There is something incongruous about the Editor of the Guardian Newspapers, a paper once known for its strident advocacy against abuse of power and corruption, to excoriate a Vice President who repeatedly calls out perpetrators of grand corruption. Even more astonishing is the fact that the Editor, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo abdicates the investigative role of his newspaper when there are allegations of corruption, but works hard to disparage both the information supplied and the informer. While it is clear that the Editor is a rabid PDP apologist, and this is obvious from the direction that he has taken the newspaper since he assumed the role, one would have thought that, even if only to give an appearance of fairness in the great tradition of a newspaper celebrated for balance, (and "the best tradition and ideals of republican democracy") he would still not descend to the use of abusive language against the Vice President.
Perhaps it might help to reiterate what the VP said at the Quarterly Business Forum held on the 19th of March, 2018. His basic premise was that grand corruption constitutes the preeminent problem of Nigeria’s economic development. He said that, unlike any other country, it would be either ignorant or negligent of any economic planner in Nigeria not to fully appreciate the massive hemorrhaging that comes from corruption. He went on to point out that despite the fact that the nation earned between $100 to $114 a barrel of oil between 2011 and 2014, investment in capital was abysmal.
He argued that the difference between the current government and the previous one is that the current government has tamed grand corruption and the impunity in the looting of public resources and is thus able to spend more on capital even when it is earning probably 50% less than the previous government. He gave one example of 2014. Then, oil prices were consistently over $100 dollars a barrel. Actual capital releases to the Ministries of Works, Housing and Power was N99B. Ministries of Transport and Agriculture got N15B and N14B respectively. In total these 3 ministries got N139B. He compared that with capital releases to the same ministries in 2017, when oil price was between $50 to $60 a barrel: N415B for Power, Works & Housing, N80B for Transportation and N65B for Agriculture, totaling N560B.
In exposing the impunity of the grand corruption in the Jonathan regime, the VP said barely two weeks to the 2015 elections, the sum of $289million dollars was released in cash. ( N104 billion today) That sum of money was disbursed from the JVC account of the NNPC/NAPIMS with the J.P Morgan Chase Bank, and the cash was released on 25 February 2015. Part of the sum was the $43m cash discovered at an apartment last year in Ikoyi and is now the subject of EFCC investigation. The full facts may not of course be disclosed until the case is tried in court. But suffice it to say that even the disbursement of such an amount in cash is a criminal act under our money laundering laws.
In addition, another N60B that had been sourced from the Central Bank towards the latter part of 2014, which was set apart for campaign purposes. It was shared between the then NSA-N40B and SSS N20B. This is apart from another N10B again sourced from the CBN’s Corporate Responsibility Budget in November 2014 that was used for “PDP Presidential Primaries.” Also N2.1B in cash was approved and paid through the office of the National Security Adviser. Most of the money which was disbursed between January 8 and Feb 25, 2015 was shared between senior PDP members, including companies, without any contracts being awarded to them. Most of them have admitted to receiving these sums of money, some have made refunds, many are on trial, others are prosecution witnesses in the trials.
So while a total of N139B was disbursed to the above listed five key ministries for the entire 2014, well over N100B in cash was disbursed and illegally shared within a few weeks by the same government! This shows how corruption can completely undermine an economy. Amazingly, Mr Ogbodo pretends not to be aware of these facts though they have been in the public domain for almost two years.
A few days later, at the Ogun State investment Forum, while speaking on the subject of the catastrophic impact of grand corruption on the Nigerian economy, the VP also gave an example of the looting of Nigeria’s oil earnings through the so-called Strategic Alliance Contracts involving two companies owned by the duo of Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko. The companies lifted Nigerian oil, by some estimates in excess of $3billion( over N1Trillion) and paid nothing back. The theft was not limited just to that amount but also included unpaid taxes and royalties.
The VP then pointed out that government was now putting together about this same sum of $3B to build the following roads: Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road, 2nd Niger Bridge, Enugu-PH road, East-West road, Sagamu-Ore-Benin road, Kano-Maiduguri road, Abuja-Lafia-Akwanga-Keffi road and the Lagos-Abeokuta: the old road.
How corruption can defeat our best hopes for the future!
One of the promoters of the company is on trial, the other is still at large although there is strong international collaboration to confiscate their assets all over the world. The effort includes the tracing and confiscation of the assets of the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Dieziani Allison-Maduekwe
Nigeria’s recursive economic growth is not merely because we have for years ran a mono-product economy, it is more because the proceeds of that single product is hijacked by a few. So even when oil earnings were high, the number of the poor, sick, malnourished and child mortalities continued to rise.
For the editor of a major Nigerian Newspaper, like The Guardian, to attempt to trivialize all that, rather than hold the perpetrators to account, is the tragic paradox of corruption fighting back through the very forces established to fight it.
Laolu Akande is a media aide to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo