Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has often been criticized as knowing nothing about the economy, once by one of his predecessors Olusegun Obasanjo and also by renowned economist Pat Utomi. However, his fight against corruption has made many cut him some slack despite the Nigerian economy contracting in the first quarter of 2016. Corruption is endemic in Nigeria; Buhari’s promise to rid the country of the menace has, therefore, won him several loyalists, many of whom he may lose to frequency of questions about his integrity in one of the few areas his government has succeeded.
The latest threat to Buhari’s integrity is the perceived shielding of close ally and current Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau. The president had on August 24, 2015, constituted a Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement in the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Last Thursday, the investigative committee submitted its third interim report detailing how former senior military officers, political appointees and private individuals allegedly embezzled security funds as foot soldiers struggle against Boko Haram insurgents.
The indicted officers include Azubuike Ihejirika and Kenneth Minimah, who both served as Chief of Army Staff under President Goodluck Jonathan.
While concerns were raised about the exclusion of the name of Dambazzau, who served as the chief of army staff between 2008 and 2010, with some critics of the Buhari administration wondering whether he was even investigated like his colleagues, the Buhari government used the channel it had often used to react to controversies; the office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
Mohammed, whom many Nigerians have accused of bold-faced lying in the past, said Dambazzau’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 from 2011 to 2015.
“When the documents regarding procurement from 2007 to 2010 are available and scrutinized, the committee will then issue its report on that,” the minister said in a statement signed by his media adviser Segun Adeyemi.
Mohammed’s statement turned out to be another lie, according to the report. “Press Release on the Third Interim Report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Defence Equipment Procurement from 2007 to 2015,” it read.
The report further read that “the Committee observed breaches of laws and regulations on payments of With-holding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT). The unremitted WHT from 2007 to 2015 amounted to about N862,962,065.99, $2,093,710.06 and €2,700.00 respectively”. Despite being in office during this period, it is highly unlikely that Dambazzau will be treated like his colleagues.
According to Dr. Junaid Mohammed, frontline Second Republic politician and Northern leader, some cabal in the Presidency doctored the report to shield the Dambazzau and former Director of Procurements, Defence Headquarters, who is also current Chief Of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai.
“Nigerians should recall that the three Chiefs of Army Staff who served during the period under review included Major General Abdulrahman Dambazzau, who is also the current Minister of Interior, Major General Azubuike Ihejirika, Major General Kenneth Minimah and Major General Tukur Buratai, who before his appointment as the current Chief of Army Staff, was Director of Procurement, Defence Headquarters for years,” he told The Guardian.
“The Report of the Committee was doctored in the Presidency by some cabal after it was submitted, to shield Dambazau and Buratai who were allegedly indicted,” he said.
Junaid Mohammed noted that Dambazau is a close ally of Alhaji Mamman Daura, President Buhari’s nephew, and alleged head of the ‘cabal’ in Buhari’s presidency. “Buratai is an ally of Dambazau and President Buhari. So there is no way the Presidency will not shield the duo.”
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), West Africa has monitored, tracked and documented promises made by President Buhari since he started his presidential campaign in 2014. The non-governmental organization recorded 222 promises, but only one has been achieved; 45 are ongoing while 176 have not been rated. President Buhari has spent 415 days in office and he is fast becoming a disappointment to the people who voted him into power.
While he is largely seen to have done well in securing the country, the resurgence of sectarian crisis and militancy in Niger Delta puts a hole in this achievement in this respect. His anti-corruption crusade has also been criticized to be targeted at the opposition; the president has not done enough to dismiss such claim.
The Arms Procurement Probe Report is seen as the latest show of shame by the Buhari-led administration whose approval rating keeps diminishing with every bad judgment he makes.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the Nigerian economy may contract in 2016. So far, President Buhari has not shown he has the capability to turn the tide. The only thing ensuring he still enjoys some goodwill with Nigerians is his integrity, which is now under question.