The Cover-up Inside Buhari’s Presidency By O’Femi Kolawole

Why the cover-up? What is Aso Rock hiding from Nigerians? Who is the Buhari administration seeking to protect? And why is this Presidency exhibiting the traits of a confused administration that has a scandal on its hands but is looking for a way to cover up its shame and embarrassment? I’m talking about the $43m, £27,000 and N23 million discovered and recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the luxurious 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi building on April 12 and the very disappointing manner the federal government has handled the matter so far.

Seven days after the sums of money were recovered from Flat 7b of that high-rise building, Nigerians have only been left to speculate and engage in rumour mongering and different conspiracy theories at their homes, work, in public transport, and especially on social media, when all the Presidency needed to do, or charge the EFCC to do, was to come clean on the matter and give correct and timely explanations to citizens. Or Nigeria is no longer a democracy?

Meanwhile, I will admit that it takes deranged minds, who have sold their souls and conscience to the devil, to perpetrate the type of crazy stealing of public funds as we’ve seen in our country under military rule and especially since the return to democratic governance in May, 1999. We may argue that our country isn’t a fantastically corrupt one as alleged by former British Prime Minister David Cameron and insist that the West is also corrupt if not more since it’s a recipient of most of the stolen funds stolen from developing countries and stashed in developed countries, but we should at least admit to ourselves that the level of corruption among Nigeria’s political elite is nothing but satanic while it’s equally endemic among the citizenry.

That we are still asking questions about the true identities of the owner (s) of the money and the purposes it was meant for, a week after the fact, is a clear indication that the EFCC, as well as the Buhari administration, is far from open and transparent in its fight against corruption. This fact must also not be missed: Despite its public posture, the respect this government has for Nigerians who voted it into office is virtually nil. And that’s disappointing.

Now, whose report do we believe? As the waiting game continues, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has laid claim to ownership of the funds. The Rivers State Government has also claimed that the funds belonged to it having been stolen during the administration of former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, current minister of transportation, an accusation Amaechi has since denied and threatened court action over. But again, what type of covert operations could the NIA be carrying out with such amount of raw dollars kept in that flat without it disclosing such to the President as the public is now being made to understand from investigations carried out by some sections of the media?

Moving forward, I honestly think we need to be clear whether we want to genuinely tackle corruption in our country and rescue Nigeria from total collapse or continue with the public drama that leads to no conviction that the EFCC seemingly prefers. Corruption has messed us up for too long and it’s the principal reason why our public infrastructure like power, education, and health among others are in the huge mess they are today despite the billions and billions of naira and dollars spent since 1999.

Even if the whistle-blowing policy of the government in fighting corruption is producing results, the EFCC cannot be covering up identities of the owners. That’s a form of corruption. And if those saddled with the task of fighting corruption are still themselves battling with the demons of graft and protecting interests that are against the national one, then, we must know it’s not yet uhuru no matter the tactics or braggadocio of the commission.

Yes, we’ve not been lucky to have political leaders who are capable, visionary, or development-oriented enough with the fear of God in their hearts. And it’s a fact we’ve had leaders who shamelessly stole funds they will never be able to finish spending in four generations, or understand that a good name is better than silver and gold, or that it’s the ultimate wisdom to leave their indelible footprints for posterity. But much as I will commend the courage of the Buhari Presidency in frontally going after those who looted our common patrimony, I honestly think the administration is not going about it the right way currently. We shouldn’t be using corruption to fight corruption. That’s what the EFCC and the government is currently doing with the way they have carried on, especially in handling cases affecting those close to the Buhari Presidency. Or those who come to equity are no longer expected to come with clean hands?

Right from when the EFCC argued at the national anti-corruption conference organised last year in Abuja by the Professor Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC) and the National Assembly for a review of the country’s laws to enable it retain a percentage of recovered loot, I knew, straightaway, that those we have saddled to fight corruption on our behalf have not weaned themselves of the love of mammon or demonstrate that we can absolutely trust them to be above board at all times.

“In EFCC, we have been struggling for years to build our headquarters and when I think of the billions of naira we recover, I can see what would have happened if we are allowed to apply a percentage of this recovery into our operations,” Magu had argued through his representative at the conference. With such type of argument, it’s only a matter of time. EFCC officials would compromise when no eyes are watching!

Or can Magu, in all honesty, vow publicly, that members of staff of the commission have never put their fingers in looted funds recovered by the commission? Can he truthfully say that members of staff of the commission have not at any time helped themselves to some of the funds recovered?

That is why the Presidency must make no mistakes about this: The earlier it speaks up on the controversial sums recovered at that Ikoyi property, and be forthright in its explanations, the better for the remainder of its public image and credibility in the ongoing fight against corruption in our country. Additionally, even if the EFCC thinks it is the only custodian of wisdom in the country and can prosecute the anti-corruption war whichever way it wants to, Aso Rock should at least borrow it some sense towards improving its procedures and processes. For now, I rest my case.

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