Power of power sector corruption
Category: Opinion Written by Deepening Democracy firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the key questions Nigerians have been posing is the strength of the resolve of the PDP Administration to fight corruption. As we all know, Nigeria has a large canopy of anti-corruption agencies and the governments since May 1999 have always sworn their commitment to the struggle against corruption. There has been however serious doubts over the existence of a political will to take concerted action against corrupt persons, especially in the present dispensation with a President whose “people” believe that it is their turn to “eat.”The Senate last Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Ibrahim Lamorde as the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He had been acting since November 23. His appointment followed the sacking of Mrs Farida Waziri as the Chairman of the Commission by President Jonathan over undisclosed reasons. Lamorde has worked closely with the former Chair, Nuhu Ribadu, and at that time, great strides were made in the anti-corruption struggle. It’s Lamorde’s turn to show his own willpower and commitment to the anti-corruption struggle.
His predecessor, Mrs Waziri came into office under controversial circumstances. There was widespread suspicion that her predecessor, Nuhu Ribadu, was removed because of the success of his anti-corruption campaign. Mrs Waziri encountered large scale opposition from the country but also among Nigeria’s development partners who believed she had been appointed to protect the corrupt political class. The jury is still out on her stewardship.
It is important that Ibrahim Lamorde hits the ground running. A lot of the former governors his former boss and himself investigated and said were corrupt are working the streets freely. Farida Waziri said she could not find the files. Lomorde headed the investigations so now that he is a confirmed boss, he can bring them out and move against those that ruled us and ruined our economy though monumental theft.
One important point of entry which is so poignant to Nigerians is the power sector. I doubt that there is any country in the world that has invested as much as we have in power and yet we have nothing to show for it. In 1999, the late Bola Ige promised us sufficient power within six months, it did not happen. President Obasanjo, we discovered through the House of Representatives probe, had squandered $16 billion with the promise of 6,000 megawatts of electricity by December 2007 and it did not happen. Subsequently, President Umaru Yar’Adua in February 2008 launched the Committee on the Accelerated Expansion of Power. He promised Nigeria that 18-months from that date, Nigeria would be producing at least 6,000 MW of power (Leadership, 20/2/2008) and it did not happen.
The culprits in the political class responsible for corruptly enriching themselves from the power sector are out of power and no longer have immunity. Olusegun Obasanjo, Olusegun Agagu and Liyel Imoke in serious countries would be tried and sentenced for economic sabotage in addition to corruption. Ibrahim Lamorde has their files and could become the hero of the Nigerian people if he takes them on for their criminality.
The current head of the power sector, Barth Nnaji has cut the ambition from 6,000 to 4,000 megawatts. Why should this be so when the NIPP projects were fully paid for and the Yar’adua/Jonathan Administration added new projects for which appropriations had also been made? We cannot continue to turn our back on those who have stolen massively and start new projects because the money for the old projects has been stolen. This attitude will guarantee that the money for the new projects too will be stolen.
The EFCC has always faced huge challenges. The Commission has been largely unable to secure convictions against senior government officials charged with corruption. All the former Governors who we thought would go to jail immediately after they leave office have been enjoying the fruits of their corruption unperturbed. Our political and judicial system continues to reward corruption.
Nigeria’s weak and overburdened judiciary has also been an obstacle to effective prosecutions. Most of the corruption cases against top players in the political arena have been stalled in the courts for years, with their trials not even begun. It is encouraging that the Chief Justice of the Federation, Dahiru Musdapher has taken the long overdue initiative of instructing judges to expedite corruption cases, giving them a six-month deadline to complete these cases.
In the long run, the solution to successful prosecution of corruption cases lies in improving the administration of justice in the country. We can never win the battle against corruption if over paid Senior Advocates of Nigeria can receive stolen money and drag cases for up to a decade by arguing one injunction after another and thereby restraining the wheels of justice.
The future of Nigeria depends largely on our capacity to fight endemic corruption. Levels of corruption are so high and its presence so pervasive that development and the provision of public goods for the welfare of the people have collapse. We now know that almost 2 trillion Naira was paid out in fuel subsidy and most of the money went to corruption and not to fuel. The EFFC has been asked to investigate and it is an important opportunity to place accountability on the table. For these two sectors of massive fraud, the attitude of government has been to forget the past. The Federal Government is not keen on the anti-corruption struggle. Even when others do the work, they have refused to follow up.
The government refused to try Julius Berger, Siemens Plc., Saipem, Technip and Halliburton Inc. on the various corruption charges proven against them by foreign courts on their Nigeria operations. The Attorney- General of the Federation, Mr Adoke SAN has argued in all the cases that they will simply be fined so that they can continue their business in Nigeria. This was the same position taken by his predecessor, Mr Aondoakaa. The corrupt should be allowed to continue their business.
We recall that when EFCC published an advisory list of corrupt politicians in the period leading to the 2011 elections, AGF Adoke issued them a stern warning notice not to embarrass the Federal Government. On 14th February 2011, AGF Adoke appeared before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to defend his right to collect money rather than prosecute those who had massively bribed public officials on the Halliburton scam.
It is clear that Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stipulates that “the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power” has been rendered non-operational, as people in power continue to sap the nation’s economic strength through corrupt acts. It is regrettable that at a time in which serious minded nations are holding business firms accountable for unethical practices and prosecuting them for abuse of public trust, an individual occupying an office which should be at the forefront of prosecuting acts of corruption has made it a practice to make excuses for corrupt people and practices and trivialize serious corruption matters by explaining them away, thereby insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians and making us a laughing stock within the international community. The challenge for Ibrahim Lamorde would include the teeing of his hands by the Minister of Justice. But then, great crusaders succeed because they resist all attempts to divert them from their goals.