By Henry Uche, Lagos
The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) has written to President Muhammad Buhari, listing names of persons with top corruption cases which, the group said, have either been ignored or shabbily handled since the beginning of his administration.
In a statement signed and delivered by HEDA’s Executive Director, Mr Suraju Olanrewaju, the group said the corruption cases are linked with stolen or mismanaged funds worth N900 billion, an amount capable of taking care of major infrastructure in the country and providing for the welfare of Nigerians.
In the statement, HEDA warned that the country was sliding into extreme corruption and vice, with corrupt individuals taking over critical institutions and undermining the country’s anti-corruption profile.
In the letter titled “Re Awakening the Anti Corruption Drive”, the anti-corruption group regrets that many cases of corruption involving prominent people have been scuttled by government self-appointed gate keepers, noting that top corruption cases that appear to have been swept under the rug suggest that some N900 billion may have gone into the coffers of corrupt officials.
The letter reads in part:
‘This only affects top corruption cases, yet we have many other smaller cases that have met institutional road blocks.
‘The cases include but not limited to: The Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, during the 2015 General Elections arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly receiving $115 million in cash from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke; the Executive Director of First Bank Plc, Dauda Lawal, tried by the EFCC for allegedly handling the sum of $25 million of $153 million rolled out by the former Minister of Petroleum Resources; former Comptroller General of Customs, Mr. Abdullahi Dikko, was alleged to have stolen over N40 billion, who was asked to return N1.5 billion to the Federal Government; former Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, linked to a N2 billion graft.
‘Others were the dubious payment of $16.9 million fees to two friends as new lawyers for the recovery of the loot traced to a former Nigerian Head of State, Sanni Abacha, after a Swiss lawyer hired and fully paid by the previous government, Enrico Monfrini.’
Olanrewaju said in the statement that apart from cases involving cash, the group has documented cases of influence peddling involving top government officials that used their seats to upturn justice in favour of politically exposed individuals.
HEDA listed officials interfering in the investigation of a multi-billion Naira fraud in Nigeria, Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL) through a letter ordering the EFCC and the ICPC, the DSS and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to halt investigating the financial misappropriation in NIRSAL.
Acccording to him, there were also attempts to reinstate Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), while the Attorney General, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, discontinued a N25 billion naira criminal charge against Senator Danjuma Goje without any justification.
HEDA also mentioned the allegation that the former Chief of Army Staff, General Yusuf Buratai, bought properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates using suspended corrupt means as the Procurement Officer of the Nigerian Army.
The group said the cases are well known and recorded by Nigerians and foreigners against the Buhari government adding that they are considered as failure to match his words and professed commitment against corruption with actions by his administration.
‘We believe that the manner in which the above cases were handled, indirectly or directly, portray the Nigerian government and her mandate to eradicate corruption in bad light in the global space.
‘Beyond the return of the culture of impunity into governance and management of public resources, the few corrupt and compromised elements have taken over the reign of power in government and supplanted leadership of both institutions and reversing the anti-corruption gains. Obviously, Nigeria is facing fast declining reputation, as evidence in the negative Transparency International’s perception reports in the recent years.’
The statement continues: ‘The self-professed cardinal agenda of Buhari’s government and popular mandate of Nigerian citizens to fight corruption and restore the integrity of Nigeria amongst comity of Nations faces a huge threat.
‘Your Excellency, whereas this agenda of fighting corruption was vigorously pursued, albeit with some negligible shortcomings and international sabotage by some of your appointed officials and aides, significant results were recorded by the government and overwhelming supports received from local partners and international stakeholders, resulting in return of recovered stolen assets and aggressive investigation of several cases of past corruption cases by anti-corruption agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Presidential Panel on Recovery of Public Property.’