Former President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned in 2014 on a promise to fight corruption headlong and bring it to its knees.
He claimed that he had a reputation as a no-nonsense leader with a hard stance against corruption during his military rule in the early 1980s. He also vowed to tackle corruption in Nigeria’s public sector, which was plagued by endemic graft and mismanagement.
However, since he assumed office in 2015, Buhari’s anti-corruption war has been marred by controversy and inconsistency.
While he took some bold steps to arrest and prosecute some high-profile suspects, such as Sambo Dasuki, he has also been accused of being complicit or indifferent to other major scandals that have rocked his administration.
Meffy and the new Naira
Godwin Emefiele has become an infamous name for his policies as the Governor or the Central Bank of Nigeria(2014-2023), and most importantly the naira redesign controversy that forced the nation into a tense period of scarcity.
The Special Investigator on the CBN and Related Entities, Jim Obaze, has accused Emefiele(nicknamed Meffy by netizens) of unlawfully lodging billions of naira in at least 593 bank accounts across the United States, United Kingdom, and China.
These transactions reportedly occurred without the necessary approvals from the CBN board of directors and the CBN Investment Committee. The report also reveals that Emefiele contracted the redesign project to De La Rue of the UK for £205,000 pounds after the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc expressed its inability to deliver within the required timeframe.
The investigation further exposes that ₦61.5 billion was earmarked for the printing of new notes, with ₦31.79 billion already paid. As of August 9, 2023, ₦769 billion of the new notes were in circulation.
The report claimed that Emefiele also manipulated the Ways and Means of the CBN, with alleged connivance by his four deputy governors. It further exposes the creation of a fictional presidential subsidy and an expansion of the Ways and Means portfolio to accommodate financial irregularities. Documents reportedly reveal instances where senior CBN and government officials padded approved amounts, leading to an alleged misappropriation of funds.
In contrast, Buhari’s fight against corruption was supposed to be one of his main campaign promises when he ran for president. He promised to recover looted funds from previous administrations and prosecute those involved in corruption scandals. However, his efforts have been largely ineffective and controversial.
Some critics have accused him of being selective in his prosecution targets and failing to hold accountable those who are close to him or benefit from his policies.
For example, Buhari’s decision to grant study leave to Emefiele before he leaves office on May 29, 2023, has been considered a connivance. This opportunity for Emefiele to flee the country comes amid corruption and terrorism-financing allegations against him.
Some analysts have speculated that this move is part of a plan by Buhari or his allies to protect Emefiele from prosecution or accountability.
A sociopolitical group, Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, has petitioned the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, requesting the prosecution of Buhari and Emefiele over alleged “crime against humanity”.
The group claimed that both men are responsible for orchestrating a massive fraud scheme that involved looting public funds through fake contracts, inflated budgets, ghost projects, money laundering schemes and other illicit means.
Here are some other instances of corruption scandals that occurred or were reported under Buhari’s watch:
Buhari’s Humanitarian Minister linked to N37bn fraud
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had arrested a contractor by the name James Okwete in connection with the ongoing probe of N37 billion allegedly laundered by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, under the leadership of former minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq.
A top EFCC official had said the contractor made useful statements concerning Umar-Farouk and former directors-general of the ministry.
The development coincides with the probe of three other ministers, who served under former President Muhammadu Buhari, for graft estimated at N150bn.
“It is not only Umar-Farouk we are investigating. Three other former ministers are also under probe. They were allegedly involved in graft to the tune of N150bn,’’ a credible source in the EFCC said.
Sources said Umar-Farouk and some former agencies’ directors-general under the ministry might be arrested by the anti-graft commission following the details of the financial misappropriation so far revealed to investigators by the contractor.
Investigation revealed that the N37.1bn was transferred from the Federal Government’s coffers and sent to 38 different bank accounts domiciled in five legacy commercial banks belonging to or connected with Okwete.
Impeccable sources allegedly confirmed that Okwete, who is being held at the EFCC Headquarters, Jabi, Abuja, had been cooperating with investigators.
A source said, “The contractor, Mr Okwete, who was used in laundering the money had been arrested by the commission. He is currently detained in our custody and has been giving investigators more details that have indicted the former Minister, Sadiya and some DGs under the ministry, and they may be brought in anytime soon too.”
Nigeria Air is a proposed national carrier that was launched by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in May 2023, under the administration of Buhari, just before President Bola Tinubu took over power. The project was supposed to revive the aviation industry and create jobs for Nigerians.
However, it has been met with widespread criticism and opposition from various stakeholders, including aviation experts, airline operators, civil society groups, and members of the House of Representatives.
The main reason for the controversy is that Nigeria Air has been seen as a fraudulent and unnecessary venture that will cost taxpayers billions of naira without any clear benefit or justification.
According to some critics, Nigeria Air is a result of Sirika’s personal ambition and greed, as he allegedly used his influence and connections to secure a contract with a foreign company without following due process or transparency.
Findings show that the former minister of Aviation had contacted Ethiopian Airlines few days before the handover, to provide an aircraft that would be presented to Nigerians as an aircraft belonging to Nigeria Air.
Ethiopian Airline had obliged by repainting and rebranding one of its Boeing 737-860 Max aircraft.
Investigations show that the Boeing 737-800 aircraft has registration Number ET-APL, Mode S Q4005C and serial number: 40965/4075.
Further investigations show that the national carrier is about 11 years and and first flight with the aircraft was done on June 22, 2012 as Ethiopian Airlines aircraft.
The aircraft became Malawi Airlines on February 16, 2014 and released to Ethiopian Airlines on August 12, 2015.
Checks show that the aircraft changed colours but ownership remains that of Ethiopian Airlines.
The CEO of Ghana-based Smile Aviation and former CEO of Nigerian-based Associated Airlines, Alex Nwuba, described the national carrier as unbudgeted billions spent on frivolities, showcasing, and unveilings.
“From ribbons to Ethiopian Aircraft all in the name of Nigeria Air; from the demolition of offices of staff of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to actual demolition of a few houses. From airport concessions to two funny concessions.
“The establishment of an unseen leasing company to Aerotroprolis even the drawings are yet to be seen. In the end we’re here pockets emptied and hopes dashed,” Nwuba said.
Two days after the static display, flight live tracker ‘flightrader24.com’ showed the Nigeria Air plane was back to Ethiopia where it was brought in from.
Three days after, the live tracker showed the aircraft was back to regular flight service for Ethiopian Airlines on its Addis Ababa-Mogadishu route, which appears to be the same route it flew before being brought into Nigeria and presented as Nigeria Air plane.
It was therefore, not surprising, that the House of Representatives has faulted the Nigeria Air purported launch of May 26, 2023, stating that Sirika, and other proponents sought to hoodwink the country.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, declared the launch of Nigeria Air a fraud.
The Ministry of Aviation claimed Nigeria Air was only unveiled and not launched, which the committee dismissed as an attempt to divert the lawmakers’ attention.
Members of the committee were shocked when Nigerian Airspace Management Agency disclosed that the aircraft bearing Nigerian colours was on a chartered flight to Nigeria.
Some of the allegations against Sirika and his associates are:
– They inflated the cost of the project from N1.5 trillion to N3 trillion without proper justification or evidence.
– They awarded the contract to a foreign company called Skyway Aviation Services without following due process or transparency.
– They did not consult with relevant stakeholders or agencies before launching the project.
– They did not conduct any feasibility study or market analysis before launching the project.
– They did not have any viable business plan or strategy for running the project.
– They did not have any experience or expertise in managing an airline business.
School Feeding Programme
The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme is a social safety net initiative launched by the Buhari administration in 2016 to provide free meals to school children in Nigeria.
The programme aimed to improve the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as to create jobs and income for farmers and cooks who supply the food.
However, the programme has also been marred by allegations of corruption, poor implementation, politicisation and failure to reach its intended beneficiaries. Some of the issues raised by critics include:
– The programme was not adequately consulted or coordinated with state governments, civil society organisations and other stakeholders before its launch.
– The programme was not transparent or accountable in its budgeting, procurement, distribution and monitoring processes.
– The programme was not responsive or effective in addressing the needs and preferences of different regions, schools and communities.
– The programme was not sustainable or scalable in terms of its impact, quality and coverage.
– The programme was not independent or impartial in its selection, supervision and evaluation of beneficiaries, suppliers and partners.
These allegations casted doubt on the credibility and legitimacy of the NHGSFP as a flagship programme of the Buhari administration’s anti-corruption agenda. They had also undermined the public trust and confidence in the government’s ability to deliver on its promises of fighting corruption and improving governance.
Snake, Monkey Steal Billions of Naira
In February 2018, a snake was accused of swallowing N36 million from the office vault of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, Makurdi, Benue State.
JAMB candidates usually purchase scratch cards to access its website for either registration or checking results. In 2018, new reforms introduced by the JAMB registrar dispatched a team of auditors to different state offices of JAMB to take inventory of the sold and unsold scratch cards and recover whatever money they may have generated or mismanaged during the period of the sale.
A sales representative, Philomina Chieshe, told the JAMB team that she could not account for the N36 million she made in previous years before the elimination of scratch cards. During interrogation, Ms. Chieshe denied the allegations that she stole the money but confessed that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff, Joan Asen, to spiritually steal the money from the vault in the accounting office through a snake.
Speaking with CNN, the sales representative claimed the exam board invented the story about the snake. She also accused the exam board of turning her into authorities, whom she claims still have not questioned her about the missing funds.
That same year, the Northern Senators Forum removed Senator Abdullahi Adamu as chairman of the forum for alleged financial mismanagement and maladministration. Disclosing the main reason for his removal, a spokesperson for the Senate alleged that monkeys carted away N70 million under Adamu’s watch.
That N70 million was money gathered from the 7th Senate and handed over to Northern senators of the 8th Senate. There were claims that some monkeys raided the farmhouse of some of the executives of the Northern senator’s forum and carted away the money.
While snakes and monkeys go after millions, the termites in the government are on a high pedestal. On August 14, 2022, the news went viral that some termites, living ostentatious lifestyles, stormed the storeroom of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund and ate up vouchers totaling N17.128 billion.
The money represents the documents of transfers from the NSITF accounts in its Skye and First Bank accounts, untraceable accounts belonging to individuals and companies from January to December 2013.
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts discovered it when it interrogated the NSITF management. The Managing Director of NSITF told the committee that the vouchers and other financial documents that could help in tracking/tracking down the N17.128 billion were stored in a container that had not only been beaten by rains over the years but eaten up by termites.