12th December, 2013
By Peter Claver Oparah
Last week, Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog released its ranking of world corruption index among countries. Nigeria was ranked the 25th most corrupt nation on earth. This was a drop from the 27th position it occupied at the last ranking. To most Nigerians who are living witnesses and victims to the pervasive culture of corruption which has, under the Jonathan regime, been elevated to directive principle of state policy, this was a conservative rating and a flattering of a system that now rests solely on corruption. It is trite saying that corruption has completely overwhelmed the country as no day passes without stories of mind boggling corruption reported in all the sectors of the country’s governance.
From the over N2 trillion fuel subsidy scandal to the looting of the pension fund, from the purloining of the police pension fund to the financial fraud going on in all federal ministries and parastatals, from the gargantuan oil theft scandal, which according to government officials, poses serious threat to the nation’s economy to the sordid details of the cleansing going on in the ant-infested oil industry, from the revelation that N500 billion had been stolen from the ludicrous SURE-P fund to the disclosure by the Customs Director General that the country lost a whopping N603 billion to abuse of import waivers between January and September this year, from the Aviation scandal otherwise known as Oduahgate to the now trending allegation of massive stealing of kerosene subsidy, from the looting of the excess crude account to the emptying of the foreign reserves, it is one long and endless story of bizarre stealing, looting and corruption, which has come to define the face of the Jonathan government.
The audacious plundering has retched up a new breed of novou riche Nigerians, most with no known means of livelihood and some with well known criminal history. These have moved in to buy private jets, acquire massive landed properties and veered off into the new fad, which is ownership of universities. Conversely, Nigerians pass through the worst form of deprivation in the history of the county as life hovers on the barest of levels. The level of want in Nigeria is best captured by a recent World Bank report, which states that about 130 million Nigerians live bellow two dollars a day! This is an incriminating report for a country that had been harvesting unflagging oil boom for the past fourteen years the PDP has been in power. Strange enough, President Goodluck Jonathan, assailed on all fronts by wide scale criticism of his tolerant attitude to corruption, told Nigerians that our greatest problem is not corruption but ethnicism. Even recently, an anti corruption group in Switzerland, Berne Declaration revealed that the NNPC and a group of Nigerian and international oil traders dupe the country in the sale of Nigerian oil. The group revealed that Nigeria was short changed of over $6.8 billion between 2009 and 2011!
One would have expected the overwhelming reports of wholesome looting of the country’s resources to overstretch an anti corruption agency like the EFCC. One would have expected the prison walls to be overstretched by the number of culprits held in respect of these criminal plundering. But not for the present EFCC. No one has been arrested, least of all prosecuted for these mind boggling acts of economic crime. No one is questioned, except when Nigerians rose up with heightened anger to protest the decision of the Jonathan government to pass the cost of the fuel subsidy scam on Nigerians through increased prices of petroleum prices. Jolted by the massive outpouring of Nigerians against such effort, the EFCC said it was going to take in and prosecute the fuel subsidy thieves. It moved in to pick one or two of them and these were quickly released and there the story ended. Of course Nigerians still pay for the prodigality of these thieves through high prices of petroleum products. They were merely rattled and left to continue plying their trade in a mock trial aimed to deceive the long suffering Nigerians. Of the other cases of monumental corruption listed above, the EFCC has not even betrayed any whimper of knowledge, talk not of arresting any person to answer for these infractions. And the sordid plundering continues in reckless and more audacious impunity.
Last week, Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was to raise an alarm of what he called unrelenting EFCC harassment of the officials of his government. To those conversant with happenings and politics of Imo State, this alarm was long in coming as the EFCC seems to have relocated to Imo State for the sole purpose of harassing, intimidating and distracting the purposeful government in Imo State so as to make the state pliant for the return of the rapacious PDP whose 12 years tenure in Imo governance left the state despoiled, traumatized and prostrate. It is this disheveled story that the Rochas government has boldly been addressing since 2011 when he wrestled the entire armada of the PDP to get to power. Since then, neither the PDP hierarchy, the Jonathan government nor the dislodged mandarins who ate down the state in twelve years have rested in trying to re-launch the good old days of wanton free loading. The PDP, which has been pining and ruing the loss of the feel good days is being commissioned by the presidency, eager to boost its sagging flanks, to launch a warfare in Imo State and the EFCC is the arrowhead of the war. That was the message Okorocha was sending when he raised the alarm and discernible Imo citizens know this fact. They know that EFCC has made it a duty to make ceaseless rounds in Imo State, arresting officials at will based on the many specious and outlandish petitions the moths and rodents that people the state PDP generate against the state government.
Imo State for the nearly three years Okorocha has been in power, has been one of the laudable stories of recovery from the waste laying between 1999 and 2011. All sectors have been targeted in a massive effort to recover the years eaten away by the locusts and the state has picked up its pieces from where Mbakwe left it. 305 brand new model schools are being built all over the state, state pupils in primary, secondary and state owned tertiary institutions are enjoying a historical free education replete with other accompanying accoutrements, all the decayed roads, streets in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe have been recovered, rebuilt and remodeled while fifteen kilometers of rural roads have been constructed in each of the 27local councils in the state. Twenty seven modern hospitals are being built in the 27 local councils in the state while all the colonial relics and kitchen lines that formed the face of government buildings for the period the PDP renters wrecked the state, have all given way to modern edifices and structures that compliment a modern civil service. Employment and jobs are being created and filled in through the community councils that targets even and effective distribution of resources to all the communities in the state. These are few of the land breaking features of governance which never existed in Imo for the twelve years the PDP, through such amorphous groups like apex leaders, stakeholders, god fathers, etc despoiled the state ate down the state.
The Imo state chapter of the PDP and its national hierarch are not pleased with the good fortunes of Imo people and that is why they have sworn to ensure that Governor Okorocha does not nick a re-election. It does not matter if they have nothing, just nothing, to advertise as their achievement in power for twelve years while Okorocha has a bountiful harvest to show for his brief tenure at Douglas House. They now live in forging frivolous petitions against the regime and trusting the EFCC which has become the political hatchet dog of the PDP to launch an unending war against the Imo government. They freely boast of this even when they have pending questions of what they did with the twelve years allocation of Imo State still shoveled under EFCC’s bulging carpet. They believe that by 2014, when Governor Okorocha would be standing for re-election, they would have mutilated his achievements and soften the ground for their comeback but they are gravely mistaken for Okorocha is etching his achievements in indelible imprimatur and in the minds of the ordinary Imo man and this will defy the erasing capacity of the minions in PDP. It is instructive that the funding for these nefarious operations in Imo State is from the well heads of corruption that has been opened in the present government, as reported above and which should form the primary business of an EFCC concerned about the culture of corruption that is ravaging the country at present.
I am not against directing the klieglight on those in power and this should be made clear. I however believe that such klieglight should be on real and provable cases of economic crimes-the type being perpetrated under the nose of the EFCC by the federal government, which is threatening to bury Nigeria at present. Since the EFCC started its self-deceitful fancy ride round Imo, it is yet to publish any worthwhile report that indicts any Imo government official and it has not brought any official to prosecution yet it won’t stop and attend to the overwhelming evidences of corruption that mire the PDP federal government because it is a mere hatchet in the hands of PDP. Running rings in Imo where evidence of prudent management of state resources is even obvious in the sheer volume and impact of projects that have been undertaken these past two and half years, is like searching for needle in a haystack. Nigeria is being ran aground by corruption and the EFCC knows this. It is rather preoccupied with chasing rats all round Owerri in deference to the consuming narrow interests of the present PDP government while Nigeria crumbles. We wish them luck but they should remember that whenever the history of the sordid present is compiled, they should expect to be rightly captured on what they did to encourage the rot of the present.
•Oparah wrote from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]