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Come clean – The Nation

By The Citizen
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These, certainly, are not the best of times for Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The simple reason is that the very essence of his one-year-old administration is being shaken at its foundations. Anti-graft war, the most defining marker of his epoch stands the risk of being fatally damaged by the unfolding drama of what may be a 'Burataigate'.

We therefore urge that the presidency must act, and promptly too, in following the allegation to its logical conclusion and taking appropriate action in consonance with the anti-corruption ethos of his government. Nothing short of this will do.

Now a synopsis of the story: an online investigative news portal, Sahara Reporters had broken the news early this week alleging that Lt. General Tukur Buratai, the serving Chief of Army Staff, owns two houses in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, worth about $1.5 million, among other grievous  allegations.

In his initial reaction, the army chief had stated that the properties in question were real but that they belonged to him and his two wives.

He also noted that he had acquired them through his savings in his years as a military officer.

However, both the Federal Government and the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) have rallied to the support of the general. According to government, he had declared the houses in his assets papers and he has been investigated and found to have done nothing wrong.

Justifying the general's action further, the military authority explained that the nature of the offshore investment was based on the capital market principles of shareholding. According to a release by DHQ: 'The government, after investigating the recent media report over the acquisition of property in Dubai, United Arab Emirates by General Buratai, discovered that he and his wives invested as 'shareholders' like many other persons in the property mentioned in the publications and were not the sole owners.'

However, speaking yesterday, Buratai provided what he termed clarification, describing his accusers as cyber-terrorists: 'I am not supposed to comment on this but for clarity sake, my take on the issue is that we have already defeated the terrorists on land and they have already migrated to the cyberspace and internet, but I want to assure the Boko Haram… that we would follow them to the cyberspace and defeat them.' He was not deterred by what he called 'campaign of calumny against' him.

So many issues crop up in this allegation against General Buratai. First, it is a matter that must not be treated with levity by both the Presidency and the DHQ. Therefore, the talk of cyber-terrorists and campaign of calumny should never arise. Second and as has been noted above, it will not go away in a hurry and it will test the integrity and raison d'etre of this government to its very firmaments. Third, an environment where the military establishment has been found to be rotten and currently undergoing massive investigations and indeed, some of Buratai's contemporaries have been shown to be wantonly corrupt, he must not only come clean but must be seen to be squeaky clean.

And questions abound that all concerned must endeavour to answer for the good of the military establishment and the government.

One, if the source of the funds in question is indeed from the savings of the general and his wives, have proper efforts been made to show this to Nigerians by cataloguing a detailed report of his earnings over the period in question?

Two, is a top, serving military officer allowed to own such an investment abroad; is he allowed to ship such funds offshore? Are there no security implications?

Questions abound indeed, tacky questions. Not the presidency, not DHQ will or can answer them satisfactorily; Buratai must get up and come clean on this matter.

We ask that the general be stood down if by the slightest of chance he is found culpable. That is the right thing for the president to do.