Perhaps miffed by frequent criticisms that he has not been doing enough in the fight against corruption in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan was on Sunday forced to reply his critics, asserting that nothing so far has shown that he was not committed to the crusade against the cankerworm destroying the nation.
In his response to what his critics called his “lukewarm attitude” to the fight against corruption, the president, through his spokesman, Reuben Abati, condemned the reports, comments and agitations which he said were aimed at creating the totally false impression that he was not doing enough to curb corruption in Nigeria.
“Certainly, nothing has been done or left undone under the President’s watch to justify the labeling of his administration as soft on corruption,” Abati stated.
For us, the president’s response is a welcome development. It shows that the criticisms are getting at him and he has to do something urgent to meet the expectations of Nigerians in this regard.
The people are worried that corruption had attained such a gargantuan height since he came into power and it is easily noticeable in all spheres of government activities. Corruption is now so pervasive in the land that many believe his administration has lost the battle.
The vitriolic criticisms which the president sought to deflect by his response on Sunday are genuine. His body language and inaction have gone a long way to convince the people that he seems indifferent to the issue. To many Nigerians, President Jonathan has not demonstrated the necessary political will to tackle the monster. They are unhappy with his slow response to the war against corruption which has become noticeable, even to the international community. His attitude to asset declaration makes matters worse for him.
It is not enough for the president to tell us that his fight against corruption is on course. The people are in the best position to judge that. What Nigerians are clamouring for is concrete evidence of the fight against the malaise. They want action taken against all those that have been indicted of graft by the various probe panels instituted by the National Assembly and his administration.
Nigerians want the president to act quickly on the report of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy which exposed many individuals, companies and government officials who collected subsidies on petroleum products meant to benefit the masses but which did not reach them. Though the president has forwarded the report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for investigation, many are suspicious of government’s sincerity in this regard.
Nigerians are also unhappy with the president over the way he handled the Haliburton bribe scandal in which top Nigerians were accused of collecting bribes from the American oil service company in order to get a contract in the country. While the Halliburton officials who facilitated the bribery have been jailed in US under the Foreign Corruption Act, their Nigerian accomplices are walking freely, unmolested.
Another issue is the police pension scam in which more than N273 billion was stolen by those charged with managing it. The administration has not deemed it fit to do something about the sleaze in that department and people are worried. Nigerians also want to know what happened to the report of the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhede panel set up by his administration to verify fuel subsidy payment. We are aware that the report has been submitted to the president but nothing has been done so far.
The president’s poor handling of these corruption-related issues has led many to conclude that he is incapable of fighting corruption. He has to move fast to tackle these issues and others to convince the people that he is actually serious with the fight against corruption.