A particular Nigerian politician popularised the axiom: “If this country does not kill corruption, corruption will kill it.” The axiom gained wider currency as a result of the level of impunity with which public officials fritter funds running into billions, without any serious consequence and the resultant retrogression it foist on the nation’s development.
The trend of corruption and the failure by anti-graft agencies to effectively check the menace, according to an anti-corruption watchdog, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has hampered the ability of government to meet the needs of citizens.
SERAP argued that had the anti-graft agencies recovered the missing funds, the money would have helped the government to invest in public goods and services, and improve the living condition of citizens.
In a fresh suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP argued that recovering the alleged missing public funds would reduce the pressure on the federal government to borrow more money to fund the budget, enable the authorities to meet the country’s constitutional and international obligations, and reduce the growing level of public debts.
The plaintiff, therefore, blamed President Muhammadu Buhari “over his failure to probe allegations that N106 billions of public funds are missing from 149 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and to ensure the prosecution of those suspected to be responsible, and the recovery of any missing public funds.”
The suit followed the grim allegations by the office of the auditor-general of the federation in its 2018 annual audited report that N105, 662,350,077.46 of public funds are missing, misappropriated or unaccounted for across 149 MDAs.
Similarly, the Senate also uncovered an illegal collection of N76 billion by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Army, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and others. The funds were said to be drawn by the agencies from the office of the accountant general of the federation, but were never repaid.
This was brought to the fore by the 2015 Auditor General’s report, submitted by the Senate Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide and approved by the upper chamber.
According to reports, N922.4 million was allegedly withdrawn from 25 per cent husked brown rice levy as a loan; N7 billion was collected from the one per cent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) levy as a loan and N10 billion as a loan to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to finance the 2015 elections.
The record revealed that N17.92 billion was released to INEC as a loan on January 12, 2015, but was never repaid. Also, from the 15 per cent wheat grain levy, N31.4 billion was released to the Nigerian Army, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Revitalisation of Universities Infrastructures Account and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
From the N31.4 billion, the Nigerian Army allegedly collected N4.7 billion to fund some of its activities; NYSC collected N6.4 billion to also fund its undertakings; Revitalisation of Universities Infrastructures Account collected N10 billion for funding Federal Universities, and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development took N10.2 billion to fund the 2013 dry season farming.
A quick reference to instances of alleged pervasive corruption being perpetrated in the country would buttress the inherent danger it portends to the nation’s socio-economic life.
A global coalition against corruption, Transparency International (TI) had estimated that about US$20 to 40 billion were stolen yearly from developing countries and hidden abroad, and said sometimes a small proportion was successfully confiscated and returned to the country of origin. Today, the scale of corruption from the prism of ordinary Nigerians is higher and above the one being projected by the international group against corruption.