Saturday, October 8, 2016

Babachir, Buhari and the N1.3bn Bogus Contract by PINE

The Senate on Tuesday 4th October 2016 accused the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE) of spending N1.3bn out of the N10bn budgeted for the region on bogus contracts. This is a terrifying matter. But it is still an accusation until proven true or otherwise.

The concern of many people is, the Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal is being accused of being complicit. This is a man known by many people as a man of honour. President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on corruption is indisputable; while his government has exhibited genuine and commendable efforts to restore the northeast to its pre-war peaceful status.

If Babachir is a party to this breach of laid down process and procedure, many people including Buhari will not be happy with him. Besides, he is from the northeast, in fact, his local government area of Hong in Adamawa state is among the most affected areas by Boko Haram senseless war.

Daily Trust of Wednesday Oct 5, 2016 reported that “Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai and 18 others has accused the committee on North-East of spending N1.3bn on 21 bogus contracts awarded to families, friends and cronies of the SGF and the committee. The senate committee said the bogus contracts showed that N100m was paid on January 1 this year on a public holiday to a company, VFS for conference, N 230m was paid to Josman Technologies Limited in two installments for the removal of invasive plant species in Yobe State and N 185m was paid to a company known as ‘Is yours Investment Limited in five installments. The table revealed that the company was paid N 50,299,270 twice and N 37,754,900 for the supply of food and non-food items. Presenting the table to his colleagues, Senator Kaka said the committee paid N 117m and N 108m to Lintex International and Dantex Nigeria Limited respectively for the provision of temporary shelters while N 80.7m and N 97.6m were paid to JMT Global Technologies Limited and Greenstone General Enterprise Limited respectively. To this end, the Executive Secretary of PINE, Umar Gulani has appeared and offered some explanations before the House of Representatives committee investigating the alleged diversion of funds and materials meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS).

Anti corruption war is a major cardinal unique selling point for Buhari. So, any accusation of corruption against a member of the inner-circle of his government attracts public attention. However, we must bear in mind that for every corruption accusation against a Buhari lieutenant, two possibilities could be drawn: individuals currently facing corruption charges are working hard to paint every member of the government as also corrupt so as to rubbish the government’s fight against corruption. Secondly, those who are used to government patronage and are no more in the ‘loop’ are also working hard to see that those getting government contracts are being portrayed as benefiting from cronyisms.

President Buhari is a man who when he trusts someone, he hardly distrusts such a person based on insubstantial reasons. So some people can easily take advantage of that to commit some shady acts behind the General. We must not also forget that public office in Nigeria comes with some privileges, authority and huge funds to spend, so if one does not apply measured restraint and discipline he/she can easily fall into the trap of corruption without even knowing.

Babachir has been working with Buhari for a long time, most people believe he knows who Buhari is more than many people in the present government and will not go against or tarnish Buhari’s globally commended efforts in the North-East.

With Babachir’s age, experience and trust bestowed on him by Buhari; it is hardly a possibility that he will condone arbitrary award contract to families, friends and cronies of his and other members of the committee. With the level of discipline being brought into public service, it is almost impossible that the members of the committee will overlook raw abuse of due process. Though, we do not expect the present government to award contracts to it ‘enemies’. The accusation must be seen as untrue except proved otherwise. Nonetheless, Babachir and the committee members must come out clean, because the accusation is heavy with stark similarities with Dasuki’s armsgate. Corruption has been the major factor that has helped in prolonging the insurgency in the northeast.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980

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