By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Bemoaning the unprecedented GRANDSCALE of CORRUPTION and PERVASSIVE unethical procurement practices in most federal ministries and agencies of government, the nation’s prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) wonders why the Eonomic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences commission (ICPC) have been operationally incapacitated and polluted to fight the menace.
HURIWA calls the weakening of EFCC and ICPC by the All Progressives Congress dominated National government is an act of treachery and sabotage of a phenomenal height which must be dismantled so these institutions are allowed unfettered power to crush corrupt federal government officials destroying Nigeria now.
The Rights group which stated that the last five years has seen a monumental proportions of corrupt practices and open theft of public fund by top placed officials of the Federal Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, however stressed that this trend may become worrisome and persistent in the year 2021 because the hierarchies of the anti-corruption agencies are not cut out nor are they professionally committed to stamp out corruption amongst top flight civil and public servants.
HURIWA said the deliberate incapacitation of these anti corruption institutions happened because there are pervassive allegations that both agencies are compromised with illegal employment slots by Permanent Secretaries and Directors General of government agencies that their heads are in conflict with the anti-graft laws.
Similarly, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said for over two decades of the coming of constitutional democracy, the respective committees and investigative panels constituted by the different sessions of the National Assembly made even criminally worst and complicated by the current Ninth Session of the National Assembly and so these panels that ought to didispassionately and independently embark on the investigations of proven but disturbing accusations of widespread and elaborate corruption schemes by heavyweights in the Federal governments are also involved in a network of bribe seeking and settlements just as their findings which now sounds like broken records are never taken far nor have they ever been implemented no matter how far reaching and profound by the corrupt executive arm of government.
“HURIWA will suggest that the National Assembly must redeem her fading moral and ethical image which has become decadent from accumulated years of bribes seeking and bribes taking to undermine the outcomes of the respective investigations. The executive arm of government is also in the habit of never accepting to enforce the recommendations of these panels because both the executive arm of government, the Legislative arm of government and corrupt contractors are in a trinity of thieves and so the entire proceedings usually are tailored never to meet any threshold of transparency and accountability.
The Rights group said these cocktails of cobwebs of corruption within the prosecutorial agencies therefore enables the heavily compromised EFCC and ICPC that are usually unwilling to arrest persons in government indicted by the investigative panels of the National Assembly over cases of diversions of public fund.
” Federal ministries of Power, Works and Housing, Petroleum are particularly notorious epicentre of corruption and graft, but the Presidency, the anti corruption agencies are bought over in such a way that those thieves of public funds are left off the hooks. The National Assembly needs to look inwards and rid off the tendencies for bribes seeking and bribes taking amongst their members of the Legislative arm of government “.
Besides, the Rights group advocated the inclusion by the National Assembly through a legislation rapidly passed into law that will bring into being an effective template for prosecution of indicted public office holders by the relevant prosecutorial office holders such as the Federal Attorney General and minister of justice, the EFCC, the ICPC and the Nigerian Police Force.
“The passage of a law to mandate the EFCC/ICPC/AGF and the Nigerian Police Force to prosecute in the competent courts of law indicted office holders who diverts public funds, will ensure that the investigative panels of the National Assembly do not continue in a barber’s chair syndrome format of motion without movement and barking without biting”.
HURIWA maintains that it is insufficient and infact dubious, deceptive and fraudulent for Members of the Senate Public Account Committee to simply express their dissatisfaction towards some officials of the Ministry of Defence who paid N968.8m to contractors without approval without transparently mentioning the names of such individuals and following up with the relevant prosecutorial agencies to ensure that every penny stolen by them are fully recovered and paid back to public coffers.
HURIWA recalled that the report of the Auditor-General for the Federation specifically indicted the ministry officials of paying the huge sums to the contractors just as it was disclosed that the huge amount was meant for the production and supply of medals and ribbons for the Armed Forces Independence Anniversary but allegedly without approval from Federal Executive Council and the Ministerial Tender Board.
Citing the statement from the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, HURIWA stated that office of the auditor general of the Federation (AuGF) reportedly indicted defence ministry officials of facilitating the payment for the contracts despite the objection raised by the Deputy Director (Budget) in a memo dated April 24, 2013.The SPAC Chairman, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, sustained the auditor-general’s query because the defence ministry officials failed to honour the panel’s invitation to explain their own side of the allegation.
HURIWA recalled that the query read in part, “The permanent secretary of the ministry is expected to recover N968m from the contractors’ and forward the payment for audit verification.A memo, dated 24th April, 2013, raised by DD (Budget), had expressed misgivings about the way and manner the contract was awarded, further raising the doubt on the lack of transparency.A contract for the production and supply of medals and ribbons for Independence Anniversary for the Armed Forces of Nigeria was awarded at a total contract sum of N968,830,000.00.The entire contract sum had been paid in January. The sum of N484,415,000.00 was paid in 2010 representing 50 per cent of the contract sum and the balance of N484,415,000.00 was paid on 26/01/2015 vide payment voucher No. 4001.Further examination of the payment voucher attachments revealed the following irregularities:There was no evidence of any Ministerial Tenders Board Meeting that considered this award, contrary to Financial Regulation 2921(i).The approval of the permanent secretary for the payment of the balance of N484,415,000.00 is above his approval threshold.“There was no evidence of Federal Executive Council approval, together with the Bureau of Public Procurement ‘No Objection Certificate. A memo, dated 24th April, 2013, raised by DD (Budget), had expressed misgivings about the way and manner the contract was awarded, further raising the doubt on the lack of transparency.”
HURIWA expressed consternation that reports being churned out intermittently by the National Assembly since 1999 has never been implemented and most of the thieves are left off the hooks to retire into stupendous wealth after they are forced by both the National Assembly and the compromised anti graft agencies to part with some percentages of the funds stolen by them. The Rights group said the nation must find a best way out in line with Global best practices in such a way that investigations from the National Assembly are made to stop sounding like broken records but should become actionable strategies with timelines for decisively dealing with thieves in government leading to the full recovery of all the looted funds.