Monday, July 25, 2016

Dambazzau And Military Audit Report

By Ikechukwu Amaechi
President Muhammadu Buhari is worried. That, ordinarily, should not be news. A president under whose watch the economy is performing so woefully should be worried. That is the least expected of him.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation has hit 16.5 per cent, the highest in 11 years. Before Buhari took over the reins of power, inflation was at a comfortable single digit.
*Dambazau and Buhari 
But he is not worried because the economy is in recession; he is not worried because of the runaway inflation.
And he is not worried that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Nigeria’s economy will contract in 2016 and cut the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth forecast from 2.3 per cent in April to 1.8 per cent, the lowest in 29 years.
Our dear president is not worried that N375 now exchanges for $1 with the prospect of hitting a scandalous N500 to $1 before the end of the year, contrary to what he promised on the campaign stump.
Buhari is not worried that his All Progressives Congress (APC) has not delivered on its promise to create millions of jobs annually. Instead, thousands are thrown into the labour market and those still keeping their jobs are grossly underemployed with salaries being irregular or not paid at all.
He is not worried that Foreign Direct investment (FDI) has dried up, literally, despite the much-hyped trip to Beijing and other world capitals. He is not worried that rather than new businesses springing up, those already up and running are shutting down.
Buhari is not worried that Nigerians are feeding, literally, from the dustbin.
No!
He is rather worried that Nigerians are bootlegging his "good behaviour," his penchant for labelling every citizen a “thief” with or without evidence, particularly anyone who has served in any government before his.
Buhari is worried that senior government officials are being tarred with the brush of corruption without any concrete evidence.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said his principal has appealed to “discerning” Nigerians to ignore orchestrated attempts to sully the integrity of ministers and other senior government officials and called for decent and civilised comments, particularly on the integrity of those serving the country.
Oh, Really!

Adesina issued a statement which said Buhari was reacting to reports, particularly by online media, that former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Ibe Kachikwu, who is also Minister of State for Petroleum, is being investigated over crude oil swap deals and gas lifting during his tenure as GMD.
“Terrible and unfounded comments about other people’s integrity are not good. We are not going to spare anybody who soils his hands, but people should please wait till such individuals are indicted,” Buhari was quoted as saying.
I pity Kachikwu. I will be surprised if, despite all the public show of indifference, he will not be asking himself in his very sober moments why he, an alumnus of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and Harvard Law School, left his very lucrative job as the executive vice chairman of ExxonMobil Africa for the roforofo fight that is public service in Nigeria.
Something tells me that if he has his way, he will quit, having done his best in the short period he was in charge of the NNPC. But he won’t quit on his own. He has to be sacked, because to resign and take a walk from public office in this part of the world is deemed a slap on the face of the government, a mortal sin, as the Catholics would say, that is beyond pardon. My take is that Kachikwu will hang in there.
But Buhari knows that those savaging the brightest star in his cabinet and impugning on his character are from within the system, not from the outside. They want to punish him for daring to reform the NNPC for greater efficiency, for daring to change its business paradigm that serves only the interest of a greedy few.
With his removal and constitution of a new NNPC board, the vested interests will claw back what they lost in the last one year that Kachikwu ran the show. But as forces that don’t take prisoners, they are not contented that he has been rendered redundant, they want to destroy his reputation as well.
But I digress. Kachikwu’s travails in the hands of those who believe they own Nigeria is not the focus of this article.
How can a president who has elevated to an art the unhealthy habit of labelling every other person a thief even before indictment, both in his first coming as military head of state and now, lament that his fellow citizens have learnt the “good manners?”
In a discussion I had with Sylvester Ugoh – former governor of the defunct Central Bank of Biafra, former minister of science and technology and later education – he said his only grouse against Buhari, who overthrew Shehu Shagari’s government where he served as a minister, was that he tarred everyone who served under Shagari with the brush of corruption even where evidence proved otherwise.
“Had Buhari freed those who did not soil their hands in any way, and there was enough evidence to prove that some of us were not corrupt after the investigations, he would have sent out the right message that integrity in government pays.
“People would have known that there is a reward, after all, for good behaviour in government.
“But the fact that he tarred everybody with the same brush of corruption was a disservice to the country which sent out the very wrong signal that honesty does not pay,” Ugoh said.
What the Harvard-trained economist complained about happened 32 years ago, and Buhari is making the same mistake in 2016. Today, anybody that had anything to do with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government in the 16 years it was in power is deemed corrupt because the APC government has used propaganda and barefaced lies to wheedle the unwary. There is mass hysteria in the land.
Let me be clear, there are corrupt politicians in the PDP whether in government or not. However, it is absurd to claim that everybody who served in the PDP government was corrupt. But that is the impression Buhari is creating. The same picture he painted of politicians when he overthrew Shagari on December 31, 1983.
Yet, the same APC government demonising the opposition is doing all it call to give its officials a clean bill of health even where a prima facie case is established on evidence.
Take for instance the case of Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, and the third interim report released by the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces.
While the report indicted two former Chiefs of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika and Kenneth Minimah, it left out Dambazzau who occupied that position between 2008 and 2010 and was reportedly indicted in the report leaked to the media before it was officially released.
There are strong suggestions that Buhari’s government may have deliberately doctored the latest report of the presidential arms audit panel by removing Dambazzau’s name to shield him from prosecution.
But the government claims nothing like that happened. While this may well be true, what is patently false is the reason given for the omission of Dambazzau’s name in the report. To ward off allegation of bias, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said Dambazau’s name was not included among those indicted because the third interim report only looked into procurement and contracts awarded for and by the military between 2011 and 2015.
“When the documents regarding procurement from 2007 to 2010 are available and scrutinised, the committee will then issue its report on that,” Mohammed said in a statement signed by his Media Adviser, Segun Adeyemi. “The audit is being done in phases, and the report that was released on Thursday [July 21] is the third of such.”
But a look at the report puts a lie to Mohammed’s claim because it read: “Press Release on the Third Interim Report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement From 2007 to 2015.”
The first paragraph of the seven-page report also confirmed that the committee used 2007-2015 as reference.
“In continuation of its assignment, the Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement (CADEP) in the Nigerian Armed Forces analysed procurement contracts awarded by or for the Nigerian Army between 2007 and 2015,” it said.
So, why will a government run by Saint Buhari lie so blatantly if there is nothing to hide?
Buhari’s government is playing the ostrich, burying its head in the sand and believing nobody sees its body. Nigerians are wiser.
You cannot effectively fight corruption when you shield members of your kitchen cabinet. 1983 is not 2016. The scale is falling off the eyes of many who thought that with Buhari, a Daniel had finally come to judgment in Nigeria.
But as the inimitable Chinua Achebe would say, it is morning yet on creation day.

*Ikechukwu Amaechi is the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the The Niche, a national newspaper published in Lagos (ikechukwuamaechi@yahoo.com)

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