By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.
The Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti Corruption (PACAC) has accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Nigeria Customs Service of being reckless with public funds.
According to its chairmen, Prof, Itse Sagay, the two agencies of government are swimming in corruption and financial recklessness to the point of insanity.
The Professor of Law made the allegation in an opening speech he delivered at a two-day national dialogue organised by his committee at the old banquet hall in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who declared the parley open however cautioned against pointing accusing fingers at organisations or individuals, noting that the malaise is systemic in nature.
Accordingly, he admonished that the way to go is to acknowledge that there is a problem that if not solved would hurt everyone.
He admitted that every arm of government is enmeshed in this life threatening menace.
His words: “Corruption as we all seem to agree, is an existential threat to Nigeria both as a nation and as a viable economic entity.
“Clearly, there is no doubt whatsoever, whether every one arm of government can excuse itself, every part or arm of the society can excuse itself. But the truth of the matter is that we all know that corruption in Nigeria is systemic. It doesn’t matter whether it is the executive arm of government, the judiciary or the legislature, every arm of government is involved in this systemic and life threatening social anomaly called corruption.
“There’s no question at all. And it affects all segments of the society. It affects the religious, it affects agencies and civil society groups. There’s no one in our nation that can say they are not in one way or the other, not necessarily being complicit, but at least under some influence or the other of some of the implications of corruption.
“So, I think we should leave the finger pointing, because the finger pointing is unhelpful. What is important is that we recognise that there is a major problem here.”
The standpoint for the allegation by the PACAC Chairman is that the NDDC recently acquired 70 cars, including eight Super Lexus Jeeps at N78 million each and 10 Landcruisers each costing not less than N63 million.
He said the vehicles were acquired with funds meant for the provision of water, housing, hospital, schools and infrastructure development in the Niger Delta region.
He said: “My dear friends, you will not believe that with all we are going through, the NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) which is the other name for uncompleted projects, has just bought over 70 cars. Of those about 8 of them are Super Lexus Jeeps costing 78 million naira each and about 10 are Land Cruisers costing 63 million naira each.”
He continued: ”This money was taken from funds for infrastructure, water, housing, hospitals, school, etc., without conscience; recklessly without a thought for the wretched people of the Niger Delta. These huge sums where plundered from their allocations, from the Federal Government. And yet, the Managing Director was ironically reported in the Nation Newspaper of 6th February, 2017, (pp. 1-2) that the NDDC lacks funds to execute projects and was in debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion naira.”
Prof. Sagay also descended heavily on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) saying nothing had changed since the current administration came on board in May 2015.
He cited an instance at the Tin Can Island in Lagos where customs officials now charge fees to physically examine goods following the breakdown of the scanner.
Sagay described as brazen corruption, citing many other instances which he said PACAC brought to the attention of the Comptroller General during a recent visit to him.
The chairman of PACAC also decried what he called public apathy to issues of corruption particularly at a time the country was facing recession, noting that the people’s attitude to corruption as in his opinion questions the mental state of those defending it.
Speaking further, Sagay took a swipe ath the judiciary, saying some judges still grant adjournments running into months in contravention of provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He accused lawyers of contributing to the problem by using different delay tactics thereby causing the nation great embarrassment.
The PACAC boss also alleged that the recent public demonstrations against the present administration were sponsored by agents of looters, those who lost elections and those whose appointments were not renewed.
Acting President Osinbajo said further that rather that finger-pointing, he would wish that the country looks at models that had worked else where in fighting corruption and adopted them to solve the problem of corruption.
“What I’d like us to do if that is possible in the course of this dialogue, is to look at models that have worked elsewhere and to see whether these models are somewhat applicable here .To look at best practices.
“The truth of the matter is that there is nothing peculiar about the Nigerian citizen, or the Nigerian type. Corruption thrives where it is allowed to thrive and there are many societies that have found themselves in worse circumstances than Nigeria and have somehow managed to solve their problems,” he stated.
Acting Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in a brief remarks also expressed concern over the penchant to heap every blame on the judiciary whenever the issue of corruption was in the public sphere, forgeting that the culture of impunity was at the centre of corruption.
“So, if you are to fight corruption then you fight the culture of impunity which is an attitudinal phenomenon. Without adhering strictly to the constitutional provision of the rule of law. If we allow the rule of law to reign, then you will agree with me there will be a dramatic reduction in corruption and injustice,” he submitted.