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Presidency Knocks Jonathan Over Corruption Claims



The Presidency has rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan’s claim that there is more corruption in the country now than when he was in office.

A statement released yesterday by the senior special assistant on media and publicity to the president, Mallam Garba Shehu, described Jonathan’s assertion as absolutely untrue, adding that facts on the ground run contrary to his unfounded claim.

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that former President Jonathan had launched his book, “My Transition Hours” in Abuja on Tuesday, a day that marked his 61st birth anniversary.

It is in the book that he claimed that there is greater corruption in the present regime despite priding itself as a corruption fighter.

But the statement signed by Shehu, the presidency countered Jonathan, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari, in pursuit of the war against corruption, has set a number of local and international records, one of which is to call judicial officers in Nigeria to account, the first to set such a record.

He noted also that this is the first time that top military commanders and service chiefs are brought to trial, and convictions achieved in court on account of corruption.

The presidential spokesman further pointed out that this is the first time a ruling party is convicting high profile citizens, including former governors belonging to the party.

Part of the statement reads: “This is the first time the international community is acknowledging the efforts of a government of Nigeria in this regard as manifested by the selection of President Buhari by the African Union as the Anti-Corruption Champion of the continent.

“For the records, this is the first time a ruling party is investigating ranking officers of the administration, including some at the very top.

“In addition to the many firsts recorded by President Buhari’s administration, the government has introduced a lot of changes, considering that the laws relating to the fight against corruption cannot reasonably be static.”

Shehu added that in line with its aspiration to be ahead of the growing sophistication of corruption and financial crimes, the Buhari administration has initiated new legislations and proposed amendments to different sections of laws.

He listed such bills to include: The Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Anti-Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill 2017 (NFIU);Proceeds of Crime Bill 2017 Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill, 2017 and The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2017.

Shehu noted that with the support of relevant stakeholders, the NFIU Act has been passed and President Buhari gave his assent on July 18, 2018.

He further explained that the administration is currently working with the legislature for an expedited passage of the Proceeds of Crimes Bill to make the anti-corruption war more effective.

The presidential spokesman, therefore, urged Nigerians to dismiss Jonathan’s hollow boast that he, not President Buhari, introduced schemes such as the Biometric Verification Number (BVN), Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

According to him, of what use is the announcement of good policies without the will to implement them.

Explaining further, he said since President Buhari assumed office, Nigerians are witnesses to the huge success recorded through the implementation of the TSA where some government agencies that had over the years remitted peanut amounts or nothing at all are now periodically pumping billions into government coffers.

Prominent among these remittances, he said, are the ones made by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customers Service (NCS) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

While conceding that the BVN policy was introduced in 2014 under the Jonathan administration to ensure that all bank accounts have biometric identification of their owners, Shehu however pointed out that the former president lacked  the will and capacity to enforce the implementation.

Noting that certain individuals are afraid of enrolling on the BVN platform as this will expose them and their corrupt actions, Shehu gave the assurance that the law would soon catch up on them.

Speaking further on anti-corruption initiatives of the Buhari administration, the presidential spokesman recalled that the introduction of the whistle-blower policy as a veritable tool against corruption as it gives individuals the incentive to expose corruption, fraud, bribery, looted government funds, financial misconduct, government assets and any other form of corrupt practice or theft.

According to him, within six months of introducing this policy, over 5,000 reports were made through various channels, out of which 365 were actionable tips, with more than N200bn recovered so far.

He continued: “As the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN),  said on Thursday, the former president does not have the facts to claim that there was any serious effort on the part of his administration to fight corruption.

“As at 29th May, 2015, when this administration came into office, the EFCC recovery account had only N19.5 billion as revealed by the minister of justice and attorney-general. After one year of the new anti-corruption drive by the Buhari administration, this figure went up to N279 billion, and since then a lot more has been recovered.

“Finally, as evidenced from a fleeting look at the book, the former President had nothing to say about his own achievements. If there was a recession, and yes we had a moment in it, was it due to one year of President Buhari’s government?

“In his efforts to blame everyone but himself for his failures, Dr Jonathan heaped the blame for the predictable economic recession on President Buhari, ignoring the seeds sown under him through mismanagement and the process set in firm roots for the decline of the economy. Evidently, he did nothing to avert the situation.”

Shehu reiterated that the recession in 2016 was caused by years of mismanagement and corruption in the 16 years of PDP rule.

“The country solely relied on oil, the price of which was as high as $140 per barrel under their watch. Government simply reticulated oil revenue through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and salaries rather than investing in what would grow the economy. There was no investment in infrastructure as President Buhari is now doing in seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing.

“The oil windfall for the country was mismanaged, and Nigeria’s greatest opportunity for growth was turned into a tragedy. More worrisome, there were no savings. And to compound the problem and compromise growth of the economy, the previous government borrowed heavily, owed contractors and international oil companies. When President Buhari came into power in 2015, the country had accumulated debt, which took it back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt forgiveness. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock when oil prices fell to as low as $28.

“The former president and his party have nothing to say about achievements,” he added.