Bimbola Oyesola, Chukwudi Nweje and Sunday Ani
The 14-day ultimatum given to President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate alleged missing N300 billion public funds has been endorsed by a cross section of Nigerians.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a letter dated July 4 and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, had urged Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate revelation of N30 billion missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen funds documented in the 2017 audited report by the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF).
It also urged the AGF and the anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe the extent and patterns of widespread and endemic corruption in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) indicted in the audited report.
According to SERAP: “There are several other infractions documented in the report, a copy of which can be obtained from the Auditor-General’s office. We request that you take the recommended action within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest.”
The letter was copied to Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
In separate reactions, former second national vice president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Onyekachi Ubani, National Chairman of National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and former president of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike said going by what President Buhari claims to represent, he did not need anybody or agency to remind him to launch a probe into the alleged missing fund.
SERAP wrote: “We urge you to take meaningful and effective measures to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption these MDAs. The 2017 audited report reveals grim allegations of mismanagement, diversion and stealing of public funds, as well as unaccounted-for spending. The report suggests a grave violation of the public trust, and that the indicted MDAs and the National Assembly lack effective and credible internal processes to prevent and combat corruption.
“Investigating and prosecuting the alleged grand corruption documented by the AGF would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators. It will improve the integrity of MDAs, serve the public interest, as well as improve Nigerians’ access to public services and goods. Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, including the Public Procurement Act, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the country’s obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“It would also mean that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations under the covenant to use its “maximum of available resources” to progressively realise and achieve basic economic and social rights, including access of Nigerians to public services and goods like quality education, healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply, as well as the right to honest public services.”
Organised Labour demanded that President Buhari-led administration must, as a matter of urgency, initiate probe into the missing N300 billion public funds.
Vice President of the Public Service International (PSI) for Africa and Arab Region and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Peters Adeyemi, said it would be a smear on the Buhari’s administration if such humongous amount could bestolen under his watch without any accountability.
Ubani said: “The president ordinarily, willingly and without any prompting from anybody should, as a matter of necessity, institute a probe into such allegation of fraud or any missing money because that is what he promised Nigerians during his campaign. And every time he has had opportunity to speak, he has always been mouthing that he is fighting corruption. So, if he is fighting corruption, he doesn’t require any prompting from any agency or any organ for him to do what he has promised to do for Nigerians. So, he should institute a probe immediately,” he stated.
Also lending his voice, Tanko, said since the discovery was made by the Auditor-General of the Federation, who is an officer of the Federal Government, the government has no choice but to investigate the matter.
Spokesman of ARG, Dr. Yinka Odumakin, aligned with Ubani.
“Considering his stance on corruption, I see no reason why he should not probe such alleged missing fund. He should, as a matter of urgency, launch a probe at once.”
Chief Uwazuruike, said complying with the request is the only way the administration would prove its integrity and commitment to the war against corruption.