Engineer Martin Onovo has been an advocate for good governance in Nigeria, and has been a presidential candidate in two general elections in Nigeria. In this interview, Onovo says that the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by President Muhammadu Buhari was to intimidate the judiciary.
The Presidential and national Assembly elections are gone; would say INEC was prepared for the 2019 general elections?
INEC preparation for the 2019 elections appears partisan; from the appointment of INEC Chairman and Commissioners to the registration of voters, to the collection of PVCs, to the nomination of candidates, to the role of INEC on the issue of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, and from the conduct of the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, it seems clear that INEC arranged a charade to return Buhari to office against the clear wish of the Nigerian people. INEC as presently constituted and led by Amina Zakari and Yakubu Mahmood, (yes, Amina Zakari, first as the de-facto Chairperson of INEC while Yakubu Mahmood remains the de-jure Chairman), has been unable to conceal its partisanship. The rigging plan had been developed, reviewed, revised, updated and confirmed before the elections. We must stand up to compel INEC to respect the rule of law and uphold the integrity of the ballot. INEC is set to waste N242 billion in a very unpatriotic charade. We must defend democracy.
What is your assessment of the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari in his first tenure?
There is no anti-corruption war being conducted by this government. What you see is mass deceit. The ruling cabal is deliberately promoting corruption but it deceitfully claims that it is fighting corruption. All objective national and international evaluations show that corruption is worse in Nigeria under this government. The regime deliberately promotes corruption in many ways, viz.
By the selective investigation of allegations of corruption against political opponents while neglecting to investigate or deliberately mismanaging corruption cases established against supporters of the regime.
The subliminal message is that as long as you pro-actively support the current government, you can loot the entire resources of Nigeria without consequence. As long as you are in the ruling party, you are a saint, but if you leave the party or belong to any opposition party, then, you are thief and a murderer.
The APC has a record of expenditure of N25.6 trillion in three and half years without any visible developmental progress.
The neglect to investigate very serious allegations of corruption against members of the administration like the $26 billion NNPC contracts scam, the N50 billion NNPC diverted away from the TSA, the N33 billion NEMA procurement scam, the N18 billion BCDA contracts scam, the reduction of fines imposed by NCC against a telecoms company, the corrupt round-tripping of FOREX by supporters of this administration, etc.
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, CPI, Corruption in Nigeria is getting worse. We went from 136th in the CPI ranking to 148th, and currently 144 under this government. According to the US Department of State, “Massive corruption by government officials and security agencies is on the rise with most perpetrators being shielded from trial, thus, giving room for reckless practices with impunity. The brilliant and patriotic political activist Alhaji Buba Galadima said, “This is the most corrupt government I have ever seen in my life”. Clearly, this is the most corrupt government ever in Nigeria.
Would you consider the arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal a strong point in Buhari’s anti-corruption war? Does the trial of the CJN show that nobody is above the law as Itse Sagay said?
It is another confirmation of the lawless disregard of the Constitution by this unpatriotic regime. The move is wrong and the motive is sectional. We know that President Buhari refused or neglected to send the name of Justice Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation. These same sectional reasons dictated appointments made by Buhari, in spite of the Constitution. We must remember the case of Matthew Seiyefa, the most senior DSS officer and Acting DG of the DSS that Buhari removed and replaced with a retiree from his region and his religion. The petition against the CJN is obviously arranged and sponsored by the dying dictatorship to intimidate and subjugate the judiciary and overthrow separation of powers. It is calculated to achieve control of the judiciary by the executive. The petition was not even investigated. In their desperation, they disregarded the constitutional process which requires that any petition against a serving judge must first be reviewed by the National Judicial Commission, NJC. The conclusion of the NJC will, then, dictate subsequent actions.
The position of Itse Sagay is ridiculous and partisan. Nobody is above the law means that the CCB, CCT, Attorney General of the Federation and the Presidency are not above the law but they have been acting with impunity in their total disregard of the Nigerian Constitution.
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said the Federal Government generated 7,000 megawatts of electricity under Buhari, does this reflect reality in the society?
Mr. Fashola is very good with propaganda. Before he came to the Ministry of Power, total installed power generation capacity was over 8,000mw. Ask Mr. Fashola the name and location of the power generation station that he built. Ask him how he transmitted 7,000mw when, according to the association of GENCOs, the transmission grid can take only 4,500mw. We can also simply use data from the DISCOs to expose the deceit. Unfortunately, Nigeria is a country where politicians make blatantly false statements on serious matters without exposure by the media.
The APC Government said the school feeding of children, sharing of N10,000 to the poorest Nigerians, tradermoni, N-Power, etc, are major achievements of the Government towards poverty eradication, do you consider these policies to have made positive impact in Nigeria’s economy?
Simple commonsense exposes the crass corruption and mass deceit that is the character of this regime. These are colossal corruption schemes that have been previously exposed by Alhaji Buba Galadima. These scams must be audited by the next government. It is the fear of probe and exposure by the next government that makes the ruling cabal desperate to rig the elections at all costs. These policies were deliberately designed to loot public funds and have been used for massive looting which has led to the rising poverty in Nigeria. While the government claims falsely that it reduced poverty, all know that poverty is growing and Nigeria is now the global capital of extreme poverty.
What is your evaluation of President Buhari achievements in improving security in Nigeria?
No honest Nigerian or observer can agree with them. The Boko Haram that was degraded in 2015 has now upgraded its capacity after this regime reportedly paid Boko Haram two million Euros as a ransom. We are now loosing heavy military equipment and soldiers to Boko Haram in hundreds. The nomadic herdsmen we know have transformed into terrorist herdsmen under this government. Bandits have established and maintained strong presence in Zamfara State. The criminals at the Abuja – Kaduna expressway corridor are still there even after three years. Kidnapping that was common in only two regions before, has now spread across the entire country. Robbers, assassins and cultists dominate our states across the country; even former Chief of Defence Staff was recently assassinated. Security is much worse in Nigeria today and even the Police have confirmed the rising crime in Nigeria.
Does the 2019 budget proposal presented by President Buhari to the National Assembly provide the right stimulus for economic recovery?
Like the previous budget proposals, beginning with the 2016 budget proposal, this is another budget of ruination. It will further ruin the economy of Nigeria and undermine national security. Everything is wrong with the budget proposal. The basis of the crude oil revenue estimate is clearly utopian. Both the crude oil production estimate and the projected price are very high, leading to the utopian revenue estimate. The wastes in recurrent expenditure were not addressed and the proposal for capital expenditure is very poor. This is another deficit budget calculated to compromise our future and the future of Nigerian children with reckless and unpatriotic borrowing. While other countries like Norway are accumulating savings for their children, Buhari is accumulating huge and unsustainable debts for our children. The cost of debt obligations is already too high (close to 40 per cent of total national revenue), yet, Buhari continues with unpatriotic borrowing. The 2019 budget proposal is simply to push the country further towards a debt crisis.