Anti-corruption from any technical or non-technical perspective is invariably about preventing, detecting and prosecuting corruption. The proceeds of corruption is another. The Buhari Administration has an innovative and creative approach to anti-corruption which has nothing to do with prevention, detection and prosecution whatsoever; it has all to do with refunding or recovery of monies stolen from thieving politicians by way of bargaining. The monies earmarked for refund and recovery so far is incredibly far less than 1% of the total monies that are recoverable. So, in the scheme of things what signal does “recovery as anti-corruption” send to politicians and public servants?
Let us look at this scenario. A man is made the minister of energy by the president of the day and he cumulatively steals $20 million during four years in office which he safely stashes in overseas accounts and assets. Under an anticorruption campaign by another president, he is found to have stolen around $20 million and asked to refund the money. He negotiates a deal that he only has $15 million left and promptly refunds $14 million leaving him with $6 million all to himself without being subjected to any prosecution or punishment. With $6 million in cash and assets the ex-minister of energy has done very well for himself in four years considering his salary, allowances, importance, stature and influence while in office. Now imagine if most top government officials adopted this strategy of “steal-refund-profit”, billions of dollars will still be stolen every year! That appears to be the signal the Buhari anti-corruption campaign is sending to politicians and public servants. And they seem to love it! It works very well with their current and future ambitions.
The Buhari administration claims to have prevented corruption from happening ever since the man came to power. But there is no evidence of such so far, not even an iota. In my lifetime the “budget fiasco” is the biggest political gaffe I have ever witnesses be it in Nigeria or the entire planet; without going into the details it is a monument to Nigeria’s own brand of corruption. The Buhari administration is acting like it has detected corruption through procedural diligence. The truth is simply that all charges of corruption deliberately flooded into the public domain have come from “confessions” and not procedural diligence of any kind. The prosecutions of corruption now in the public eye may never happen, in fact, they are unlikely. The doctrine in ascendance for this administration is “bring back the money and you go scot-free”. Now, that is an amazing and novel approach to anti-corruption never seen anywhere else in the world.
Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that the Buhari administration has resorted to or been forced to treat corruption as a “victimless” crime. When one thinks about the death tolls, casualties and miseries created in Nigeria because monies earmarked for road / works maintenance, health care, national security, employment, the police, the military, safety equipment / features, payment of salaries, genuine materials, reliable equipment, electricity, water etc. corruption is never ever a victimless crime. Where the logic or sensibility of “recovery of funds only” as anti-corruption comes from is difficult to imagine. The message to the Nigerian public is a very insulting one.
Imagine the case Col Sambo Dasuki and the numerous soldiers and civilians (including women and children) that died / were maimed or the substantial properties destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency simply because money intended for quelling the insurgency was grandiosely shared among the “Owners of Nigeria” for their dainty leisure. It gets worse when you take the vast numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from the Boko Haram insurgency into account and the fact that Dasuki himself rose to the rank of Colonel in the Nigerian Army.
The insult of “recovery of funds only” is a very contemptuous one exacted on the Nigerian people and one that the Nigerian citizens should not tolerate. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission boss, Ibrahim Magu, should be very aware of this. Corruption has countless direct and indirect victims and as such those who engage in it should have the considerations of the costs of their theft to their victims factored strongly into their prosecutions and sentences. If men and women can be ruthless in high office the law should be ruthless with them.
Warri guys say “if you sabi rake well, you no need to fight”. The way the Buhari administration seems to be going especially when it comes down to anticorruption matters it seems it is very good at raking but very poor at fighting.