The claim by former President Goodluck Jonathan that corruption had worsened since he left office was Thursday vehemently rejected by the presidency, which dismissed the former president’s proposition as astonishing and absolutely untrue.
Jonathan, had in his book, ‘My Transition Hours,’ rated President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft war very low, saying graft had not only worsened under the president’s watch but that his de-marketing of the country had driven away investors.
He rebuked the president’s strategy of media trial of suspects, saying it worsened the corruption perception of Nigeria and led to Nigeria’s slip in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
He said in his book, “The sundry accusations by the new administration will appear to have baited the media. Media trials are entertaining but have little or no effect in fighting corruption and improving the economy.
“Since I left office, rather than improve on our TI corruption perception record, the situation has worsened with the nation going 12 places backward, becoming number 148 according to the latest CPI ranking for 2014, from 136 in 2014 when I was president.”
The book was launched at an impressive ceremony on Tuesday in Abuja.
But the presidency replied Thursday, saying the former president’s claim was like playing the ostrich that buried its head in the sand in order to avoid the truth.
The Senior Special Assistant to President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, in a statement in Abuja, entitled, ‘Dr. Jonathan Should Stop Playing the Ostrich,’ said the fact on the ground today ran contrary to Jonathan’s “outlandish claim”.
According to the presidential spokesman, Buhari, in pursuit of the war against corruption, has set a number of local and international records, one of which is to call judicial officers in Nigeria to account.
Shehu said, “He is the first to set such a record. 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 the 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.”
He stated further that in addition to the many firsts recorded by Buhari’s administration, the government had introduced a lot of changes, considering that the laws relating to the fight against corruption could not reasonably be static.
According to him, as part of the desire to be ahead of the growing sophistication of corruption and financial crimes, the administration initiated new legislations and proposed amendments to different sections of the laws.
Some of them, he said, are 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.
According to Shehu, owing to these efforts and support of all relevant stakeholders, NFIU Act has been passed and Buhari gave his assent on July 18, 2018. 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 urged that “Nigerians should dismiss Dr. Jonathan’s hollow boast that he, not President Buhari, introduced schemes such as the Biometric Verification Number (BVN), Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPS),” asking, “Of what use is the announcement of good policies without the will to implement them?”
He said, “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 amounts 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).
He said while it was true that the BVN was introduced in 2014 to ensure that all bank accounts had biometric identification of their owners, the lack of will and capacity under Jonathan stalled its implementation, pointing out that the policy had been auctioned by Buhari.
Shehu said the Buhari administration had taken the battle against graft forward by the introduction of the whistle-blower policy as a veritable tool against corruption as it gives individuals an opportunity to expose corruption, fraud, bribery, looted government funds, financial misconducts, government assets and any other form of corruption or theft.
“Within six months of introducing this policy, over 5,000 reports were made through various channels, 365 actionable tips were received out of the 5.000 reports. So far more than N200bn has been recovered,” he said.
He said under Jonathan, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission could only recover N19.5 billion as at May 29, 2015, while under Buhari, the figure had gone up to N279 billion.