I share this week with my readers text of a press conference by the Islamic Forum of Nigeria on Corruption. Enjoy:
Being Text of a Press Conference on the Alleged Fraud Committed by the SGF in the Affairs of the PRESIDENTIAL INITIATIVE ON THE NORTHEAST (PINE), Read by Professor Salisu Shehu, Executive Secretary, for and on behalf of the Islamic Forum of Nigeria.
Gentlemen of the Press,
Assalamu alaikum and good afternoon.
It is a well known fact that our country is blessed with abundant natural and human resources of all kinds. Without any fear of contradiction it can be asserted that there is hardly any country that is as endowed as Nigeria. There is no doubt that if these resources were properly explored, exploited, harnessed and utilized judiciously and appropriately the country would have registered itself, a long time ago, in the list of developed nations. Unfortunately for us we are still wallowing not only in underdevelopment but struggling to survive certain avoidable sub-human conditions of life and challenges of state failure. While industrialization has remained elusive, albeit perpetually, poverty has been the most conspicuous trademark of especially our rural and even urban communities and consequently, we have not been able to overcome the basic problem of insufficiency of food and hunger in the land. None of our cities, including the Federal Capital has reliable, dependable, adequate and effectively functional municipal services. All these sufferings came to be aggravated by insecurity. The country fell into a very bleak, sordid and disastrous condition of violence and bloodbath occasioned by the insurgency in the Northeast, the militancy in the Niger-Delta and the intermittent farmer/herdsmen clashes, and rampant armed banditry and kidnaps. The indices of our underdevelopment and the manifestations of our systemic and societal failures are too numerous to recount and too heart rending to rehearse.
What may actually not be in doubt in explaining the factors responsible for the horrible condition of our backwardness as a nation and the chaotic nature of our life and polity is the problem of perpetual failure in leadership. There is almost a consensus that the one and only serious problem of our country has always been the lack of responsible leadership. At the centre of this leadership crisis is the endemic problem of corruption. This evil called corruption is not, however, only associated with the leaders. It has permeated and also penetrated all sectors and all strata of the country. It influences all aspects of our life including our practice of our respective religions and faiths. In terms of its destructive effects on leadership and governance, on public service and work, on trade , commerce and all other forms of business transactions, on corporate services and deliveries, craft works and artisanship, on learning and academic pursuits, on interpersonal and intergroup relations and associations, including our family lives, corruption can be succinctly described as a cankerworm in our country or still appropriately, a weapon of mass destruction. We are all suffering because of the ubiquity of fraud and malpractices in almost all that we do in our country. Everybody was worried, and every body was subconsciously mobilized on the need to stand up to the challenge of corruption. This was what gave fame and credibility to the CHANGE SLOGAN of the opposition party in the campaigns towards the last general elections.
Given his pedigree and disposition and his acclaimed and untainted personal integrity, credibility and zero tolerance for corruption, the whole nation rallied around General Muhammadu Buhari and elected him into the presidential office. During his campaigns he left no one in doubt that fighting corruption would be one of the foremost areas of priority in his government.Everybody trusted him,and on that note, with high expectations people voted for him massively. Since the time he took up the mantle of leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari has been struggling to prove to the country and to the world that, indeed he is committed to fighting this national anathema. Although there are certain loopholes in the fight against corruption, which are themselves explainable by the depth of rot in the system and the fact that , he the President, is a Lone Ranger in the crusade, typical Nigerians still have confidence in his commitment to this important campaign promise of his. We here, at the Islamic Forum of Nigeria, wish to restate and reaffirm our Confidence in Mr. President on this particular struggle to put the nation on the right track.
At the inception of the anti-corruption crusade of this government, the whole country, alas the whole world was startled by the fact that a colossal amount of money to the tune of $2.1b meant for procuring arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency was fraudulently diverted to private pockets/accounts. People were astounded and bewildered at the level of wickedness that would make people to be sharing money meant for saving lives and preventing bloodbath. People were not only feeding but also feasting and indulging on the blood of helpless citizens. This is why, except for the rantings of a few name-seeking, self styled human right activists, the entire country has never shown any sympathy for Dasuki and his ilk.
While the government has been enjoying relatively massive support in the fight against Corruption, what has now suddenly appeared to be a serious set back, or better still, a test of credibility in that regard, are the allegations against the Secretary to the Federal Government, Engineer Babachir Lawal. Beginning as mere rumours, the accusations of fraud against the SFG in his handling of the funds disbursed for the care and rehabilitation of the IDPs in the Northeast have bulged out in a manner that cannot be swept under the carpet. The Senate has not only come out to accuse the SFG of illegally awarding contract to his own personal company to whose account he was the sole signatory but has also gone ahead to institute an investigation into the matter. It was astonishingly discovered that it was not only the Dasukis that were wickedly dinning on the blood of the victims of Boko Haram, some people, very close to the President are also guilty of the same vice and cruelty. The whole country has set eyes on this issue and is waiting on what its outcome will be. The SFG has brazenly denied the allegations and has also gone ahead to accuse the Senate of trying to pull him down unjustifiably. We are glad that Mr.President has directed the Attorney General of the Federation to carry out investigation on it and other related matters. While we support this move by the President, we wish to state unequivocally that this, obviously would be one of the most critical tests of his will, commitment and sincerity of purpose in his proclaimed fight against corruption and the entire change mantra of the government. Consequently, at the risk of being mistaken for attempting to pass verdict against some persons, we hereby call on Mr. President to stand by the outcome of the investigation, however it turns out to be, and should in the spirit of the supremacy of the rule of law, do thenneedful and the rightful in that regard based on the due process of law.
CORRUPTION IS AN EVIL, IT SHOULD HAVE NO KINSMEN, NOR FRIENDS AND PATRONS
While all the talks about the alleged fraud by the SFG were going on, we wish to observe how some people are desperately trying to politicise the issue or introduce religious prejudices and sentiments into it. In Nigeria, one unfortunate tradition is that, if a person commits an offence he or she quickly runs to his kinsmen or faith community and takes refuge or seek for protection. He would whip their sentiments, and shamelessly they would come out to rally around the culprit and defend him with fictions and lies, and indeed with chauvinistic sentiments. In that manner, very serious and important issues would be trivialized. This is what we have witnessed in this case of the SFG’s alleged fraud. One Northern Christian Politicians (NNCP)were reported on p.10 of the Daily Trust on Sunday (18/12/2016) desperately and also fruitlessly trying to defend Babachir Lawal. It claimed that the Senate’s accusations against him were “ill-timed,incongruous and a chase after shadows.”, and that the Senate was only attempting “to malign the person of the SGF”. The NNCP when ahead to claim that it was “worried by the skewed manner in which the call was made”. This action by the said NNCP is, to say the least, quite unfortunate. What is expected by the group was to call on the Senate to be objective, impartial, just and honourable in its investigation, as well as in its judgement on the matter eventually. It is this kind of prejudice and chauvinism that has aided and abated corruption in the country. While this Christian group was trying to dismiss the allegations cheaply, it forgot that the Senate was a collection of both Christians and Muslims almost in equal proportions. We therefore, call on our fellow Nigerian citizens to always rise above religious and ethnic or tribal sentiments and prejudices on critical national and accept the fact that CORRUPTION IS AN EVIL, IT SHOULD HAVE NO KINSMEN, NOR FRIENDS AND PATRONS that should either shield it or anoint its perpetrators. It is only when we look at offences and crimes objectively and treat them for what they, for the sake of our collective survival as a nation shall we prosper and progress.
While reiterating our sincere support for the fight against corruption by the government, we wish to advise that there is an urgent need to institute a machinery for broadeningn its scope and ensuring that it trickles down to the grassroots, thereby sensitizing the entire polity and engaging and involving and touching every layer, segment and sectors of the economy and the society.
Long Live, Mr. President!
Long Live, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Professor Salisu Shehu
Islamic Forum of Nigeria