Ripples from the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index Report 2012, which ranked Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt nation out of 176 countries surveyed has forced the President Goodluck Jonathan government to release what could be described as the scorecard of the administration in its fight against corruption.
Also, the presidency has described the Transparency International report as a wake up call for the Jonathan administration to increase the tempo in stemming corrupt practices in the country.
Reeling out details of the administration’s crusade against graft, the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe listed what the president has done quietly in the oil subsidy scheme, pension, power and electoral reforms, and in the management and distribution of fertilizer that have eliminated inefficiency, corruption and instituted fundamental institutional reforms.
Okupe said: “The Jonathan administration has uncovered fraud through the detection and deletion of over 73,000 ghost/fake pensioners from the Head of Service/Police Pension Office; recovery and saving over N225 billion from the two pension offices; capturing the biometric data of over 170,000 pensioners; halting the monthly theft of over N4 billion from the national treasury; reducing fraud by saving over N500 million monthly through the police pension releases, which represents 50 per cent of the N1 billion disbursed monthly in the past; and the discovery of over 50,000 unpaid pensioners and immediate payment of their entitlements.”
Also, Okupe said that the Federal Government discovered a fraud of over N2.7 billion by the Nigeria Union of Pensioners and the seizure of about 200 properties, including choice hotels and cash worth billions of naira from corrupt public officials.
This, he said, had led to the arrest and on-going prosecution of pension fraud suspects by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as well as the introduction of a more efficient tamper-proof pension funds management system.
According to the president’s aide, “I must add that the pension reform resulted in a reduction in recurrent expenditure, as the sum of N74 billion was factored into the 2013 budget from funds recovered by the Task Team.”
He also singled out the signing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and the reforms within the power sector as one of the most fundamental battles against corruption by the Jonathan administration.
“The unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria into 18 successor companies and the open processes of privatising them are the hallmarks of modern government transactions, which Nigeria had brought into being,” he said, explaining that the Federal Government under Jonathan has developed a heart of stone and the needed political will more than any other president in Nigeria to fight corruption.
Okupe further gave the thumbs up to the president in the prosecution of the oil thieves, saying, “It is on record that the son of the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is among those currently being prosecuted in the oil subsidy scandal,” asking, “if this is not political will, what then is political will?”
He said that of the over N2 trillion spent on oil subsidy, N232 billion has been investigated and paid. He also blamed the current fuel shortages as blackmail by oil marketers, who want to believe that “it is business as usual”.
He said: “It is on record that only the NNPC is currently importing 60-65 per cent of fuel, because the oil marketers intend to use the importation of fuel as a means of blackmail against the Federal Government.”
Okupe added that because of the demonstrated capacity of the Jonathan administration against corruption, between January and October 2012, over N670 billion has been saved by the Petroleum Products Price Regulating Agency (PPPRA), and a stringent order has been given to the Nigerian Navy under Admiral Dele Ezeoba to halt crude oil theft.
“The on-going implementation of this and the determination to do the same for the reports of other committees like the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF), the Dotun Suleiman committee charged with fashioning a corporate governance code for transparency, good governance and global best practices in the NNPC and oil companies, and the Kalu Idika Kalu committee on how to improve the commercial viability and efficiency of our refineries, will undoubtedly result in the saving of huge sums of money hitherto stolen by corrupt public officials,” he said.
“These are initiatives which had not been taken by any previous government and for which President Jonathan ought to be commended by every patriotic Nigerian.
“By the time the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed into law, Nigeria would have successfully broken the jinx of being a nation where global business rules and practices are flouted with impunity.
“Also, estimated annual earnings of $680 billion would be added to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Crude oil theft and other sharp practices are also being combated with much vigour by various security and regulatory agencies on the president’s instructions,” he said.
In addition, he gave credit to the president on his reforms that transformed elections and electioneering in the country. “For instance, under the old electoral dispensation, governors like Adams Oshiomhole and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who belong to opposition parties, would simply have found it impossible to be re-elected.
“But thanks to the reforms instituted by this administration, which apart from increasing the funding of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has also through other agencies, enlightened the Nigerian electorate on their rights and obligations, and the wishes of voters are now supreme,” he added.
On the judicial and legal reforms by the president, Okupe said that a major step in this direction was achieved through the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Bill 2012 by the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
The bill, he said, is currently before the National Assembly and seeks to ensure that the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime, and protection of the rights and interests of the defendant and the victim.
He listed other reforms by the administration to include the management of the fertilizer scheme, which he said has reduced corruption and ensured that the product gets to the end users.
On the allegations that some ministers are corrupt, Okupe said the onus of proof is on those making the allegation to prove their case. He also denied that N31 trillion or $5 billion had been stolen by this administration since it came into office.