• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Dasukigate: Hope our congress is watching (1)

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The latest blockbuster movie in Nigeria today is ‘Dasukigate’ and l hope, like most Nigerians, our congress is watching. Although Nigeria is not new to leadership scandals, nor are the citizens shocked by the quantum of funds involved in financial sleazes, I would like our legislators to take particular note of the current show tagged ‘Dasukigate’ involving $2.1 billion ostensibly set aside for arms procurement to prosecute the war against Boko Haram but allegedly converted by the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, into slush funds for prosecution of a political agenda.

The current shameful event is another addition to the ever-growing saga of abuse of public trust by those entrusted with the responsibility as recent events would attest and which our leaders make a song and dance of, after which nothing else is done to forestall its reoccurrence. The reason I’m inviting the attention of our legislators to this latest gross perfidy in public service is so that, unlike the past experience, at the end of the ongoing show of shame appropriate laws would be enacted to foreclose a repeat of the act of converting public funds earmarked for facilitating the work of our men and women in uniform into political slush fund.

We only need to take a trip down memory lane to recall that about 30 years ago, $12.4bn Gulf War oil windfall that accrued to the nation was declared missing. Yes, the huge sum which could have been applied in providing the badly-needed infrastructure in our country developed strange legs and literarily walked away and it has never been traced or accounted for till date!

In recent history, under the watch of the immediate past government, the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria raised an alarm about $20 billion revenue unaccounted for by the petroleum ministry. The scandal was vehemently denied by the government in power at that time but the opposition party, now the ruling party, buoyed by the support of Nigerian masses, insisted on unravelling the theft in NNPC, the state oil company. The authorities were compelled to mandate PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an audit of NNPC and nothing substantial came out of the exercise as the report by PwC neither indicted nor exonerated anybody in any significant way.

The two cases of financial scandal involving top government officials catalogued above underscore the fact that abuse of public office resulting in scandal has been a trend in Nigeria’s chequered history and both the military and civilians who have been at the helm of affairs since independence are equally culpable.

One recurring decimal in the above-listed unfortunate incidents is that there was no conclusive investigation, so there was never a piece of legislation instituted to forestall future perpetration. This is why our congress needs to pay attention. Without addressing the cases of large scale abuse of public trust by those entrusted with leadership through parliamentary actions, this culture of impunity would likely continue unabated as evidenced by the fact that repetition of similar crimes by public officials nearly 40 years after is almost becoming a culture because the previous cases were not tackled legislatively.

To demonstrate how widespread and pervasive corruption and impunity in government and society have become in Nigeria, one only needs to look back at recent history to recall the following shows of shame perpetrated and published in the mass media: In the civil service, over N32 billion was embezzled from police pension fund by one John Yakubu Yesufu, an assistant director in the Police Service Commission. He was a civil servant and was fined a mere N750,000 for the crime. Secondly, there was Abdulrashid Maina, chairman of Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform, who also allegedly scammed Nigeria of N195 billion and literarily vanished into the thin air with his loot. In the oil and gas sector, Nigerians were regaled with massive fuel subsidy and crude oil swap frauds whereby trillions of naira were creamed off taxpayers, and the then CBN governor also raised alarm concerning unremitted $43 billion, later scaled down to $20 billion, from the NNPC to the CBN which was investigated without any money recovered.

Let’s not forget that before the current Dasuki mind-boggling exposure, the media was also awash with news of humongous bribes offered by the outgone administration to clergymen, although most of the religious leaders denied the allegations.

The traditional institutions were not spared, as most of those who received the alleged booties admitted to doing so with the directive to remit same to most of our traditional rulers across the nation.

If the EFCC were to truly spread its dragnet to cover all involved in the NSA funds heist, there would be a massive haul of Nigerians from all walks of life such that our prisons would be bursting at the seams as they would be unable to contain the apparently very extensive list of Nigerians with their fingers in the NSA cookie jar. This perhaps explains why the EFCC recently placed advertisements in major Nigerian newspapers inviting directors of about 241 companies believed to have received payments from the office of the NSA for a meeting. Already, it is being alleged that information emanating from the Corporate Affairs Commission indicates that most of the directors of the companies under reference are traditional rulers and religious leaders.

The point here is that practically everybody in Nigeria seems to have had their fingers soiled by the NSA funds, which was, as it were, illegally converted to campaign funds, prompting some Nigerians to brand it ‘blood money’ as the non-application of the funds to the original purpose has resulted in the unfortunate death of thousands of both civilians and soldiers in the hands of vicious Boko Haram terrorists.

Magnus Onyibe