their owners, the lack of will and capacity under Dr Jonathan stalled implementation. Today, BVN covers nearly all bank accounts. There are still some individuals who have shielded their identity and are now afraid of enrolling on the BVN platform as this will expose them and their corrupt actions. The law is going after them.
“President Buhari’s administration introduced the whistle-blower policy as a veritable tool against corruption as it gives individuals an opportunity to expose corruption, fraud, bribery, looted government funds, financial misconducts, government assets and any other form of corruption or theft. Within six months of introducing this policy, over 5,000 reports were made through various channels, 365 actionable tips were received out of the 5000 reports. So far more than N200bn has been recovered.
“As the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said on Thursday, the former President does not have the facts to claim that there was any serious effort on the part of his administration to fight corruption.
“As at 29th May 2015, when this administration came into office, the EFCC recovery account had only N19.5 billion as revealed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General. After one year of the new anti-corruption drive by the Buhari administration, this figure had gone up to N279 billion, and since then a lot more has been recovered.
“Finally, as evidenced from a fleeting look at the book, the former President had nothing to say about his own achievements. If there was a recession, and yes we had a moment in it, was it due to one year of President Buhari’s government?
“In his efforts to blame everyone but himself for his failures, Dr Jonathan heaped the blame for the predictable economic recession on President Buhari, ignoring the seeds sown under him through mismanagement and the process set in firm roots for the decline of the economy. Evidently, he did nothing to avert the situation.
“As we have explained over and over, the recession in 2016 was caused by years of mismanagement and corruption. In the 16 years of PDP and earlier than that, the country solely relied on oil, the price of which was as high as 140 USD per barrel under their watch. Government simply reticulated oil revenue through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and salaries; rather than investing in what would grow the economy. There was no investment in infrastructure as President Buhari is now doing in seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing.
“The oil windfall for the country was mismanaged, and Nigeria’s greatest opportunity for growth was turned into a tragedy. More worrisome, there were no savings. And to compound the problem and compromise growth of the economy, the previous government borrowed heavily, owed contractors and international oil companies. When President Buhari came into power in 2015, the country had accumulated debt, which took it back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt forgiveness. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock when oil prices fell to as low as 28 USD.
“The oil shock should and could have been foreseen. When visionary Nigerians and economists foresaw this and warned of the dangers ahead, Dr Jonathan hounded such men as the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11 and Professor Chukwuma Soludo. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance under Dr Jonathan’s administration also warned and she was rebuffed.
“The former President and his party have nothing to say about achievements. They ruled the country for 16 years and what is their record on jobs, power, rail, seaports, airports and internal security, including the crippling disaster of terrorism?”
President Buhari, in another development has also assured that all ongoing Federal projects in the South East will be funded, saying that the seven-month delay in passing this year’s budget will not serve as an excuse.
Speaking at a meeting with South-East Governors and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Wednesday, at State House, President Buhari pledged that the Federal government will sustain the support to the South-East in terms of infrastructure.
‘‘I assure you that we are doing our best and will not default on the agreements signed on ongoing projects,’’ the President told the delegation led by Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu.
President Buhari explained that part of the noticeable problem in the delay in the execution of the capital projects was caused by the budget hold-up.
‘‘When you sign, and you don’t pay, they (contractors) can legally jerk up their costs. This is part of the problem.
‘‘The infrastructure budget is a deficit budget. The borrowing plan was only approved three weeks ago and all ministers and departments of government have been instructed to forge ahead. We must not find excuses for delaying the projects.
‘‘Developing infrastructure is the best thing we can do. When the roads are okay, the rails are established and there is power, Nigerians will flourish in their businesses,’’ he said.
President Buhari, who was accompanied to the meeting by the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelemah, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and that of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, responded from point to point on all the issues raised by the Governors, to their satisfaction.
On the undulating surface of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, the President assured that it will be addressed in the new budget.
He also spoke of government’s serious interest in the new Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri standard gauge railway which transverses several states including those in the South East.
The Minister of Transportation gave assurance that this project, the single most costly rail project at USD 12 billion, will soon be coming to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The Ministers were directed to follow up with the private sector on key projects in the region, including the South East Dry Port and the Geometric Power Plant in Aba, with a view to untangling the problems causing their delayed take-off.
Speaking on behalf of the Governors, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State said they had come specifically to thank the President for the award of the contract for the major component of the second Niger Bridge at the cost of N206 billion.
‘‘The project is the dream of our people and it has become a dream come true. Our people said we must come and thank you. Your Excellency, Mr President we are grateful Sir,’’ he said.
Thereafter, Governor Umahi while enumerating some challenges confronting the Governors to the President said: ‘‘out of mutual respect, we have come to you as a caring leader to listen to us.’’
Other Governors on the delegation were Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke.