Dasukigate: Hope The National Assembly Is Watching?
The latest block buster movie in Nigeria today is the Dasukigate and l hope, like most Nigerians, the National Assembly is watching.
Although Nigeria is not new to leadership scandals, neither are the citizens shocked by the magnitude of funds involved in financial sleaze, I would like our federal lawmakers to take particular note of the current show tagged ‘Dasukigate’ involving $2.1bn ostensibly set aside for arms procurement to prosecute the war against Boko Haram but allegedly converted by the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki into slush funds for prosecution of a political agenda.
The current shameful event is another addition to the ever growing saga of abuse of public trust by those entrusted with the responsibility as recent events would attest and which our leaders make a song and dance of, after which nothing else is done to forestall its recurrence.
The reason l’m inviting the attention of our legislators to this latest gross perfidy in public service , is so that, unlike the past experience, at the end of the trial of the show of shame, appropriate laws would be enacted to foreclose a repeat of the act of converting public funds earmarked for facilitating the work of our men and women in uniform charged with safe guarding lives and properties of Nigerians, into political slush fund.
We only need to take a trip down memory lane, to recall that about thirty years ago, twelve billion, four hundred million ($12.4b) oil windfall that accrued from the spike in crude oil price, following disruptions occasioned by the first Gulf War (1990-91) led by USA coalition forces against Iraq which had attempted to annex Kuwait, was declared missing.
Yes, the huge sum which could have been applied in providing the badly needed infrastructure in our country facing severe infrastructure deficit, developed strange legs and literarily walked away and it has never been traced or accounted for till date.
In recent history, under the watch of the immediate past government, the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN raised an alarm about $20 billion revenue unaccounted for by the petroleum ministry. The scandal was vehemently denied by the government in power at that time and the opposition party, now the ruling party, buoyed by the support of Nigerian masses, insisted on unraveling the theft in NNPC, the state oil company.
The authorities was compelled to mandate PriceWaterHouseCooper, PWC to conduct an audit of NNPC and nothing substantial came out of the exercise as the report by PWC neither indicted nor exonerated anybody in any significant way.
The two (2) incidents of financial scandals involving top government officials catalogued above are just a few that l decided to highlight to underscore the fact that abuse of public office resulting in scandal has been a trend if not a fad in Nigeria’s checkered history and both the military and politicians who have been at the helm of affairs since independence in 1960 are equally culpable.
One recurring decimal in the unfortunate incidents of identified corruption sagas listed above is that there was no conclusive investigation,so there was never a piece of legislation instituted to forestall future perpetration. This is why l posed the question; Dasukigate: Hope the National Assembly is watching?
Without addressing the cases of large scale abuse of public trust by those entrusted with leadership through parliamentary actions, this culture of impunity would likely continue unabated as evidenced by the fact that repetition of similar crimes by public officials nearly forty years after is almost becoming a culture in Nigeria and this is because the previous cases were not tackled legislatively.
To demonstrate how widespread and pervasive, the incidence of corruption and impunity in government and society have become in Nigeria , one only needs to look back at recent history to recall the following show of shame perpetrated and published in the mass media. In the civil service (A)There was over thirty two (N32) billion Naira embezzled from police pension fund by one John Yakubu Yesufu, an assistant director in police service commission. He was a civil servant and was fined a mere N750,000 for the crime and (B) There was also Abdulrashid Maina, chairman of presidential task force on pension reform who also allegedly scammed Nigeria of N195 billion naira and literarily vanished into the thin air with his loot.
In the oil and gas sector, (1) Nigerians were regaled with massive fuel subsidy and crude oil swaps fraud whereby trillions of naira was creamed off tax payers and (2) ex CBN Governor, now Emir of Kano also raised alarm concerning un remitted $43 billion, later scaled down to $20 billion from the NNPC to the CBN which was investigated without any money recovered.
Let’s not forget that before the current ex-NSA Dasuki mind boggling exposure,the media was also awash with news of humongous bribes offered by the out gone administration to clergy men including religious leaders of both Christian and Islamic faith.
Although most of the religious leaders denied the allegations, the controversial reverend father Carmilius Ejike Mbaka, a Catholic priest and founder of Adoration ministry, accused a former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan of trying to bribe him with huge sums of money in exchange for receiving favorable vision of victory for her husband at the march 28th, 2015 presidential polls.
The traditional institutions were not spared, as most of those who received the alleged booties admitted to doing so with the directive to remit same to most of our traditional rulers across the nation. So practically every sector of Nigerian society, ranging from civil servants involved in pensions scams, to oil moguls found culpable in the fuel subsidy and oil swap scandal to the religious leaders and traditional rulers plus market women involved in the Dasukigate as well as the media – mainstream and social- that were on the take.
If the EFCC were to truly spread its dragnet to cover all involved in the NSA funds heist, there would be a massive haul of Nigerians from all works of life such that our prisons would be busting in the seams as they would be unable to contain the apparently very extensive list of Nigerians with their fingers in the NSA cookie jar.
This perhaps explains why the EFCC recently placed advertisements in major Nigerian newspapers inviting directors of about 241 companies believed to have received payments from the office of the NSA for a meeting. Already ,it is being alleged that information emanating from the Coporate Affairs Commission, CAC indicates that most of the directors of the companies under reference are traditional rulers and religious leaders.
Apart from the founder of Africa Independent Television , AIT Raymond Dokpesi and chairman of Thisday newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena who have admitted to receiving N1.4bn and N650bn respectively from the office of the NSA, in payment for professional services rendered, plus the major media houses which received their allotted N10m each, for damages suffered owing to Boko Haram disruptions, who can tell for now, which other editors, columnists, reporters or producers that might have received the so called illicit funds in their personal capacities?
Even the famous blogger, Linda Ikeji is alleged to have received a generous portion of the NSA funds.
Market women are not left out as they too received bags of rice and other food items, just as single ladies and housewives in hair dressing saloons also reportedly received cash in return for votes.
The hand outs cascaded so effectively down to the grass root and influenced voting in ekiti state that it was famously referred to as ‘stomach infrastructure’ by former Lagos state governor, now super minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola.
The point l’m trying to make is that practically everybody in Nigeria seem to have had their fingers soiled by the NSA funds, which was as it were, illegally converted to campaign funds, prompting some Nigerians to brand it ‘blood money’ as the non application of the funds to the original purpose has resulted in the unfortunate death of thousands of both civilians and soldiers in the hands of vicious Boko Haram terrorists.
Truth be told, during election periods, lots of money is shared out across the spectrum of society for mobilization of voters both at federal and state levels and such largess are not shared by politicians alone but extended to every member of the strata of society including members of the civil society that can sway voters in favor of the party interested in winning.
In the light of the above, without any iota of doubt,there is a Dasuki in every state where political party elections are conducted because, there is always slush funds set aside to prosecute elections in every state of the federation be it controlled by PDP, APC, or APGA led.
To prove my point, I could have suggested that EFCC probes Security Votes of governors, if Nigerian constitution had not granted protection to governors on how security votes are spent, and as such it is opaque.
The new twist to Dasukigate, in my view, is that the office of the NSA was used for such nefarious operation in Nigeria especially at a time like this, when funds allocated to that office was critically sensitive,since it was supposed to be used to kit our members of the armed forces at a time they were fighting a fierce battle against the dreaded Boko Haram.
Otherwise using the NSA’s office for clandestine activities even in advanced democracies such as the USA is not unprecedented as evidenced by the Iran-Contra arms deal involving the USA sale of arms to Iran (against US govt ban) through the Israelis and the Contras in Nicaragua as third and fourth parties. That illegal action which contravened US laws helped to bring down one time president, Jimmy Carter’s govt as it failed in its attempt to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran and thus lost its re-election bid.
It was also the impunity and abuse of office by high ranking public officials such as the Dasukigate imbroglio that led to the Watergate scandal that prompted the political demise of Richard Nixon, ex president of the USA who abused his power over state security agencies to spy into the affairs of rival political party, the Democratic Party.
So, in effect, contrary actions like the so called Dasukigate, have repercussions and some times with dire consequences anywhere in the world as was the case cited in the USA. The only difference between the cases in Nigeria and the USA, is that,after the events, laws were passed and strictly followed through to ensure compliance by American congress.
That’s part of the dynamism of the United states of America constitution which gets amended from time to time to address identified gaps. That has not been the case in Nigeria as it has taken NASS forever to review archaic laws in the 1999 constitution as amended.Take for instance,the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB that has been bugged down in congress for nearly a decade. It is hoped that the ongoing constitution review would reverse the seeming lethargy in our congress.
Concerning Dasukigate, l’m taken aback by the nativity that the erstwhile traditional methods of getting contractors executing govt contracts to pay certain percentage of funds from contracts awarded to them to a designated account belonging to the party was jettisoned by the last govt hence the resort to the use of arms budget.
Be that as it may,I want to align my self with human rights activist, Femi Falana who has cautioned security agencies to thread softly in carrying out their duties with respect to how they handle Dasuki and Daniel Kanu, (leader of the indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB) arrest and continuous detention.
By the same token, l would also like to draw attention to the admonition of Bishop David Bakare of North-West chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN , that at least 10% of the recovered defense funds looted and recovered should be committed to providing succor for the families of soldiers who died in the course of the war against terrorism.
My worry is that Dasukigate may end up being a circus of some sort that could end up diminishing govt and public officers if it is not handled with more tact by the intelligence community who must work harder to ensure that we recover substantial amount of money rather than the show being put up.
Take for instance the dreaded cyber crime group known as Anonymous which is now focusing its radar on Nigeria and reportedly threatening to use its extensive hacking prowess to break into sensitive Nigerian data bases with a view to embarrassing government.
Clearly, the declaration of a cyber war on Nigeria by Anonymous which it is attributing to “selfish politicians failure to address corruption, rising unemployment and problems with healthcare” is a direct fall out of the humongous amount of money ($43b later scaled down to $20b from NNPC and $2.1b NSA funds) bandied around in the cyber space as having been lost or stolen in Nigeria.
If at the end of it all, a piece of legislation is not fashioned out to checkmate a recurrence of diversion of funds earmarked for certain projects by auditing MDGs at least twice a year,capping how much can be spent to prosecute a political campaign and monitoring same to ensure adherence,as well as introducing and implementing the Zero-Based Budgeting, ZBB, that would ensure that allocated funds are properly applied before receiving a new tranche, then we would have only succeeded in attracting unwanted attention of vicious cyber hackers like Anonymous thereby exposing our country to ridicule without any short or long term benefits.
So l hope our congress men and women are watching Dasukigate with keen interest and planning to do something critical to forestall future occurrence as opposed to the mere threat to impeach Mr President which seem to be next episode of the opera of the absurd that Nigeria is fast degenerating into.
***Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, futurologist and former commissioner in Delta state and alumnus of Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts.