Taciturn Buhari And Corrupt Nigerians | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Taciturn Buhari And Corrupt Nigerians

Posted: Jun 22, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Magnus Onyibe, development strategist and futurologist, in this first part of a two part essay, suggests that President Buhari’s personality and stance on corruption have begun to create fears among   unscrupulous public officials

General Muhammadu Buhari

General Muhammadu Buhari

After nearly three weeks of assumption of office, President Muhamadu Buhari seems to be giving Nigerians, especially the corrupt ones, who have the proverbial ‘skeletons in their cupboards’ the ‘silence treatment’ which so far, seems to be the visible administrative strategy of our brand new president.

From antecedent as former military head of state with zero tolerance for indiscipline and corruption, president Buhari’s personality as a stern and stoic leader who brooks no nonsense may be sending jitters down the spines of treasury looters in and out of government who have been pillaging the economy under the previous permissive government whose leader had an underpinning philosophy that petty stealing is not corruption.

In the past couple of weeks, newspaper and other media spaces have been taken over by petroleum products importers  involved in the infamous crude-oil-for-petrol deal also known as SWAP, who have been trying to exonerate themselves from the deal that is believed to have inflicted cumulative damage in excess of $3 billion on Nigerian economy.

Similarly those in the upstream sector who under dubious arrangements like Strategic Partnership Agreements (SPAs) with NNPC cart away huge volumes of our crude oil without remitting the sales proceeds to NNPC  and who under opaque circumstances acquired marginal oil fields being divested from by major international  oil companies (IOCS) for a fraction of their real cost, have been scrambling to explain their prized illicit  acquisitions through media messages to president Buhari who for now seems not to have intermediaries through whom shady deals could be made, perhaps in consonance with Mr. President’s famous inaugural speech “I belong to everyone, I belong to nobody”.

Depending on who you ask between Chukwuma Soludo, the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor and his successor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now Emir of Kano, Nigerian economy was practically fleeced of incomes ranging between $20-40 billion in less than a decade by organized oil crooks, some of which are now for obvious reasons, quaking in their boots.

In morbid fear of president Buhari even before he lifts a finger against those who despoiled our economy and despite the fact that most  independent oil marketers-DAPMAN and MOMAN appear to have withheld the import of petroleum products into Nigeria  owing to the uncertainty regarding the payment of their outstanding invoices for subsidy payment by the new government, NNPC’s petroleum products depots are now awash with fuel products owing to the frenzy by crude-oil-for-petrol swap deal makers who are now bringing in ship loads of petroleum products that they claim were outstanding in their agreement with NNPC.

In some instances, the fear of president Buhari is even compelling the return of some stolen oil monies owing to ‘guilty conscience’ by those perceived to have short changed government in nefarious petroleum products deals, although it is being denied in some quarters.

Ordinarily, and by the same token, governors who just termed out of office, would by now have taken a flight out of Nigeria into some safe haven abroad for fear of being arrested by the economic crime commission (EFCC) on account of financial impropriety while in office.

But president Buhari’s government seems to have deviated from that beaten path by being demur on that count. The only financial scandal that Nigerians are currently being regaled with in the media by the EFCC is the alleged 8 billion naira mutilated currency scandal for which some CBN and other bank officials are being arraigned.

Unknown to politicians, President BuharI’s seeming reticence reflected in his mute but sanguine attitude to corruption allegations against the immediate past public office holders like governors and ministers could be as a result of not wanting to fight on too many fronts at the same time, as he is currently concentrating on the fight against Boko Haram.

But as a veteran army general, it may also be a strategy to beguile the corrupt public officials by seemingly acquiescing with them only to, like a cat, pounce on them when they least expect him to do so.

Be that as it may, while we await president Buhari’s clear policy direction as the days roll by and when he eventually forms his cabinet, it is welcome development that saboteurs of Nigeria’s oil sector, are of their own volition, showing remorse and seeking penance for the apparent infractions by paying up.

Going by the current rash of remorseful actions of petroleum products traders and the salutary effects it could have on Nigerian economy if needless litigations and attendant incarceration are avoided, those who have infracted in other sectors like ex-governors and ministers should follow that example and do the needful by returning their loot before Buhari’s government, as it were, bares its fangs.

In my considered opinion, it is better to pry the loot out of the sticky fingers of the compromisers of our common patrimony than merely sending them to jail which has been the case since the time of army general, Muritala Muhamed of blessed memory who ousted the government of army general, Yakubu Gowon in 1975 on account of corruption and probed top functionaries including governors and permanent secretaries with the resultant forfeiture of assets acquired with proceeds from corruption.

Disappointingly, assets such as choice real estates, cinema houses and the like, seized from those found guilty, have since been returned to the looters with Nigeria and indeed Nigerians being the ultimate losers.