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Osinbajo, enough of your sleaze rhetoric

By The Rainbow
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It seems Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is unaware that his strategy of using sleaze stories of the preceding government to divert attention from the failings of the Buhari administration is now obsolete. Most Nigerians are tired of his tenacious reference to corruption under the Jonathan administration, instead of telling us how they are working, if they truly are, to pull Nigeria out of these 34 months of mess. Nigerians are conversant with the level of corruption under the last administration; that was one of the reasons they changed the government. Unfortunately, the Buhari administration has not done any better in this regard. Osinbajo pretends to be unaware of this. Almost three years down the line, he still uses every opportunity to tell us about how billions of Naira was stolen during the Jonathan administration.

Speaking this week at the 7th Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for private sector stakeholders in Abuja, Osinbajo comically declared: “We saw from the presentation of the Minister of Finance that N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation got N15 billion, while infrastructure  in three years  got N153 billion, and yet  in two weeks  before the elections, N150 billion was shared. So if your total infrastructure spending is N153 billion and you can share N150 billion, then that is completely incredible.

“If we had spent the proceeds from that single commodity the way we ought to, we won't be where we are today. Most of the proceeds went to rent seekers in the industry. In one single transaction, a few weeks to the 2015 elections, N100 billion and $295 million were just frittered away by a few. When you consider that in 2014, as the Minister of Finance has said, oil prices averaged $110 a barrel but only N99 billion was spent on the power, works and housing sectors.”

Haba Osinbajo! This is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. Rent seekers in the oil industry are still collecting the proceeds of crude oil sales under Buhari's watch. This is why the NNPC spent a monstrous $5.8 billion on the importation of 9.8 million metric tons of petrol  in four months  – October 2017 to January 2018. This is why refineries are still not working; yet, this administration has spent billions of Naira on turnaround maintenance. Billions of Naira is still going down the drains in the name of payment of subsidies for petrol. For how long must this country continue to squander its resources due to inept leadership? What has changed in almost three years of this “change” administration regarding payment of petrol subsidy? These are pertinent questions begging for answers from the current managers of Nigeria's economy.

Infrastructure got N153 billion  in three years  of Jonathan? Our Vice President was obviously economical with the truth, just to score a cheap political point.

On the pilfering of public funds to fund 2015 election campaigns, the then opposition APC was evidently as guilty as the PDP. Our dear Vice President needs to tell us how his party raised billions of Naira to tackle the PDP, or is he saying that his law firm provided the billions? The truth is that a large chunk of the funds used by the APC to prosecute this election is plainly stolen money. Most governors of states controlled by Osinbajo's party and other leading opposition figures plundered public money to fund their campaigns. This is the truth that must be told. Many will quiver when the true story of how the APC was able to outspend the PDP in the 2015 election is exposed in black and white.

Whenever Osinbajo mocks the previous government over corruption, I just laugh. Corruption under this government in the last 34 months is frightening. I was not surprised when the 2017 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International revealed that sleaze in Nigeria is more severe under the Buhari administration. Nigeria was also downgraded by TI from 136 to 148 in the CPI. I have a long list of corruption reminders for Osinbajo, which includes Mainagate, Barugate and Babachirgate. Perhaps, Osinbajo needs to first go back and read the memo written by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu on sleaze in the NNPC. Contracts running into billions of USD were allegedly awarded exclusively by Baru, without due process. Some of them include crude term contracts valued at over $10 billion; DSDP contracts valued at over $5 billion; the AKK pipeline contract valued at approximately $3 billion; various financing allocation-funding contracts with the NOCs valued at over $3 billion and various NPDC production service contracts valued at over $3 billion. Kachikwu further alleged that during the first one year of Baru's tenure, no contract was cleared by the NNPC board, despite legal and procedural requirements that all contracts above $20 million would need to be reviewed and approved by the board. The cabal in charge of this administration had to tighten the noose on Kachikwu, forcing him to recant. Even Osinbajo made conflicting statements about Barugate.

But for persistent protest by Nigerians, Babachir Lawal, the legendary grass cutter, would have remained as the SGF after mismanaging about N2.5 billion in the account of the Presidential Initiative on the North East, PINE. Nigerians will never forget the damaging report about his role in the looting of the funds. Report of the forensic audit of PINE by the Senate was incriminating. The forensic report showed that Rholavision Engineering Limited, a company, with the sacked SGF as Director, was awarded consultancy contract by PINE. It emerged further that Josmon Technologies, a firm that was awarded contract by PINE, paid the money into the bank account of Rholavision Engineering. In the course of the public hearing on PINE activities, its key officers could not convincingly account for the N2.5 billion released to them to tackle the crisis in the camps of the IDPs. The transgression of Babachir and the soft landing he got is a confirmation of Buhari's skewed war against corruption.

What about the sleaze allegations against the reinstated Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf? A public servant under investigation by anti-graft agencies is reinstated with fiat. The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, had earlier set up a panel to probe Yusuf's transgressions and the panel found him culpable. The allegations against the NHIS boss are weighty. He was accused of violating procurement laws and dishing out contracts to cronies. This administration ignored the said purchase of a Prado SUV by Yusuf for N58 million shortly before the last Ramadan, even though his approval limit was N2.5 million? Sources said a number of Prado SUVs were attached to his office, but the NHIS boss allegedly went ahead to buy a new one. This government decided to overlook claims that Yusuf mismanaged about N919 million contributed by subscribers to the NHIS. Yet, Osinbajo is regaling us with stories about corruption under Jonathan, while the country wallows in darkness, unending fuel queues, poverty, disease, hunger, unemployment and malnutrition.

The truth be told without sentiment; the economy handed over to the Buhari administration was a fairly good one with consistent growth in GDP and industrial capacity utilisation. Under Obasanjo, late Yar'Adua and Jonathan, industrialists and SMEs were running their businesses with little encumbrances. The Naira and supply of fuel were fairly stable. The forex policy was also friendly to industrialists. That was why industrial capacity went up in the last three years of the Jonathan administration. So, how well-managed has this country been in the last 34 months under wailing Buhari and Osinbajo? Are there positive stories to tell in areas like the value of our currency, economy, electricity, fuel supply, manufacturing, job creation and so on? The truth is that  in 34 months , this administration squandered virtually all the gains of its predecessors. I challenge Osinbajo to point to a single tangible achievement of this administration in critical sectors like security, education, health, road, economy, power and housing in the last 34 months. Even the President and his family members are regularly flown abroad to enjoy foreign medicals.

The last 34 months brought pain, blood and tears to Nigerians, with thousands of businesses and manufacturers gasping for breath, while millions of Nigerians lost their jobs. The Naira, our symbol of nationhood has never had it so bad. At a point, it was trading for as high as N520/$. This is the same Naira Buhari inherited at about N220/$. Which corruption is bigger than buying petrol at N145 per litre? Nigerians outside Lagos and Abuja pay more. Which corruption is bigger than plunging Nigeria into unprecedented foreign debt  within 34 months ? According to the latest data from the Debt Management Office, Nigeria's external debt rose to $18.91 billion (N5.787 trillion) as at the end of December 2017, while domestic debt rose to N15.937 trillion, bringing the total debt stock of the country to N21.725 trillion ($70.92 billion). What do we have to show for all these borrowings in the last 34 months?

Nigerians continue to be ranked among the poorest globally. So, what has Osinbajo and his principal done about this in the last 34 months? Is he unaware that the country's unemployment rate rose from 14.2% to 18.8% in the third quarter of last year, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics? This should burden Osinbajo. Any serious government would have ensured a robust engagement of this unemployment figures. He should be worried that Nigeria will soon surpass India as the country with the largest number of people living in life-threatening poverty despite the fact that India's population is almost four times that of Nigeria's. Living in extreme poverty, going by the parameters set by the World Bank, means living on less than $1.90 per day, an amount that cannot guarantee even the token needs for existence. This is another insignia of disgrace that should task Osinbajo.

Osinbajo and his principal should concentrate on pragmatic steps to pull more Nigerians out of poverty instead of regaling us with corruption stories under Jonathan. Forward-looking Nigerians are tired of these monkeyshines.

The Insight of Father Kukah
Northern elite, particularly Muslims, should spend quality time reading the recent epistle of the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, in which he accused the elite of using religion to hold onto power to the detriment of their people and the larger society. Speaking in Kafanchan at the burial of the Catholic Bishop of the Kafanchan Diocese, father Joseph Bagobiri, Kukah maintained that despite its access to power for years, the North still remained backward and the poorest part of the country. He said: “Nearly 15 million Muslim children are on the streets with no future in sight. We are, as the governor of Borno would say, the poster child of poverty. Death, destruction and destitution have become our lot and nowhere is this more expressed than in Northern Nigeria. Today, Boko Haram and the herdsmen and farmers' clashes are phenomena that are peculiar to the North and Islam. We cannot run away from this. Even Usman Dan Fodio (Islamic preacher and founder of the Sokoto Caliphate) said that a society can live with unbelief, but no nation can survive with injustice.”

These are words of wisdom. I sincerely hope that those indicted will amend their ways, rise and tackle the poverty in this region with all their might.

Where Are the 500,000 New Teachers?
I can clearly remember that when Buhari was presenting the 2016 budget in December 2015, he said as an emergency measure, the government would address the chronic shortage of teachers in public schools across the country by partnering state and local governments to recruit, train and deploy 500,000 unemployed graduates, as well as holders of NCE. “These graduate teachers will be deployed to primary schools, thereby, enhancing the provision of basic education, especially in our rural areas,” declared the President. I was excited by this promise because of the challenges in public schools, particularly in the North. Our state and local government managers have all messed up on this. Unfortunately, Buhari has failed to actualise this promise, over two years after he made it. Today, I am appealing to our President to deliver on this promise. He has just 14 months left to do this.

This article first appeared in This Day

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