Nigeria’s Recovered Fund: If I Were Buhari, By Bello Sagir Imam
The world perceives Nigeria as synonymous with corruption, that’s why the ‘2016 Best Countries Ranking’ placed the country in the No. 1 position among the world 10 most corrupt nations. The inclusion of other countries, particularly Russia, the second most powerful nation in the world as No. 6 justifies that corruption is a global phenomenon not just peculiar to Nigeria. Corruption is what brings Nigeria to its knees and thus blackpaints it in the eyes of the world.
Top on the presidential campaign agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari for 2015 election was war against the endemic graft, and immediately he assumed power after being democratically elected, he set up a 7 member advisory committee to help him crack down corruption. The membership of the committee was drawn from the academia, with Professors in Criminology and Law who are well known for uncompromising on fighting against corruption. Having set up the committee, the Aso Villa announced the creation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) which ordered all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to pay all government revenues, incomes and receipts into the TSA with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This, according to the federal government, is aimed at promoting transparency and compliance to section 80 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution.
Buhari’s fight against corruption is recording huge success as his administration has succeeded in making a lot of recoveries of siphoned public funds. Details published by the Federal Ministry of Information, disclosed that the Nigerian government successfully retrieved total cash amounting to: N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 2016.
Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and€303,399.17. Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totalled: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.
The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period. The non-cash recoveries are – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels, the ministry said. This gigantic retrieval is from Rtd. Col. Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and others. Also the retrieval came from those who voluntarily returned their loot to the federal government. These figures were made public by the presidency on 6th June 2016 when Nigerians had a high expectation that the president would publicize the figures along with the names of the suspected corrupt public officers involved as he promised twice but he failed to do so. He first promised to publicize it on 29th May but on the D-Day postponed it to the 6th June and still failed, something that generated mixed reaction: some expressed their disappointment while others expressed approval. I believe the President’s failure to keep his words might be in compliance with a legal counsel probably informed by what Mal. Nuhu Ribadu, the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says: ‘When you fight corruption, it fights back’, meaning, attaching names to the figures might plunge the presidency into a serious legal suit with the affected people, because 1999 Nigerian Constitution, 2011 Nigerian Evidence Act and 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights all guarantees presumption of innocence of an accused person until the prosecution proves his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That is in section 36(5) of the constitution, section 135. (1) of the Evidence Act and Article 7(1)(b) Charter.
Shortly after assuming duty, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Prof. Itse Sagay, said that an account has been set up for the recovered fund. This is a glad tiding. Since then, we didn’t hear from the federal government or the committee on what they are going to do with the fund. We have good expectation on the administration that they will not miss the recovered money.
If I were President Buhari, I will invest the money in what will directly have positive impact on the life of the common man, which can be an independent dividend from the dividends the administration will bequeath to us. In other words, the money should not be submerged in the TSA, doing so will make the ordinary man on the street not to point or touch concrete projects as a an investment of his recovered wealth but rather only assume that the money was just invested in an abstract project that will only benefit the elite. Essentially, let the government create something like Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) whose projects are still enjoyed by the common man and can be physically touched by him. Projects such as: construction and equipment of hospitals, schools, factories, roads, boreholes etc, across the geo-political zones in the country. This could be done after the government secured conviction over the cases now on trial about the money, because the money now is just an exhibit. The fund may be named ‘Recovered Money Fund’ (RMF) or any other suitable name. A lawyer/judge or a police/army retired or serving can chair the fund, but he must be of proven integrity.
Bello Sagir Imam is a member, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Kano State Branch.