Nigeria: Jonathan’s Govt Lacks Will To Fight Corruption

By IndepthAfrica
In Nigeria
Nov 10th, 2012
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The Punch
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The House of Representatives has excoriated the Federal Government for its subtle moves to bury the Mallam Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Special Task Force report.

Consequently, it said President Goodluck Jonathan’s government lacked the political will to fight corruption, especially in the oil and gas industry.

Its position came in the wake of criticisms of the report by the Presidency. The Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe, had on Thursday, disparaged it as “containing loopholes.”

The House, however, said it was not surprised by the way the Executive handled Ribadu’s report because probes conducted into the oil sector since 1999 had turned in damning reports, which the Presidency could not act on.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, told SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja that there was “a deliberate attempt not to implement the Ribadu report.”

Mohammed noted that the investigation was “calculated to fail from the beginning,” considering the controversies and intrigues, which surrounded the work of the Ribadu committee.

He added, “So, what we have seen is the lack of political will to prosecute.

“The House, for instance, conducted several probes in the past and made recommendations, but how have we fared?

“We did the Farouk Lawan probe, it was politicised; now there is Ribadu probe and the same drama is playing out.

“What this tells us is that there is no political will to prosecute those who have been indicted.”

The lawmaker stated that though the National Assembly had enormous constitutional powers to ask questions on the management of public resources and recommend penalties where necessary, it was not the duty of the legislature to enforce the penalties.

“We have our limits under the constitution.

“The constitution does not give us the power to prosecute; that is the job of the Executive.

“We have asked all the questions and made relevant recommendations, but there is failure of prosecution, which is not our role as legislators,” he added.

Mohammed gave the assurance that the House would continue to perform its constitutional responsibility of exposing corruption.

But The Presidency on Friday, said it was unfortunate that there had been “ignorant carping and unintelligent tittle-tattle” about Ribadu’s report.

Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, made the position of the Presidency known in an interview with one of our correspondents.

According to Abati, those talking about “political will” are beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s commitment to the rule of law and fair play.

Taking on Zakari, he said, “Zakari Mohammed of the House of Representatives talks absent-mindedly about “lack of political will” to fight corruption.

“He should know, if he has been reading the newspapers, that on the basis of both the report of the House of Representatives and the Aig-Imokhuede committee reports, persons are currently being prosecuted in the law courts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”

The presidential spokesman added that the committees in question and the probes into the petroleum sector were initiated by Jonathan to ensure transparency in the extractive industry.

He added, “The Federal Government has not done anything to stop or discourage the prosecution of indicted persons. We have made the point, again and again, that in this ongoing fight against corruption, there will be no “cover-ups”; and no “sacred cows,” and that President Jonathan’s only interest is the people’s interest.

“The President is already taking steps to address some of the issues raised in the reports. I had in the last 48 hours drawn attention to the fact that the President gave clear directives on the state of the refineries and that at least one meeting has been held since the presentation of the Report on Refineries, to act specifically on the recommendations made. President Jonathan has directed that he wants the refineries fixed and steps are already being taken; deadlines have been set.”

Meanwhile, the Senate has said it will commence the strengthening and passage of relevant legislation to ensure transparency in the oil sector.

This is coming amid the furore generated by the Ribadu report and lack of transparency in the sector highlighted in the reports of different probes.

Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), said on Friday that the Senate through its committees had been carrying out oversights by way of investigations; some revelations had been made.

He said, “We have continued to expose corruption and the weaknesses in the sector. We will need to strengthen certain legislation that will make the industry transparent and accountable to the public.

“But at the end of the day, it will be the duty of the public to hold public officers accountable using the Freedom of Information Act.”

When asked what specific laws would be strengthened or enacted, Ndoma-Egba mentioned the expeditious consideration of the Petroleum Industry Bill, which he said was aimed at cleaning up the petroleum sector.

He noted that the Senate would also be looking at the Money Laundering Act for ways of dealing with corruption in the oil sector.

According to him, the Senate would also strengthen the Anti-Terrorism Law which has some finance components that could be applied to unwholesome activities in the sector.

He said, “There is an improvement in our oversight of the agencies in the oil sector, because now we are discussing issues in the sector.

“Before now, it was seen as a no-go-area. But we discussing them in details. That shows a relative improvement in the legislative oversight of the sector,” he said.

Also speaking on the issue, Senate Spokesman, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, denied that there was any failure in oversight, arguing that the relevant committees had been given the responsibility to oversee the agencies in the sector well.

He said, “We are yet to get a copy of the Ribadu report to know exactly the recommendations and its contents. Such will guide further response from the Senate.”

Meanwhile, the Concerned Advocates for Good Governance has attributed the criticism of the Ribadu’s probe report by the Presidency to the President’s interest in the 2015 presidential election.

National Coordinator of the CAGG, Mr. Olusegun Bamgbose, described the Presidency’s position on the report as a political gimmick and deliberate attempt to rubbish the person of Ribadu.

Bamgbose, who spoke in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, explained that the former EFCC czar was well known to Nigerians as a man whose image could not be destroyed overnight.

Bamgbose said, “What we have seen is an attempt to smear the image of Ribadu. It is a deliberate attempt to remove all opposition from the way. It is obvious that this is all about 2015 presidency.

“He (Ribadu) is a man of integrity, who believes in transparency and honesty. You cannot destroy his image overnight.

“Ribadu made a grave mistake by accepting to be part of the Petroleum Special Task Force. The Ribadu we know is a trusted and reliable person. How do you expect him to mess up when he knows that Nigerians are watching?”

On the criticism from Okupe, the CAGG national coordinator said Jonathan’s aide painted a wrong picture of Ribadu in order to gain a political point.

Bamgbose urged Ribadu to clear his name immediately and resign from the task force because the current administration might not share in his beliefs and goals for the country.

He said Nigerians would soon realise that government’s disapproval of the report was politically motivated.

In the wake of Janaury 2012 uprising against the removal of fuel subsidy, the Senate had conducted investigation into the oil and gas sector, which revealed that NNPC could not explain the schedule and utilisation of the 450,000 crude barrels per day.

Also, the agency failed to explain the 75,000 barrels per day allocated for swarp with a foreign refinery company, just as underpayments of royalties by oil companies and sundry financial abuses were dictated in a similar report from a probe, which the House of Representatives carried out in 2008.

The Senate has yet to consider the report. Just as the NNPC faulted the Ribadu report, so it did to all Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative reports, which chronicled abuses in the oil sector.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, Minister of Finance, Federal Inland Revenue Service and Accountant-General of the Federation, the Minister of Petroleum, among others, constitute the board of NEITI.

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