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Government: A basket full of scams

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Buhari at crossroads of oil industry reform, as FEC approves $1.5bn rehabilitation fund for Port Harcourt refinery
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BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO

“When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not Guilty’.

~Theodore Roosevelt

“The fall of the Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity—a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.

~Isaac Asimov, Foundation (Foundation, #1)

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are”.

~H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy.

When the time comes for this Federal government led by the Daura, Katsina State born erstwhile Army General -Major General Muhammadu Buhari to take its (dishonourable) exit out of power, one noticeable characteristic that may take a long time to be forgotten is the ease with which the government swept and still sweeps major national scandals under the carpets. Impunity for this government is her middle name. This is a government whose spokesperson confirmed that all that it takes for a big thief in the past government to be rehabilitated and pardoned is for such a person to crosscarpet to the All Progressives Congress (APC). This is a government that frees terrorists and pampers terrorists who are mostly Fulanis. This is a government that no scandal is too big and it is under this government that kidnappers are Kings and armed non state actors have cornered some forests as their areas of command. In fact in Kaduna State, some communities pay taxes to Fulani terrorists. It is under this administration that herdsmen kill farmers at will.

A Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Wednesday, said it is wicked and insensitive for the Federal Government led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to brand as mere conflict, the aggression and killings of southern farmers by Fulani herders.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, stressed that the matter is not a conflict and urged the Federal Government to curb the criminality of herders who are now on the rampage in the country, kidnapping residents for lump ransom and taking over farmlands of aboriginal dwellers.

The group said emphatically that nomadic Fulani herdsmen are the aggressors and not supine and peacefully accommodating host farmers.

Recall that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, recently indicated in a memo to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development that the Federal Government would launch a ranching programme to address the “clashes” between herders and farmers in Abia, Delta and Kwara States.

But reacting in a statement, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “It is hypocritical and wickedly insensitive for the government to brand as ‘clashes’, the intentional killings of innocent farmers by aggressive farm-grabbers known as Fulani herders.

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“There is a need to correct the misrepresentation of the apparent terrorism of nomadic Fulani herders against farmers in North Central and Southern Nigeria. The situation is not a conflict at all; but an ongoing carnage.

“For instance, criminal herdsmen have killed over 4,000 farmers in the South-West alone in the last six years, according to statistics by the Agbekoya Farmers Association. The South-South and the South-East are not in any way immune from the onslaught by criminal Fulani who have increased their presence in Southern Nigeria through commercial motorcycling and pastoralism. Hundreds of farmers in the South-South and South-East have been mauled, raped and kidnapped by the invaders yet the silence of the government has been conspicuous.

“A report funded by the United States Agency for International Development in 2019 said an estimated 7,000 Nigerians including farmers were killed by violent, ak-47-wielding pastoralists in the middle belt states of Benue and Nasarawa.
“About a thousand of farmers have since been killed in the North Central from 2019 till date. In fact, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who has been one of the most vocal against herdsmen aggression, was once targeted for assassination on his farm in Benue.

“The development has worsened food crisis in the country as hundreds of farmers in Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Ebonyi, Enugu, Oyo, and other places known as the food baskets of the country have been killed by aggressive Fulani herders on farm-grabbing mission.

“Yet, the Buhari government continues to turn a bad eye to the sacrilege. It has even gone ahead to introduce the controversial water bill to give more power to Fulani herders in the well-watered and lushed southern part of the country.

“The Buhari regime had also introduced the National Livestock Transformation Programme and pumped money into it. Buhari also once told the Attorney General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to retrace some eccentric and mundane grazing routes to be reclaimed by herders.

“Of note, it is strange and an act of injustice, the attempt by the Federal Government to impose Fulani settlements in strange lands by the use of government funds and the attempt to seize water resources to give to herders.

“These two plots which are been repackaged and to some extent using foreign funded programmes to mask these plots to hijack native people’s lands to donate to Fulani herders will result in war. The attempt to sell the dummy that there is a conflict between farmers and herders is a fallacy because a conflict is between two armed groups but in Nigeria AK-47 wielding herders are killing harmless farmers yet there is an alleged conspiratorial silence from security agencies and the Federal Government.”

In 2015, May 29th when President Buhari was sworn in, it took him nearly a year to select his cabinet and even when he decided to do so, he ended up appointing citizens with little or nothing by way of technical skills to offer the Country and seven years down the line, the nation is littered with numerous unresolved scandals.
The first of these scandals was the length of time it took the president to compose his cabinet as I mentioned earlier, but the government spent a great deal of time doing nothing but blaming its predecessor for all the conceivable wrongs unleashed by current government officials.

The media then shouted how Buhari administration planned to transfer $110 million Abacha loot to Bagudu Published around February 24, 2020.

The media said that despite attempts by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to deny the transfer of $110 million stolen from Nigeria’s treasury by late military tyrant, Sani Abacha, to Mr Abacha’s most profligate money launderer and current governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, United States court papers obtained by PREMIUM TIMES show that the administration signed two agreements with Mr Bagudu that effectively sealed the transfer of the money to the governor.

Mr Bagudu is a close friend of President Muhammadu Buhari as well as a top member of the ruling All Progressives Congress. Another scandal was the case of a wanted fugitive who was nearly smuggled back into civil service but the masses protested leading to the arrest by EFCC then the court jailed him Abdulrasheed Maina eight years for N2.1b fraud on 09 November 2021.

The Federal High Court, Abuja has sentenced former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, to a total of 61 years imprisonment but to run concurrently for eight years for defrauding the Federal Government of the sum of N2.1 billion.

The sentence, which started counting from October 26, 2019 when the 12-count charge was brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), meant the convict began serving his eight years term from the very date.

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Controversy trailed Nigeria govt’s N5bn COVID-19 transporters palliative as drivers, riders deny benefitting and this was published around September 22, 202.

The federal government says it has spent about N5 billion on a covid-19 relief fund for transport sector operators but many said they have not received the N30,000 one-off grant.

Tracking palliative for tricycle drivers

The federal government launched the N2.3 trillion Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) in September 2020 to reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on small businesses.

The plan includes the Transport Track of the Transport and Artisans scheme, a subset of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Survival Fund targeting 4,505 beneficiaries in each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This involved the disbursement of a one-off grant of N30,000 each to qualified individuals operating in the transport sector. An estimated N5 billion has been reported spent on this scheme. The target beneficiaries include rideshare drivers, such as Uber, Bolt, etc., taxi drivers, bus drivers, ‘Keke Napep’ (tricycle) and okada (bike) riders, cart pushers, Then it emerged that People inside of this government became Billionaires From COVID-19 Fund Misappropriation, Federal Lawmaker Alleges.

The House of Representatives was reportedly set to commence a probe into how N83.9 billion appropriated for the response to COVID-19 in the 2020 Appropriation Act was spent. Sadly, under President Muhammadu Buhari the NDDC that ought to provide amenities to the marginalised crude oil bearing communities became a House of corruption even as NDDC audit exposed 362 accounts, N6trn theft, 13,000 abandoned projects around September 2021.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had then urged President Muhammadu Buhari to expose looters of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) funds.

But the Reps abandoned probe of trillion-naira NDDC contracts, N3.4bn solar project.

Recall that on August 26, 2019, the House initiated, but has since abandoned midway, an enquiry into alleged abandonment of capital projects by Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers states.

The House Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on NDDC was headed by Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta).

Still on the house of horror and corruption kniwn as NDDC, it emerged that Debts, Abandoned Projects And Corruption In NDDC have become the mainstay thus the mandate of that body is rubbished.

In 2019 a report stated that for an agency upon which much was expected in a very critical area of the country, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has unfortunately let down the nation in general, and the people of Niger Delta in particular. From the lamentations of top officials including former governors in the oil-producing area, the rot in the commission has become so entrenched that nothing short of a full inquiry at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari can sanitise it. The office of the Accountant General of the Federation under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration became the House of thieves. The signs were seen when unexplained fire was put off in the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and pressure was mounted on government to probe fire at AGF’s office in April 2020.

The Federal Government was asked unsuccessfully to launch an investigation into the fire incident which destroyed a section of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) in Abuja.

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The office is home to the records of revenue generation and disbursements among the three tiers of governments. It also archives the government’s fiscal accountability and transparency monitoring platform (Treasury Single Account).In addition, it stocks all records of states’ domestic and foreign indebtedness.

Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) urged Nigerians to demand a forensic investigation by independent criminal forensic scientists. It said this would ascertain the real motives or otherwise behind the incident barely 24 hours after the Senate uncovered an alleged monumental heist in the Federal Government’s schools feeding programmes. Two years later, EFCC Arrests Accountant General Of The Federation Over Alleged N80 Billion Fraud around May 16, 2022.

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) reportedly arrested the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, over an alleged N80 billion fraud. He had since appeared in court and the amount allegedly stolen is #109 billion- the largest single case of heist of public fund in history.

Spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed his arrest in a statement he issued. But EFCC is not immune from corruption because the immediate past Chairman Ibrahim Magu failed to account for 332 recovered properties on July 12th 2020. He was fired.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, had again been accused of allegedly failing to give a proper account of missing 332 out of the 836 recovered real estate property in March 2018 and report says interest on N550 bn re-looted.

A presidential panel that investigated the the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s handling of recovered loot, has “seriously indicted” the acting chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, the News Agency of Nigeria reported Saturday. A government now signposted for committing the largest cases of theft of public fund had around December 2015 got Nigeria’s Dasuki ‘arrested over $2bn arms fraud’ as published by bbc.com 1 December 2015.

Nigeria’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been arrested for allegedly stealing $2bn (£1.3bn), his representatives say.

Mr Dasuki is accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets and ammunition. He denies the allegations.

Then the untold story of MTN’s ‘illicit’ repatriation of billions of dollars from Nigeria emerged in 2018 even as Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy by gross domestic product (over $380bn), recently grabbed global attention following reports that South Africa’s telecoms subsidiary, MTN Nigeria, illegally repatriated huge profits from the country and avoided paying appropriate taxes to the government. The stealing did not abated because the School feeding programme reportedly gulped over N500m during lockdown says the minister but the snag is that they there were no schools in session given the lockdown brought about by the pandemic of Covid-19. But on August 3, 2020 the Federal Government expended about N523.3 million on school feeding programme during the lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (MHADMSD), Sadiya Farouq, announced this at the Presidential Taskforce briefing on COVID-19 on Monday in Abuja.

Same allegedly corrupt Humanitarian ministry denied N2.67bn school feeding fraud allegations around September 2020.

The minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, has denied misappropriating N2.67 billion meant for feeding school children during the COVID-19 induced lockdown, under the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP).

The chairperson of the anti-graft agency, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, in a series of tweets, via the commission’s verified Twitter handle, on Monday said investigations done by the ICPC had shown that the said funds were diverted into private accounts.

In NEMA, came the story that Multi-Billion Naira Financial Fraud Scandal Rocked Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, NEMA in 2021.

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The then Ahmed Mustapha Habib-led management team of the National Emergency Management Agency is currently enmeshed in financial fraud running into billions of naira.

A source in the agency accused Habib of violating a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari on probity and accountable handling of funds.

How Mamman Daura’s family blocked me from Aso Rock apartment says Aisha Buhari was a big revelation of domestic scandal in the home of the President as published in 2019.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s wife, Aisha, has given a rare insight into the power struggles at the State House, with details of how husband’s relatives physically confronted her.

In an interview with BBC Hausa, Mrs Buhari confirmed the authenticity of a video that circulated online last week, saying she was the woman seen speaking angrily in the footage.

Then came the news that Amaechi, Malami sued over alleged illegal award of N91.7b rail contract to Chinese firm

The Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami have been dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged award of a 190km rail line construction to a Chinese firm without due process.

They were sued alongside Federal Ministry of Transportation and the benefitting firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC). But the worst scandal is the fact that terrorists kidnapped and detained Nigerians for months with the government been unable to rescue the victims.

April 2022, that is clear 21 days after the deadly attack by armed bandits on the Kaduna bound train from Abuja, the Nigerian government has yet to take any decisive action in response to the ugly incident.

It was reported how bandits on March 28 ambushed the train heading for Kaduna from the nation’s capital city after bombing its rail track.

This unprecedented attack, attributed to the failure of the authorities to act on intelligence reports, happened only a couple of days after this newspaper reported that unidentified gunmen invaded the Kaduna airport, killing an official on the runway. Cumulatively, the cases of extrajudicial killings of Nigerians almost led to a revolution called #EndSARS Protests two years back?

A report said the EndSARS protests began as a call to end police brutality and extrajudicial killings that have become endemic in Nigeria. Harassment and unfair treatment by the police are rife, and it dates back to the military era when soldiers unlawfully arrested citizens and violated their rights. But how exactly did it start?

On May 4, 2020, a 27-year-old 500 level Law student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University was shot dead in a beer parlour by police officers. A similar incident occurred on May 21, when a boy, an only son of his parents, met his untimely death in the cruel hands of the police. He was heading home from work at around a few minutes past 8 pm when cops from the Nimo unit chased him until he was knocked down by a moving vehicle. He was said to have died from his injuries.

Seventeen-year-old Tina Ezekwe, who was preparing to take her WAEC exams, was hit by a bullet from a reportedly drunk police officer, who shot to disperse a crowd gathered after he opened fire at a bus driver who had refused to bribe him on May 26, 2020. Tina died two days after the incident sparked a wave of social media campaigns for justice.

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On June 2, 2020, a policeman shot and killed a 20-year-old motorcycle rider in Adamawa for not paying a bribe of N100. A policeman killed a 27-year-old man in Imo for not wearing his face mask on July 9, 2020. Samson John was killed by the bullets of a police officer on October 3, 2020, who unleashed bullets on the people at a beer parlour in Abuja. On October 8, 2020, a young lady was shot in the mouth by a cop in Lagos for protesting against SARS and police brutality.

These and more were some of the cases of police brutality in the country, which culminated in the widespread #EndSARS protests that took place last year. SARS was notorious for its warped profiling of criminals. A young man with dreadlocks or a full beard was easily targeted as a criminal. They were harassed, arrested and sometimes left to rot in jail. Take the case of Ndukwe Ekekwe, who SARS officers arrested on February 16, 2018. He was accused of selling stolen goods at his shop at Alaba International Market by officers led by Haruna Hamisu, a police inspector.

This government stinks of impunity and impurities.

* EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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