What has been made of the London-Paris Club and other international loan refunds to the 36 states by the Federal Government reenacts the height of insensitivity and avarice of some Nigerian leaders in the management of lean state resources and their nonchalant disposition towards the welfare of the citizenry.
While details of the exact amount collected by governors have remained in the realm of speculation, feelers from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, indicate that governors have been paid in excess of N522.7 billion for their states.
The allegation by the EFCC that most governors diverted a large chunk of the loan refunds is most disturbing. This is least expected as the country needs prudent management of resources at this austere time to weather the challenges posed by the current economic recession.
It is pathetic that these governors are busy enriching themselves while the electorates who should be the direct beneficiaries of the loan refunds are subverted, leaving workers to keep wallowing in misery caused by the non-payment of salary.
An indication that the disbursed funds would go down the drain started in 2005 when movement of funds from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, accounts to various consultants had aroused the suspicion of the EFCC. The subsequent intervention that saw the anti-graft agency freeze NGF’s accounts could however not establish a crime against the governors at that time.
But, further investigations have proven that governors contributed over $86million of the refunds into the account of the NGF. Among others, some aides of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, have been implicated by the EFCC in the alleged diversion.
Meanwhile, the governors have not only denied their complicity in the alleged transactions, but have dared the anti-graft agency to probe them. The NGF insisted in a statement that “Nothing illegal was done and no money was paid into the personal account of any governor, legislator or top officials at any of the levels and arms of government in the country”.
But the recovery of N500million from Zamfara State Governor and Chairman of the NGF, Abdulaziz Yari, being part of the N19 billion he collected as his state’s share, has confirmed that some of the governors were indeed culpable. This is more so as the commission reportedly traced N2.2billion payment to a consultant contracted by the said governor.
In the prevailing circumstance which should have seen the National Assembly rise to the occasion, it is unfortunate that it does not have the moral high ground to intervene since its principal officer has been roped in.
Hence Nigerians should demand accountability from their governors on how the refunds were utilized in their states. The need to heed this call has become even more imperative in view of the claim that the diversion cuts across the entire federation.
Governors’ impudence in refusing to let their people know the exact amount they collected and the silence of the Federal Government in disclosing same could be interpreted as a conspiracy to rob the people of a needed lifeline for their plight. How come the citizens are seen by those in positions of authority as undeserving of simple information? Perhaps, it is because of their corrupt tendencies.
Reports have it that efforts by some civil society groups and the media to bring the details to public domain did not get the cooperation of the Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and other top government officials. Those within the corridors of power must be made to understand that governance is not a cult hence they should stop giving the impression that it is a secret society.
While commending the extent EFCC has gone in this investigation, we urge the commission not to be deterred by the obstacles it has encountered in the process as well as the conspiracy by entrenched interests to frustrate the recovery of looted funds.
Only a diligent prosecution of those found involved in this grand scam and the concomitant recovery of the funds can assuage the deprivations of Nigerians who have been subjected to unimaginable misery by some kleptomaniacs who go about stealing what cannot be exhausted in three life times.
Serving time in jail after conviction will also go a long way in making politicians learn to curtail their gluttonous addiction to stealing public finds in order for the dividends of democracy to trickle down to those they are leading.
But since it is growingly becoming difficult for elected public office holders to get their hands off the cookie jar, we charge civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, the media and other stakeholders to work towards ensuring that there is transparency, probity and accountability in the conduct of government businesses.