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By Ismaila Chafe
The Presidency has debunked former president Goodluck Jonathan’s claim that there is more corruption in the country compared to when he left office.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, dismissed the claim in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.
According to him, Jonathan’s stance is absolutely untrue and that the facts on the ground today run contrary to his claim.
He stated that President Muhammadu Buhari, in pursuit of the war against corruption, had set a number of local and international records, one of which was to call judicial officers in Nigeria to account.
“Not only that, this is the first time that top military commanders and Service Chiefs are brought to trial and convictions were achieved on account of corruption.
“Also, this is the first time a ruling party is convicting high profile citizens including former governors, who are members of same party.
“This is the first time the international community is acknowledging the efforts of a government of Nigeria in this regard as manifested by the selection of President Buhari by the African Union as the Anti-Corruption Champion of the continent.
“For the records, this is the first time a ruling party is investigating ranking officers of the administration, including some at the very top.
“In addition to the many firsts recorded by President Buhari’s administration, the government has introduced a lot of changes, considering that the laws relating to the fight against corruption cannot reasonably be static,’’ he said.
The presidential aide maintained that, in line with its aspiration to be ahead of the growing sophistication of corruption and financial crimes, the Buhari administration had initiated new legislations and proposed amendments to different sections of the law.
He said such new legislations included; The Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Anti-Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill 2017 (NFIU); Proceeds of Crime Bill 2017; Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill, 2017 and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2017.
Owing to these efforts and support of all relevant stakeholders, Shehu said the NFIU Act had been passed and Buhari gave his assent on July 18.
According to him, the administration is currently working with the legislature for an expedited passage of the Proceeds of Crimes Bill to make the anti-corruption war more effective.
He also enjoined Nigerians to dismiss Jonathan’s boast that he, not Buhari, introduced schemes such as the Biometric Verification Number, BVN, Treasury Single Account, TSA and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
“Of what use is the announcement of good policies without the will to implement them?
“Since President Buhari assumed office, Nigerians are witnesses to the huge success recorded through the implementation of the TSA where some government agencies that had over the years remitted peanut or nothing at all are now periodically pumping billions into government coffers.
“Prominent among these remittances include the ones made by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customers Service (NCS) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“While it is also true that the BVN was introduced in 2014 to ensure that all bank accounts have biometric identification of their owners, the lack of will and capacity under Dr Jonathan stalled implementation.
“Today, BVN covers nearly all bank accounts. There are still some individuals who have shielded their identity and are now afraid of enrolling on the BVN platform as this will expose them and their corrupt actions. The law is going after them,’’ he said.
He stated that the whistle-blower policy introduced by the Buhari administration had continued to serve as a veritable tool against corruption.
Shehu disclosed that within six months of introducing the policy, over 5,000 reports were made through various channels, 365 actionable tips were received out of the 5,000 reports.
He revealed that so far more than N200billionn had been recovered through the policy.
“As the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said on Thursday, the former President does not have the facts to claim that there was any serious effort on the part of his administration to fight corruption.
“As at May 29, 2015, when this administration came into office, the EFCC recovery account had only N19.5 billion as revealed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General.
“After one year of the new anti-corruption drive by the Buhari administration, this figure had gone up to N279 billion, and since then a lot more has been recovered.
“Finally, as evidenced from a fleeting look at the book, the former President had nothing to say about his own achievements. If there was a recession, and yes we had a moment in it, was it due to one year of President Buhari’s government?
“In his efforts to blame everyone but himself for his failures, Dr Jonathan heaped the blame for the predictable economic recession on President Buhari, ignoring the seeds sown under him through mismanagement and the process set in firm roots for the decline of the economy. Evidently, he did nothing to avert the situation.’’
The presidential aide reiterated that the recession in 2016 was caused by years of mismanagement and corruption.
He stated that, “in the 16 years of PDP and earlier than that, the country solely relied on oil, the price of which was as high as 140 dollars per barrel under their watch.
“Government simply reticulated oil revenue through personal spending by corrupt leaders, wasteful expenses and salaries; rather than investing in what would grow the economy.’’
He said that there was no investment in infrastructure as Buhari is now doing in seaports, airports, power plants, railways, roads and housing.
The presidential spokesman argued that the oil windfall for the country was mismanaged, and Nigeria’s greatest opportunity for growth was turned into a tragedy, adding that there were no savings.
He said: “And to compound the problem and compromise growth of the economy, the previous government borrowed heavily, owed contractors and international oil companies.
“When President Buhari came into power in 2015, the country had accumulated debt, which took it back to the level it was before the Paris Club Debt forgiveness. Nigeria did not have fiscal buffers to withstand an oil shock when oil prices fell to as low as 28 dollars.
“The oil shock should and could have been foreseen. When visionary Nigerians and economists foresaw this and warned of the dangers ahead, Dr Jonathan hounded such men as the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11 and Professor Chukwuma Soludo. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance under Dr Jonathan’s administration also warned and she was rebuffed.
“The former President and his party have nothing to say about achievements. They ruled the country for 16 years and what is their record on jobs, power, rail, seaports, airports and internal security, including the crippling disaster of terrorism?’’