If only the Nigerian people and close observers will cleverly permute some obvious realities on the ground side-by-side practical situations emanating from government’s deliberate efforts at curbing the free flow of public funds in private hands, it shouldn’t be difficult to arrive at the conclusion that things are gradually changing in the country.
Critical and analytical study of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government should note among other things, that one of the major problems the current administration has is that it doesn’t seem to know how to present some factors that represent the change they promised to the people.
Very easily, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has harped on it that under the current government, Nigeria became the world headquarters of poverty. That is, following a report by Brookings Institution.
Unfortunately, aside an economic factor, which may be explainable by other indices, what is called ‘poverty’ in practically every Nigeria community is understandable. The present administration vowed to stand up to corruption and it is yielding some practical results that are noticeable in social trends.
What this means is that while artisans, businesses, families, religious groups and so on have freely benefitted from proceeds of corruption that had trickled down to them one way or the other, however, by cutting such channels of leakages that have enriched a few Nigerians at the detriment of the majority, such illicit money had ceased. Simply put, there are no more free meals anywhere.
The indications are rife. While the common man may not know it, those who have milked the country dry through illegal loopholes feel it more. A major change is that it is no longer business as usual. Many previous sources of illegitimate incomes are no longer available under President Buhari.
In some estimates, every day, oil companies in Nigeria lose between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels of oil to theft. Even at an average price of $70 per barrel of Brent crude oil, that is a colossus lost to any country. In some other estimates, about 15 per cent of Nigeria’s 2.4 million barrels produced per day go to theft in the Niger Delta, where illegal bunkering thrived.
Now, there is reduction in oil bunkering. President Buhari took power promising to tackle the “mind-boggling” level of corruption in his country’s oil industry. But can he succeed?
For instance, during a familiarisation tour of the bases under his command, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, attributed the decrease in oil theft and illegal oil refinery in the Niger Delta to three reasons.
“Crude oil theft and other such criminal activities have reduced as a result of a number of measures put in place, one of which is the permanent operation at sea, which is called Operation Tsare-Teku. Tsare-Teku maintains a number of vessels at sea at all times. The second one is the Swamp bogey operation, whereby we go around demolishing all illegal infrastructure that have been put in place for illegal oil production.
“The third one is the choke-point regime, in which we have our houseboats at strategic points within the inner waterways, which are the backwaters, ensuring there are no illegal movement of any kind of illegally produced products in that general area.
“We’ve been able to sustain these three and with them, we have been able to curtail the flow of illicit oil activities in our area of responsibility,” Garba said.
He also commended the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta) and it’s commander, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, describing the base as the most critical security outfit to Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
For those, who may not be familiar with the successes of the security agencies in the Niger Delta region, the eradication of the gang of notorious oil thieves in Arepo, Ogun State is another attestation to the fact that the business is no longer thriving.
Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are bedrocks of fraud in the Nigerian political system. In 2016, the acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, confirmed this and threatened that whoever in the MDAs was found violating the provisions of the Procurement Act risked five to 10 years imprisonment.
Today, civil servants are more careful than ever. No more contract award racketeering syndicates, no more raising vouchers to steal government funds for work not done and no more multiple bank accounts by MDAs.
The Nigerian government has been posting staggering figures in the range of trillions of naira as the monies the country has saved through the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the unified structure of government bank accounts that enables consolidation and optimal utilisation of government cash resources.
On April 17, 2017, the federal government said it had recorded over N7 trillion in the TSA by the end of March of that year and later in August 2018, government announced that it has saved up to N24.7 billion monthly as a result of the policy.
A previous sinister connivance between the executive and the legislators called budget-padding had been another avenue through which very large chunk of public funds is siphoned and find their way into private hands. This government stood against the heinous crime and continued to prevent it.
Hence, the federal government has said it repeatedly that there were no spurious items of expenditure in the 2018 budget. Earlier in the year, the Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister for Budget and National Planning, Mr. Akpandem James, said contrary to insinuations by commentators, all the items captured in the budget were well conceived and carefully provided for by the respective agencies of government.
Even up till this moment, the presidency and the National Assembly are still at loggerheads over where to source the sum of N242.205 billion virement approved for the 2019 general election. The lawmakers, against the request by President Buhari that the National Assembly should provide the virement from the N557 billion inserted into the budget by the federal lawmakers for their constituency projects, had insisted that the money must be taken from the Service Wide Vote.
It is only upon FG’s insistence that the lawmakers recently agreed to approve that the money should be sourced from MDAs and the Service Wide Vote.
In totality, for not drawing adequate attention to some of its anti-corruption stances that are yielding positive results and consequently reducing free flow of stolen money, government is getting bashed as creating poverty, but it is only when legitimate money begins to circulate that wealth can be evenly distributed.
Observers can look around Nigeria today and they would be shocked to see construction works and rehabilitation of roads going on everywhere. All abandoned projects are being given attention. Before, contractors collect money for projects, do a little of the work, abandon them and pocket the rest.
Kickbacks are not coming to those in the civil service as usual; money laundering is now very difficult for the political class – no more easy foreign exchange round-tripping transactions fraud, no more dubious foreign trips for trainings and workshops with unbudgeted estacodes, no more traditional rulers and religious leaders trooping to Aso Rock for dollars, and lastly, the ghost worker menace has been reduced significantly.
This government’s frugality and incorruptible posturing is curtailing frivolous spending, clearly. How many clergy men, for example, still fly their jets or buy new ones? Ask the black market Bureau De Change operators, they will confirm that dollar is scarce and it is usually the ill-gotten dollars that are being mopped up through the anti-corruption drive of this administration.
– Ibrahim lives in Minna.