Saturday, 19 April 2014
INEC Leadership Deep in Corruption, Buhari Tells Africa Diaspora in London
General Muhammadu Buhari, who has run for president of Nigeria three times in this millennium, says he strongly doubts the ability of the country’s electoral commission to conduct free and fair elections in 2015, describing it as having lost its impartiality on account of developing a very cozy relationship with executive and judicial arms of the government.
The top echelon of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is deeply immersed in corruption and only wholesale changes at the top could begin to cure its malaise, he told the Africa Diaspora Conference in London on Wednesday.
“What is required is a group of independent minded people, patriotic, incorruptible but with the capacity to handle such a strenuous assignment of conducting elections in Nigeria,” he said. “It is not difficult to find such people but whether the Government and the National Assembly have the inclination to do so I am not so sure.”
He said that he would have preferred to talk in glowing terms about Nigeria outside its shores, extolling its virtues and defending its values and interests, but that the situation in the country, as is well known to the international community is so bad that it is futile to take that line.
“Furthermore, it would be counter-productive to efforts we are all making to understand and accept our shortcomings with a view to taking steps towards a general improvement,” he noted. “If you continue to be in denial, as Nigeria’s government and its apologists are wont to do, you will lose all credibility.”
On how stable Nigeria’s economy is, he said it is dependent on the international oil market, and the failure over the years to diversify and strengthen the economy or to invest in the global economy has left the country perilously at the mercy of global oil prices.”
“Instead of using the so-called excess crude account which in other countries goes by the name of Sovereign Wealth Fund to develop major domestic infrastructure such as Power, Railways, Road development, the account has been frittered down and applied to current consumption,” Buhari said, stressing that there is no magic or short cut to economic development.
“We must start from first principles – by developing agriculture and industries. Sixty years ago, we exported considerable quantities of cocoa, cotton, groundnuts, rubber and palm kernels. There were sizeable incomes to the farmers. Indeed in two years, if I recall correctly, 1951 and 1953, Nigeria produced a million tons of groundnuts. Today, other than a few thousand tons of cocoa, hardly any cotton, rubber or palm products are exported.”
He stressed that until and unless serious budgetary attention is paid to agriculture, the vast majority of Nigeria’s rural population will remain on subsistence basis and will eventually wither away by migration to the cities and increasing the stress on urban life.”
In that regard, he called for the application of today’s technology, primarily improved seeds and seedlings, irrigation systems, use of weather forecasts, and above all, substantial subsidies and access to cheap credit. “In Nigeria, the basic tools for agricultural take-off, the Six River Basin Authorities were wantonly scrapped in 1986 under the disastrous Structural Adjustment Programme,” he recalled, calling them the best vehicle for the country’s agricultural revival and expansion.
Specifically on how the poverty level in Nigeria be reduced and the masses benefit from the nation’s vast wealth, he reiterated that if serious efforts are made to support agriculture through states and local government apparatus, agriculture will boom within 5 – 7 years.
“Farmers will generate more income to enable them to grow the food the country needs and to look after our environment,” he said, and the drift to urban centres will be greatly reduced. He called for equal attention for the revival of employment-generating activities such as railways, industries, and other land and forest resource-based industries to enable them absorb urban labour. That, he said, would help tackle poverty, reduce urban stress and crime, and boost the economy.
He warned, however, that these two major policy initiatives can only succeed if there is substantial improvement in power generation.
Turning to the distribution of income in Nigeria today, Buhari said there was no better illustration of the huge income disparity than the statement of Malam Adamu Fika, Chairman of the Committee set up by the government to review the Nigerian public service.
“In the course of presentation of his Report, the Chairman pointed out that 18,000 public officers consume in the form of salaries, allowances and other perquisites N1.126 trillion Naira (£4billion) of public funds. The total Nigerian budget for 2013 is N4.9 trillion (£20 billion).
Reflecting on that, Buhari said that a wholesale look at public expenses vis-à-vis the real need of the country has become urgent, describing the picture painted by Malam Fika as the worst form of corruption and oppression.