President Muhammadu Buhari has since assuming office in 2015 been weighed down by challenges of organizing the government to improve the economy, security and moral values. About two and a half years after, the result seems not to be satisfactory to many Nigerians. Martin Onovo, presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 2015, in this interview expresses deep resentment that the Government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has brought Nigeria and Nigerians to worse national and political crises.
What is your assessment of the anti-corruption war by the Buhari administration?
The anti-corruption war has clearly failed. The fighter of the war has lost the battle, using Key Performance Indices (KPI). First, there was not supposed to be any anti-corruption war; not because Nigeria didn’t need an anti-corruption war but because the All Progressives Congress (APC) is the source of everything corruption in modern Nigeria.
All electoral, moral, intellectual and financial corruption, have roots in the APC. Check the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) records prior to when APC came to power; and check the records of the individual leader of APC, it becomes obvious that APC is the source of everything corruption in Nigeria.
APC had to proclaim an anti-corruption war to deceive the simple minded; and they have gained a lot of political mileage by pretending to be fighting corruption, when there is actually more corruption going on in the APC government.
The KPI shows a total failure of any genuine anti-corruption war by the Buhari administration. But it is designed to fail from the beginning because they didn’t come to fight corruption, they came to deceive the people.
Now, what is the benchmark of the anti-corruption war? The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNIODC) data shows that over $400 billion has been stolen from Nigeria since 1960. So, has the APC government recovered 10 per cent of this amount? APC leaders cannot show evidence that they have recovered $1 billion; they only claimed to have recovered N60 billion. They need to publish what they have recovered and from where.
Whenever you have a program, you must have clear vision or objectives you want to achieve.
APC leaders claimed they wanted to achieve law enforcement, which we refer to as conviction; who have they convicted for corruption. The former Director General of NIMASA they convicted had been freed by the Appeal Court.
What APC is doing in the name of fighting corruption is Nollywood. EFCC flashes light, gun trotting policemen invading residence of Judges; that is not how to fight corruption; that is Stone Age dictatorship. That is deceit and politics.
Are you concerned about the approach?
If you want to fight corruption, gather sufficient evidence against the suspect for effective prosecution. The evidence will be used to convict the suspect and recover the loot. The EFCC has been using gestapo tactics to fight corruption. There is no sincerity of purpose in what they are doing.
The highest record of corruption since Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914 is the $26 billion NNPC contract scam. How can such administration which perpetuate the highest corruption in human history claim to be fighting corruption?
Has the $26 billion NNPC contract controversy not been clarified?
How has it been clarified when there was no proper investigation; a lot of APC propaganda is downright imbecilic. The few intelligent people who are pushing it are deliberately deceitful. The NNPC in their response admitted all the contracts, they only disagreed with the values of some of them.
The $26 billion contract scam is deification of corruption in Nigeria and APC has the effrontery to confess openly and defied the Nigeria citizens.
The NNPC Act is clear that it is the Board that conducts the affairs of the NNPC. The NNPC tender board has a maximum limit of contract approval for $20 million; how did the NNPC tender board approve $26 billion.
Then, the Group Managing Director bypassed the NNPC Tender Board, yet, Baru is the chairman of the board. So, Baru was scrutinizing himself. He bypassed the minister, the acting president to get the signature of President Buhari. That is why the PDP said that the whole thing was done in the interest of the president. And it is clear that it was done in the interest of the president, otherwise, he would have insisted the contracts go through due process.
They violated administrative requirements, violated laws, the government kept silence and deliberately used the Maina scam to cover the biggest contract scam in the history of Nigeria. The Maina scam is a cover up of the $26 billion, that is N9 trillion, NNPC contract scam. Unfortunately, the average Nigerian, because of apathy, perverted value system and hopelessness, just surrendered to the APC propaganda and deceit, admitting there is nothing we can do.
Baru was not even suspended, let alone dismissed; there was even no proper investigation, which made the opposition PDP statement right that it was done in the interest of the president to raise funds for the 2019 elections.
Now, it is clear that there is actually no anti-corruption war in Nigeria. They try people in the media, no conclusive prosecution, just film show.
Does that imply a deviation?
The whole thing is political. EFCC is an arm of APC. If there had been genuine anti-corruption war, we would have had reasonable recovery and convictions. They say everybody is a thief, yet they can’t convict anybody. The anti-corruption war is mere APC propaganda to blackmail opponents. If you can’t convict anybody, it is clear you are either incompetent or you are also corrupt.
In 2015, I said that APC is promoting corruption but Nigerians didn’t believe me. They said Buhari is fighting corruption. After two years, it is becoming clear that nobody is fighting corruption, rather, APC is promoting corruption.
Why do you say so?
They are perpetuating corruption in several ways. Nigerians will not forget with ease the N500 million bribery in the telecoms fine; APC is diverting IDP relief materials and using them for campaign. There was a report that a minister in the APC government built website at N700 million; then, the historic $26 billion NNPC contract scam. So, APC has stolen the future of Nigerians.
The way APC is promoting corruption is this: every Nigerian steal as much as you can, be corrupt as much as you like but just make sure you are on our side. If you are not on our side, even if you are not corrupt, we are going to label you corrupt.
The late Governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, was given the APC governorship ticket while he had corruption case with EFCC in court. APC promoted him to governorship candidate. It wasn’t a coincidence or isolated case, it was deliberate. In Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva had corruption case in court with EFCC, he got APC ticket. So, APC is saying, be corrupt, just be on our side with your loot. APC is full of hypocrisy.
Do you think the 2018 budget contains items that can turn the economy round?
It doesn’t. In 2015, when the euphoria of defeating an incumbent was going on, we saw the initial move of this government, that they were out to destroy the country, and we warned against false hope.
You can’t do the wrong things and expect the right result. To get the right result, you must do the right things. In 2016, we said that the budget of this ruling party is budget of ruination. Five months later, the country went into economic recession. In the second quarter of 2016, over 1.5 million jobs were lost.
The 2017 budget was worse and the 2018 budget is now the worst. So, this government is deliberately destructive.
Before the budget, there is something more superior. I do not think they are making mistake; I think they have deliberate plans to destroy Nigerians and Nigeria.
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Didn’t the APC promise change?
It depends on what we call change. There will always be change. There is change now, the situation is worse. The statistics is clear. Security is worse, corruption is worse and the economy is worse. So, we have change.
Any society is built on a value system. APC government is deliberately trying to destroy and pervert the value system that what is wrong is right and what is right is wrong. If you are not deceitful, many Nigerians will think you are stupid. APC has started to reward and promote deceits. APC has thrown the Nigerian constitution to the dogs. The laws that regulate citizens’ relationship with each other, and with the Nigerian government have been destroyed.
Again, the motto of Nigeria is unity, faith and progress. The APC has deliberately attacked Nigeria’s unity with their divisiveness and nepotism. Two out of the eight zones in Nigeria control eight out of the nine military and paramilitary command positions. This is deliberate violation of section 14 of the constitution.
There is also attack on national security, which reflects in the Southern Kaduna genocide, the Fulani herdsmen terrorism, rising crime rate, kidnapping, cultism. In the last three weeks, Boko Haram have invaded several villages, killed soldiers, bomb communities in the North.
How realistic is the proposed 2018 budget?
The 2018 budget is very unfortunate. It has deficit of over N2 trillion; 2017 budget had deficit of over N1.8 trillion. Total public debt has increased from N10.7 trillion to N20 trillion. So, the legacy of this government is a legacy of debt burden for the president’s great grandchildren.
In the 2017 budget, debt servicing was about N1.8 trillion out of estimated revenue of N4.9 trillion. That is 37% of total revenue used to service debt and you are still borrowing. When will you stop borrowing? Now, Nigeria is borrowing to service existing debt.
Statutory transfers are to first line charge institutions and they are part of recurrent expenditure. The situation as at 2017 was that you had debt obligation of N1.84 trillion and you were borrowing nearly N2 trillion. So, we were borrowing to pay our debt obligation. When we can no longer pay our debt obligations from projected revenue, we are in debt trap. So, Nigeria has been in debt trap since 2017. The next stage is debt crisis.
The ruling APC is borrowing anywhere there is loan to fight political opponents. The present government has not built any new power station, has not built any new hospital or university, and has not tarred any 50 kilometers road since it came to office. So, all the money borrowed so far have been wasted on propaganda and politics.
The 2018 budget has unrealistic revenue projections on how to expand the tax bracket. From who are they going to realize that? Is it Nigerians that are living below poverty line, the millions that are out of job or companies that are sacking their workers and complaining of high cost of production? You can drive the economy to produce and manufacture, then, collect tax; you cannot destroy the economy and want to collect tax.