A true test for Buhari’s anti-graft war
Senator Godswill Akpabio is the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who is ruling his second term following his victory in the 2019 presidential election. Akpabio was the Governor of the oil-rich Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015.
Akpabio has the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under his supervision which has been attracting serious public attention probably because of the huge revenue the commissions attracts and the importance attached to it by both the government and the people. However, over the years, there have been allegations of embezzlement and massive corruption against the key officials of the NDDC for diverting public funds meant for projects for the Niger Delta people. The trend has continued since.
But when President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, came on board with the Change mantra of which anti-corruption fight was one of the key components, many Nigerians felt things would be done differently. Buhari’s body language suggested that he would rid the Commission and other government establishments of corruption. He actually started the fight and is still doing the much he can so to say.
After winning his second term, President Buhari vowed that the anti-corruption fight would be even more serious than ever. To some extent, his government has prosecuted some top politicians, secured convictions against them, recovered some looted funds and some of the victims are already in prison despite the fact that some of them are serving Senators like Joshua Dariye, Orji Uzor Kalu among others. Although, more work still needs to be done in the anti-corruption fight.
In view of the anti-corruption stance of this Buhari’s government, any case of corruption attracts serious attention from members of the public especially when huge amount of money is involved. Kalu was a serving Senator under the ruling APC and was seen by some people as a close person to Buhari but the President did not shield him. Rather, he allowed him to face the law and he is paying the price in prison now. So, Nigerians are calling on President Buhari to allow other government officials accused of corruption to face the law whether serving officials or past officials, whether APC members of non-APC members.
Just yesterday, it made headlines that the Federal House of Representatives is investigating Akpabio and some other people making up the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC for misappropriation of funds and other wrong practices. The probe followed the resolution passed after debating a motion sponsored by the Deputy House Leader Peter Akpatason at plenary on Tuesday. When many discerning Nigerians heard the news, they knew that Akpabio and the other people involved may be in for a very big trouble especially if they do not succeed in clearing their names during the probe. Nigeria is facing a serious cash crunch and the money involved here is no small money to overlook.
The House of Representatives mandated its Committee on NDDC to probe all matters concerning the misappropriation of funds most importantly, the N40 billion which was spent in less than two months. The House Committee on NDDC will probe all financial transactions of the commission in this fiscal year to ascertain if they followed the law establishing the commission and other extant laws of Nigeria.
Why does big trouble loom for Akpabio and others? Nigerians will not forget that Akpabio was a staunch member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He only defected to the ruling APC in the run up to the 2019 general elections allegedly for some political differences and issues in his then party especially as it concerns his home state Akwa Ibom among other reasons. Akpabio’s defection is still a big surprise to many Nigerians. Before then, there were reports that he had cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. However, Akpabio joined APC anyway and was welcomed by the bigwigs.
He was eventually rewarded with a Ministerial position after he lost his bid to return to the Senate. This government would want to prove that it is not a hiding place for anybody found to be corrupt. More diligent work will go into the probe this time to know if Akpabio and the other people are liable especially given the history of embezzlement and corruption in the NDDC over the years. Something has to be done about that and the time could be now.
Again, Akpabio and the other people may be in for trouble because there are several petitions against them by different people. The petitions bother on extravagant spending of the NDDC’s resources. The House of Representatives is called upon to do something about the situation by the petitioners who might turn up as witnesses if need be to testify to the rots going on in the Commission. Definitely, that will aid the probe or even prosecution if it gets to that point depending on the outcome of the probe by the House Committee on NDDC.
Moreover, Akpabio and members of the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC have other cases to answer. Those other cases are as weighty as the issue of financial misappropriation. The other cases bother on protest letters and memos from contractors, stakeholders and public interest groups regarding alleged personnel layoffs and replacement with unqualified and inexperienced persons into strategic offices in the Commission thereby hampering efficiency and productivity. These are serious administrative cases that need serious probe and a strong decision to be taken. In fact, President Buhari would most likely not take these aspects lightly. How can these be happening in a Commission with such a reputation where change is most is mostly needed to better the lives of the Niger Delta people?
Finally, the Buhari factor will come into play. Yes. President Buhari appointed Akpabio who heads the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and supervises the NDDC. After hearing or reading all these, Buhari would not ignore them all. He would want to know what transpired with a view to taking the right action. President Buhari had vowed to fight corruption headlong with more seriousness especially now that he is doing his second term. This NDDC is one of the government Commissions that needs to be sanitized of corruption. President Buhari would need to prove his words by following this case thoroughly to see that an impartial probe is done and those guilty duly prosecuted and punished.
A situation where the country is facing Corona Virus pandemic which has affected the country’s revenue earnings with many people suffering hunger and other basic needs, that amount of money, N40 billion can do wonders. The issue of laying of people and replacing them with inexperienced and unqualified ones must be probed and reversed if Nigerians are to take the anti-corruption fight serious again.
Laying people off means pushing them into crimes because they and their families would be badly hit by hunger and other stark realities of this hard time. Now is the time for President Buhari to hit the nail on the head by taking the bold decision on these issues after the impartial probe and ensure that all culpable officials of the Commission face the law to serve as a lesson for others.
Source: Opera News Hub