Despite Democracy Here, Rotten Deals Threaten

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

If public funds especially revenue from crude oil was prudently managed over the years by successive administration, this nation would not have experienced what it is going through now, where despite all the earnings, poverty and underdevelopment still riddled this nation. We are fond of doing things wrongly, both in public and in private life. Code-names, such as “cutting corners” and “man-know-man” are much with us. Just as if this nation has become a land of sacred cows. As with corrupt enrichment and a failure of the justice system, the politicians refused to remorse. We write to avert such allergic state of affairs, yet it becomes unabated to depict that nothing works here. Master-plans that succeeded on paper and in other lands fail here because we are afflicted by a particularly virulent strain of the virus called corruption.

The government is trying hard to establish a liberated and developed democratic state through the elimination of corruption and injustice. The citizens are aware of this and try to see that this aim come to pass despite the hardships that brings such injustices in the first place. Still ruins of these left-handed actions are committed, not only in action, but also in talk. The situation has become overdue, worst and formed crisis owing to nonchalant attitude of those in power.

The crisis comes from the deficiency in development of Nigeria as a nation. It is as a result of poor governance characterized by corruption, social injustice and political instability. No commitment to good governance, political reform and social justice. The nation presents fake census, elections and probe results to the world. Those in power pretend they fight corruption, whereas they themselves are the devices upon which evil is manifested, huge loots are accomplished and our common wealth is embezzled. In the advent of the present democracy, our hope is that the results of the experiment would form the basis upon which Africans and its continent would borrow a leave from, but of the government actions to champion corruption in Nigeria flopped to promote good governance. The fatality can also weaken the courage to uphold the rule of law.

Those who were encouraged to rig elections, April last year, have not received penal judgment to refrain from such crime. Nigerians lined up in the sun for hours to cast their ballots, with many having to put up with the late arrival of election officials, inadequate voting materials, and in some cases, intimidation by youths supporting one party or another. According to international and domestic observers alike, the process was deeply flawed. The elections themselves were disastrous, with even more rigging and violence than during the previous presidential election, in 2003, when stolen ballot boxes and bogus vote counts marred the polling. None of this was supposed to happen. Nigeria‘s April 2007 elections were billed as a landmark: the first time since the country’s independence, in 1960, that political leadership would change hands from one civilian to another. Africa‘s most populous country would thus join the small list of entrenched African democracies and boosts its clout as a regional player. Instead, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo produced a theatric rehearsal cooked by the PDP “crime-vorous” stalwart to replay in the open air for us to opine, accommodate and swallow some dirty pills of it, leaving behind an unsettled polity with still-weak political institutions and a successor struggling for legitimacy

Then how can we be honest to fight corruption? Studying the issues can lead to a non-political debate and concrete reforms to combat corruption, requiring collective efforts. If we should take ourselves seriously, Maurice Iwu would never have had the chance to rob and rape Nigerians the way he did in April 2007, three months before the elections. All these check can be used to put in place weighable measures to checkmate the success of socio-political reforms already underway, and, if necessary, to redirect them to concentrate efforts on important areas that brings about poor service delivery, ineffective complaints channel, poor corruption reporting implementation, lack of faith in the integrity of public office holders and the political and policy-making processes, non inclusiveness in leadership effect on the citizens and outright corruption have been clearly identified in the study results. We need to change our mindset as well as their ways of doing things, especially in this modern era. There is general agreement that good governance, in its political, social, and economic dimensions, establishes sustainable human development and reduces poverty. The study results show that we are generally alarmed over the standard of living we undergo even if we believe that things have began to improve from the day civilians were voted to rule.

Despite all these fault-finding and blames, are we expected to maintain faith in this government? How long would an insensitive government’s inaction allow the people of this nation to suffer? How long are we to believe the government’s statements that it is not beholden to radicals–when it maintains admittedly false charges brought by the now-discredited PDP government? A mountain of evidence has surfaced confirming that the charges were false, that the government knew them to be false, and that the government maintained them only to appease “radical” Niger-Deltans. And again, this government appears not to be free of radical influence from retired politicians, which is not far from those who have tasted power before now. There are no more impediments to taking this long overdue action; yet, our government puzzles. We have a saying: “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.” There is one question we can answer for the government. How long would the minorities fight for themselves? As long as it takes! And our patience is wearing thin.

Why must the fund, made up of N11 billion loan from the Natural Resources Account and N6.5 billion loan from Zenith Bank as well as N2 billion paid out as severance benefit to retrenched FAAN workers, become a source of controversy in the aviation industry. The FAAN and NAMA find themselves in a face-off over the repayment of the N6.5 billion loan and the interest on the facility raised by Zenith Bank Plc.

Here comes the probe! The Probe at a time when a similar activity by the House of Representatives Committee on Power has thrown up startling revelations on the roles played by former President Obasanjo and former Minister of Power, Chief Liyel Imoke in the award of contracts worth billions of Naira, many of which were never executed. As a result some $16 billion expended by the former regime in a bid to generate and transmit power is believed to have gone down the drain.

The probe into how the aviation intervention fund has been utilized was triggered off by fears that both FAAN and NAMA are cash-strapped, and cannot continue with the upgrading of Nigerian airports. On its own part, FAAN has had to take loans from banks to pay staff salaries and meet its obligations to local contractors, while NAMA is behind schedule in the repayment of the N6.5 billion loan sourced from Zenith Bank Plc on its behalf.

The former Managing Director of FAAN, Alhaji Muhammed Yusuf left a balance of N4.8 billion in the aviation intervention fund account. Of the total amount in contention, N6.5 billion raised during the regime of Professor Babalola Borishade was used in the procurement of safe tower equipment for Lagos and Abuja airports; N2 billion for the payment of severance benefits to about 2,000 staff of FAAN who were laid off under Obasanjo’s ‘right-sizing regime’, while the remaining N11 billion was used to procure equipment for the upgrading of other airports.

However, shortly before he left office, Obasanjo withdrew the N11 billion loan from the Natural Resources Fund from the budgetary allocation to FAAN for 2007, on the pretext that he did not want any loan to any parastatal to overlap to the next regime. This singular decision has aborted the plans to upgrade several Nigerian airports, including those at Maiduguri, Kaduna, Katsina and Kano. Flaw!

Certainly, the Federal and State Governments are the major providers of basic health facilities and services in Nigeria. They often reportedly provide substantial sums of money for various aspects of the health sector in the country. Those areas most affected are manpower development; purchase and distribution of drugs and vehicles: construction of new specialist hospitals; national campaigns against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; mass inoculation of adults and youths against dreadful diseases like cholera and tuberculosis; mass immunization of children against the killer diseases; mass education on modern personal hygiene, environmental sanitation and appropriate solid waste disposal and management methods; and, family planning.

The deplorable condition of the health sector in the country, in spite of government spending on the sector, raises serious concerns about the management of the health sector; the adequacy of funding for the sector; its focus and use; and, about the management generally.

At this point, it is appropriate to acknowledge the efforts and support of international organisations, like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, and the Carter Foundation, whose contributions towards the control and eradication of deadly communicable and infectious diseases like guinea worm, tuberculosis, cholera, river blindness, and schistosomiasis in Nigeria have been very significant. Today, curbing these evil has become a nightmare. Some 14 top officials of the ministry have also been placed on suspension over the alleged sharing of the unspent budget of the ministry, running into millions of naira, by the Ministers, top officials of the ministries and the Senate committee in charge of health. The issue is the biggest test yet of the Yar’Adua administration’s commitment to the fight against corruption.

There is a need for punitive measures against all those who were involved in sharing the unspent budget, including the Chairperson of the Committee on Health in the Senate, Iyabo Obasanjo – daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. This development at the Health Ministry has raised a fundamental question: How widespread is this money-sharing exercise among federal ministries and parastatals? They did not denied all, they accepted receiving N20 million to travel to Ghana for “Capacity Building” whereas the health capacity of our citizenry is fast deteriorating homeward. Shame! To those who rigged you into that seat.

For the critical Health Ministry, it is sad, to say the least, that heartless public servants and Senators from the supervisory Committee on Health could be sharing money when millions are dying from lack of access to life saving drugs, lack of necessary equipment at public hospitals and incessant strikes by under-paid health workers.

President Umaru Yar’adua, though on the right track with his anti-corruption stance, can never condone these unfaithful serving Nigerians among us. I am relieved over the sack of the Health Minister on that note. Based on the criteria drawn, other ministers currently facing probe of their actions by the anti-graft agencies may be asked to go to save government from further embarrassment. Under this category, the fall of the Minister of Health, Adenike Grange, who is at present involved in an alleged contract award scam, is a good omen on National crime sanitization.

Misappropriation and misuse of public funds by previous administrations are responsible for Nigeria‘s present economic predicament. But to make it last, and to underscore this regime’s understanding of how far corruption has undervalued us, let Mr. President usher us into our new season with a renewed attack on this stigma called corruption, and let him unshackle all of us from this ancestral spirit that has kept us, our fathers and our children bound in servitude for so many years.

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