Memo to Pres­i­dency: Mile­stones to re­mem­ber

If a leader does not doubt him­self and his in­ten­tions, he is not afraid. That should be the guid­ing prin­ci­ple. Let us aim at a higher stan­dard where the pres­i­dent and the gov­er­nors are guided by the im­per­a­tive of do­ing right, not the knowl­edge that they h

Sunday Trust - - FEVER PITCH - • son­ala.olumhense@gmail.com • Twit­ter: @Son­alaOlumhense

What should we make of the avalanche of stun­ning dis­cov­er­ies of il­licit funds in La­gos re­cently? Fol­low­ing whis­tle blower tips, the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC): • On Wed­nes­day an­nounced find­ing about N13 bil­lion in var­i­ous cur­ren­cies in an apart­ment in Ikoyi, La­gos.

• On Tues­day lo­cated N4 bil­lion in two GTB ac­counts sus­pected to be­long to a politi­cian.

• On Mon­day found a huge pile, in Ba­lo­gun Mar­ket, of about N250m in var­i­ous cur­ren­cies.

• The pre­vi­ous week found N448.85m in a Bureau de Change.

The ob­vi­ous les­son is that while Nige­ri­ans con­tinue to suf­fer need­lessly and the gov­ern­ment seeks for­eign loans, much more can be done to re­cover funds and as­sets former and cur­rent Nige­rian of­fi­cials are try­ing to hide.

But nei­ther whis­tle blower tips, nor the glee­ful broad­cast­ing be­ing made of these finds, con­sti­tute a suc­cess­ful on­slaught on cor­rup­tion. We need a clear, sys­tem­atic, his­tory-con­scious plan.

Such a plan would guide anti-cor­rup­tion pro­duc­tiv­ity now and in the fu­ture. It will pro­vide a frame­work for test­ing how faith­ful to higher prin­ci­ples this gov­ern­ment it­self is, and a plat­form on which fu­ture of­fi­cials and ad­min­is­tra­tions will be mea­sured.

In that direc­tion, here are 10 ideas I rec­om­mend to the Muham­madu Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion:

One: spon­sor an amend­ment of the con­sti­tu­tion to elim­i­nate the im­mu­nity pro­vi­sions. The cir­cum­stances un­der which they were made have changed, and im­mu­nity has since 1999 be­come only im­punity.

If a leader does not doubt him­self and his in­ten­tions, he is not afraid. That should be the guid­ing prin­ci­ple. Let us aim at a higher stan­dard where the pres­i­dent and the gov­er­nors are guided by the im­per­a­tive of do­ing right, not the knowl­edge that they have eight years to cover their evil. This cur­rent sys­tem serves the du­bi­ous, not the peo­ple, and it is in­her­ently un­just and dan­ger­ous.

By con­trast, in the United States af­ter which we mod­eled our con­sti­tu­tion, Gov. Robert Bent­ley of Alabama was thrown out of of­fice last week for mis­de­meanor cam­paign vi­o­la­tions that were found while he was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for an ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fair with an aide.

That in­ves­ti­ga­tion roared on while he was gover­nor, but Alabama did not col­lapse. In Nige­ria, a crit­i­cal part of our farce is that the pres­i­dent and the gov­er­nors feel no fear, no pain, no law, and no one.

If the im­mu­nity pro­vi­sions are not deleted from the Nige­rian con­sti­tu­tion, we de­ceive even our chil­dren, and his­tory will scoff at us.

Think about it: be­fore he was rigged back into the same job in 2014, then former Ek­iti State gover­nor Ayo Fayose was on the road to jail fol­low­ing cer­tain mur­ders com­mit­ted by a killer squad he al­legedly es­tab­lished dur­ing his gov­er­nor­ship be­tween 2003 and 2006. What the im­mu­nity clause has achieved is make all Nige­ri­ans wit­nesses of crime, and par­tic­i­pants in grave in­jus­tice.

Two: Restruc­ture and en­large the EFCC. The scale of the chal­lenge be­fore this anti-graft agency, par­tic­u­larly in the light of un­fold­ing di­men­sions of the malfea­sance, can­not be han­dled by mor­tal men with a nor­mal 24-hour day.

To make for fair­ness and ef­fec­tive­ness, the agency should be re­struc­tured into three broad units, per­haps as fol­lows: fed­eral and in­ter­na­tional; state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment; and Ad­vance Fee Fraud, each un­der the author­ity of deputy chair­men. That will strengthen the EFCC as an in­sti­tu­tion, and pro­mote its abil­ity to cover ev­ery blade of grass more ef­fec­tively.

Three: As part of the re­struc­tur­ing of the EFCC, the fund­ing of the agency needs to be changed so it can es­tab­lish a full-fledged train­ing in­sti­tu­tion and op­er­ate a com­pet­i­tive salary struc­ture and at­tract the best pro­fes­sion­als.

This will trans­form it into a place of pride to work, and not one where agents and staff are po­ten­tially the tar­gets of black­mail and cor­rup­tion. Re­mem­ber, the EFCC and the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) are cur­rently co­op­er­at­ing to pros­e­cute staff of the elec­toral body who were in­volved in a N4.3 bil­lion scheme to ma­nip­u­late the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion. Four: im­ple­ment the Uwais Re­port. In De­cem­ber 2008, the Jus­tice Mo­hammed Uwais-led Elec­toral Re­form Com­mit­tee (ERC) submitted to then Pres­i­dent Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a widely-cel­e­brated re­port ca­pa­ble of chang­ing Nige­ria’s story of flawed and rigged elec­tions.

Its rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded the un­bundling of INEC, whereby some of its func­tions would be re­al­lo­cated to other bod­ies; the in­tro­duc­tion of in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates; and the trial and sen­tenc­ing of elec­toral fraud­sters even dur­ing elec­tions.

Assert­ing the need to rec­tify the lack of ap­pro­pri­ate in­de­pen­dence by INEC and the State In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sions as a “key de­fi­ciency” of Nige­ria’s elec­toral process, the com­mit­tee made pow­er­ful rec­om­men­da­tions to ad­dress their com­po­si­tion, ad­min­is­tra­tive au­ton­omy and fund­ing; and of the Na­tional Assem­bly, the ex­ec­u­tive, the ju­di­ciary, the po­lit­i­cal par­ties, se­cu­rity agen­cies, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, the media and the pub­lic.

No­body can ad­dress cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria with­out ad­dress­ing the sub­ject of elec­tions in a fun­da­men­tal and re­al­is­tic way, and the Uwais Re­port did that. It is time to dust it up and put it to work. Five: Cam­paign Fi­nance Re­form Nige­ria’s elec­tions, and there­fore Nige­ria, con­tin­ues to be at the mercy of politi­cians who have the means and the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase them.

To change that, this gov­ern­ment should de­cide on ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic fi­nanc­ing of elec­toral races for the leg­is­la­tures, gov­er­nor­ships and the pres­i­dency, with strict caps on spend­ing, and with dis­missals from a race or from of­fice as the price for vi­o­la­tions. That will em­power more qual­i­fied can­di­dates, and dis­cour­age the com­pro­mised. Six: Im­ple­ment NNPC re­ports. Only last week, sev­eral of­fi­cials of the NNPC were fired. This has be­come rou­tine at the cor­po­ra­tion. Sweep­ing changes of the cor­po­ra­tion’s lead­er­ship hap­pens fre­quently, and cer­tainly each time there is a new ad­min­is­tra­tion. Some of those fired last week were ap­pointed only in March of 2016.

The rea­son is ob­vi­ous: NNPC is a moun­tain of money. As­cend­ing to the top of that moun­tain is no less than win­ning the lot­tery be­cause there are so many ways a ruth­less of­fi­cial can con­vert that po­si­tion into sud­den wealth. Buhari knows it: he was there; Oluse­gun Obasanjo knows it: he was his own Petroleum Min­is­ter for eight years, dur­ing which one of his ap­pointees spent half a bil­lion Naira in ho­tel expenses alone.

Ev­ery­one also knows what is wrong with the NNPC: var­i­ous re­ports in the past 16 years have pin­pointed the is­sues, but they have not been im­ple­mented. The EFCC-INEC pros­e­cu­tion I re­ferred to ear­lier in this story re­lates to monies, by the bil­lions, that al­legedly came from the NNPC.

It is ob­vi­ous: you can­not re­form Nige­ria, or curb cor­rup­tion, if the NNPC con­tin­ues to be run as a rogue or­ga­ni­za­tion. Im­ple­ment those re­ports, strip the guilty of their un­earned wealth, and send them to jail.

Seven: Re­form the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN). Sadly, the CBN con­tin­ues to be led by one of the most cor­rupt and in­ept lead­er­ships in Nige­ria’s his­tory. It is unclear how this is sup­posed to in­spire faith in the prospects of the Nige­rian econ­omy.

Eight: In re­sponse to last Wed­nes­day’s dis­cov­ery of N13 bil­lion in La­gos, a court swiftly or­dered its for­fei­ture to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It is un­sur­pris­ing the gov­ern­ment was thrilled by the court’s de­ci­sion. But in Fe­bru­ary last year, the court also or­dered the gov­ern­ment to pub­lish an ac­count of Nige­ria’s re­cov­ered loot, which it has shame­fully failed to do, a fact which has dam­aged its im­age. The gov­ern­ment must pub­lish that ac­count.

Nine: No gov­ern­ment is suc­cess­ful if its leader con­sid­ers per­sonal ex­am­ple to be a con­tra­dic­tion in terms. Pres­i­dent Buhari must find the courage to lead by ex­am­ple, not by talk.

Ten: I fully sup­port the need to pun­ish the guilty. But Nige­ri­ans are not all, or al­ways, bad. There is no bet­ter time than right now to start hon­or­ing the de­serv­ing.

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