When David Cameron, the former British Prime Minister, described Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt”, some thought this in itself was an understatement. The sheer scale of corruption in Nigeria and the number of officials involved in this theft of public funds are staggering. Corrupt public officials do not just steal a few millions in Nigeria, they take the whole safe. The catalogue of allegations of corruption in recent months is bewildering – $153m forfeited by a former petroleum resources minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke; $15m in third party account claimed by the former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan; $9.7m recovered in cash from the house of a former GMD of the NNPC, Mr Andrew Yakubu; plus billions of naira allegedly found in bank accounts and residences of public officials.
It is nearly two years since the Buhari administration came into office on an anti-corruption platform. Although there have been some success in recovering stolen money, thus far, not one notable public figure is in prison for corruption. Critics have accused the government of being very selective in the fight against corruption. They cite the way President Muhammadu Buhari handled the allegations of corruption against one of his closest confidants, the Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr Babachir Lawal. The SFG is pivotal to driving the government’s change agenda, at the heart of which is the fight against corruption. To have him mentioned in connection with corruption allegations was unfortunate. Lawal should have been forced to resign. This would have sent a very powerful message to Nigerians about the President’s reso lve to fight corruption, even inside his cabinet.
The Department of State Services’ report on the Acting Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, is equally worrying. No matter the motive of senators, Nigerians ought to be concerned about the associations and integrity of people appointed to critical positions of government. We are where we are today because of poor leadership and our willingness as a people to always settle for mediocrity. The question for Nigerians and indeed the President is whether Magu has passed the integrity test? More importantly, the whole of this saga gives the impression of a president that is in office but not in power.