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EDITORIAL

Bauchi Assembly’s Death Knell For Graft War

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One of the cardinal principles of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is the war against corruption, apparently owing to the fact that graft, which has impeded the nation’s development, has permeated virtually all sectors. Indeed, the APC campaigned on the three-pronged issues of confronting corruption, tackling insecurity and fixing the nation’s ailing economy.

In the last decade, Nigeria has lost trillions of naira to corrupt public officials. These are monies that could have been used to build infrastructure, provide security and generate employment for the teeming youths, most of whom are unemployed and constitute a ticking time bomb.

The unbridled nature of graft and its attendant consequences have necessitated the call for Nigeria to adopt workable approaches to end the scourge which has the capacity of becoming the nation’s greatest albatross if not confronted and defeated. Of course, the ruling APC rode to power in 2015 on the crest of anti-graft war. It is shocking, therefore, that Bauchi, an APC-controlled state that supposedly subscribed to the party’s ideals of ending corruption, will engage in acts that make a mess of the war against corruption.

Recently, the Bauchi State House of Assembly passed a bill to repeal the state public property and funds recovery tribunal law, a law passed by the current administration of Governor Mohammed Abubakar. Less than two weeks to the end of the administration, the State Assembly brazenly passed a bill repealing the law.

In April 2017 when Governor Abubakar signed into law the bill establishing Public Property and Funds Recovery Tribunal aimed at assisting the government recover all stolen public assets and funds, he said the move was meant to combat the menace of corruption. The law empowers the tribunal to recover state assets, including properties and monies stolen by past government officials, civil servants, companies, individuals and also prosecute looters. Indeed, the intendment of the law was to recover public properties diverted and funds squandered by government officials and other individuals.

But the APC-dominated state assembly passed another bill repealing the law. Curiously, the bill was made to undergo first, second and third readings the same day on the floor of the House, with the Speaker, Kawuwa Damina, presiding. The Speaker said the bill passed first, second and third readings without objections from any of the 13 out of the 31 members present. Apparently sensing public perception about their action, Damina sought the understanding of the people and assured that the state assembly would monitor its implementation after the governor’s assent to ensure its effectiveness.

The fact that the bill was submitted to the assembly as an executive bill by the governor whose tenure winds down in few days speaks much of his disdain for the war against corruption. Indeed, there is no justification whatsoever for the action except that some persons are trying to prevent a possible probe and eventual recovery of assets they may have dubiously acquired after the expiration of their tenure.

We are tempted to think that the governor has something to hide and may have found in the state lawmakers willing lackeys who hurriedly passed the bill. Throughout their deliberations, the lawmakers did not point out any defect in the law that informed the decision to repeal it. And assuming without conceding that the law is replete with defects, the ideal thing is for the lawmakers to amend it, not outright repeal.

In our view, the lawmakers’ action is a great disservice to the war on corruption in the state and an affront on the state and its people. Without mincing words, the action is a dangerous signal and an embarrassment for which the lawmakers who voted for it should be ashamed of being associated with. However, Nigerians who are passionate about the war against corruption should find solace in the fact that less than half of the lawmakers were present at the plenary when the show of shame took place.

More than ever before, the state and, indeed, the nation need practicable approaches to ending corruption  in  all its ramifications. This entails that the legal and regulatory frameworks be strengthened, rather than being weakened like the despicable example from Bauchi suggests. It is obvious that the action of Bauchi State government, which was unfortunately endorsed by the lawmakers, is a misstep. We urge the lawmakers to retrace their steps by reconsidering the bill again.

In the event that they fail to do so, the incoming administration should do the state and the war against corruption a whole lot of good by re-enacting the law which is likely be assented to by the current governor. It is also our opinion that well-meaning citizens of Bauchi, including lovers of democracy all over the country, should rise up against this action taken by the Bauchi State government and its lackeys in the state assembly. The state deserves nothing less than a law that will help consolidate the fight against corruption.

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