Says recent protests sponsored by agents of looters
It’s disrespectful to call protesters names , Ilo replies Sagay
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, has accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of corruption and recklessness with funds meant for development.
He described the two institutions’ reckless spending of public funds as insensitive to the point of insanity.
He specially accused the NDDC of recently acquiring 70 cars, including eight Super Lexus Jeeps at N78 million each and 10 Land Cruisers each costing N63 million.
He said the vehicles were acquired with funds meant for the provision of water, housing, hospital, schools and infrastructure development in the Niger Delta Region. Sagay spoke at the opening of a two-day national dialogue on corruption organised by PACAC in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President.
He said: “My dear friends, you will not believe that with all we are going through, the NDDC, which is the other name for uncompleted projects, has just bought over 70 cars. Of those, about eight of them are Super Lexus Jeeps, costing N78 million each and about 10 are Land Cruisers, costing N63 million each.”
On the fund that has accrued to the commission in the past, he said: “This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience; recklessly without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta. These huge sums were plundered from their allocations from the Federal Government.
“And yet, the managing director, ironically, says that the NDDC lacks funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of N1.2 trillion.”
PACAC chairman also came down on the NCS, saying nothing had changed since the current administration came on board in May 2015. He gave an instance at the Tin Can Island in Lagos where customs officials charged fees to physically examine goods, following the breakdown of the scanner.
Sagay described as brazen corruption, citing many other instances, which he said PACAC brought to the attention of the Comptroller General during a recent visit to him.
He also reflected on judicial corruption, saying some judges still granted adjournments, running into months in contravention of provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He accused lawyers of contributing to the problem by using different delay tactics thereby causing the nation great embarrassment.
Sagay faulted the recent public demonstrations against the administration, saying they were sponsored by agents of looters, those who lost elections and those whose appointments were not renewed: “Those who are agents of the looters, 2010 to 2015, and want to divert the attention of the ordinary Nigerians from the true culprits of our recession and misery, by transferring it to a hardworking, selfless administration, which met sand rather than cash in our treasuries. The second group is the naïve, unthinking ones.
Earlier, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said corruption was an existential threat to the country and stressed that the threat had eaten deep into the very fabric that holds the nation together.
He restated President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to fight corruption: “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. So, let us act before we die of corruption.”
He said there was nothing unique about Nigeria’s corrupt situation. “Corruption thrives where it is allowed to thrive.” He added that there were many societies that are more corrupt than Nigeria but have been able to curtail it.
Recounting his experiences reforming the Lagos State Judiciary as Attorney General between 1999 and 2007, Osinbajo said: “As Attorney General, I sat with seven of most senior judges in Lagos and we reviewed their remuneration. We also looked at welfare. Once you become a judge in Lagos State, you’re given a house for life. You keep it, even after retirement.
“When we repeated the survey in 2006, the ‘notoriously corrupt’ number had fallen from 89 per cent to 0 per cent. If good people see no consequences for bad behaviour, even they will begin to indulge in bad behaviour.”
Osibanjo said the process of returning stolen assets was so difficult and complicated: “We need greater international cooperation. International cooperation is important. It will help us know some of the names behind companies, returning stolen funds and handle them accordingly.”
In its reaction, NDDC Head of Corporate Affairs, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, dismissed the allegations and insisted that the present administration had not made any procurement since it was inaugurated on November 4, 2016.
“The NDDC wishes to state, categorically, that no such purchases have been made since assumption of office on November 4, 2016, of the current governing board. Indeed, it is a known fact that the chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, the Managing Director/CEO, Nsima Ekere, and the two executive directors are still using their private vehicles three months after assumption of duties.
“The NDDC is only now in the process of acquiring work vehicles, and is adhering strictly to due process. These include five Toyota Prado jeeps, 10 Toyota Hilux trucks, four Toyota Landcruiser jeeps, one Toyota Coaster bus and two Toyota Hiace buses.
“The commission has just received the Due Process Compliance Certificate from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), and is preparing the mandatory memo for the approval of the Federal Executive Council. “The commission is also partnering with Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and Open Government Partnership (OGP) to improve the Commission’s procurement and project implementation processes, in order to plug all loopholes and considerably reduce incidences of corruption.
In response to Sagay’s attack on protesters, the Country Officer and Head of Office Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Jude Ilo, said it was disrespectful to tag every Nigerian who disagrees with government as ignorant.
“Let me as a Nigerian respond to Sagay. I think ut is a little bit disconcerting and disrespectful if we tag every Nigerian who disagrees with us as ignorant. People who took to the street did it because they believe in this country; there is nothing that they said in that demonstration that was false.”
“They said the economy is bad which is correct. They said that the Naira is doing badly which is correct. They said they are hungry which is correct. The right and the freedom of expression is fundamental predicate of democracy and we must allow citizens to voice their opnion even if we find it stupid.
“The practice of a signal narrative in a democracy is as destructive as dictatorship. And I want to end with the words of Francis Cardinal Arinze, he said, ‘no man is wrong all the time even a damaged clock is correct twice a day’.