Corruption deep-rooted in Nigeria before I came — Buhari

Corruption deep-rooted in Nigeria before I came — Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari said, yesterday, that widespread corruption in the country was the likely reason the impact of his fight against the scourge has not permeated some quarters.

He said the menace was largely deep rooted before the coming of his administration in 2015, restating

his commitment to eradicate corruption from the shores of the land, even as he called on all hands to be on deck in the fight.

The President spoke at the launching of a book “One Step Ahead: Life of a Spy, Detective and Anti-Graft Czar”, authored by former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri in Abuja.

Represented by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, President Buhari said significant progress had been recorded in the anti-graft war which had also attracted commendations from far and near.

He said: “We must know that corruption is a major challenge of governance and development which we must all seek to eliminate from our system. Our administration’s commitment to eradicating it has been unwavering and we shall unrelentingly pursue its eradication.

“We have made significant progress in loot recovered, leakages blocked and the challenges it posed with arrest and prosecutions made. If the impact has not been too apparent to some observers, it is because of the deep root corruption has taken and extent of the spread before our advent.

“Nevertheless, we have received good report and commendations from home and abroad on our success in fighting corruption. With our steady effort, we have great hopes that corruption will be eliminated in our country.”

The President noted the remarkable career of the author in the police force and in the EFCC, commending her courage to document her experiences.

“Dr. Waziri has had a distinguished career as a police officer, spanning the whole gamut of being a spy and a detective culminating to her appointment as the Chairman of the EFCC. Beyond this, she is a wife and a mother and an epitome career prospect for a hardworking woman; she has put her reflections on the trajectory of her life and career together in the book being presented today. I congratulate her and salute her courage.

“During and after her office, we must note that Waziri has been able to freely express her opinion and defend herself without fear as seen in the book and her comments in the media. This is possible because we are in a democracy. As a system of power and social organization, democracy fosters an environment of openness, transparency and liberty needed to espouse our ideas on virtually  any subject matter under the sun. It gives citizens voice and makes their opinion the base of governance”, he said.

Earlier, the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Dr. Mathew Kukah, while delivering as a guest Speaker in a lecture titled “Is Corruption a Biological Necessity or a Political Invention”, asked Nigerian leaders to show probity and accountability.

He said: “First, the President for example won his elections on the plank that he would fight corruption. We have had such statements like, fighting corruption to a standstill, killing corruption, getting rid of corruption or, the favourite and life changing one, which is,   if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us. All great soundbites, I say. And of course, having been drenched in the cesspool of corruption, only the sadist, the fool would not want to see the pool drenched.

“The philosophical questions however for me are, how do you fight corruption? Who and where is corruption sitting or standing? What tools do you use to fight corruption? How will we know when corruption has been killed? What will its body look like and who will officiate at the funeral of corruption? In other words, will the high priests of the funeral of corruption be those who have wined and dined with it or those who have washed their garments in purity?

“You may find my questions quite irritating because they strike at the root of what we have not thought through but they will also help you understand why corruption has not died, will not die any time soon despite our marksmanship. Here are the reasons why I think corruption will not die so soon.

“I do not for one moment doubt or question the enthusiasm, patriotism and moral probity of those who have sought to fight corruption and are fighting corruption. I am saying that in all of these, like my fever, we are only seeing symptoms. Only a proper diagnosis can begin a process of curing us. And, in my view, we have sought to fight corruption without enough diagnostic effort. And this brings me to the first section of my question, namely, is corruption a biological necessity?”

The Bishop, who was represented at the event by Revered Father Patrick Alukumu from Abuja, however, provoked some thoughts, asking if President Buhari had fulfilled his promise of declaring his own assets public.

Defining corruption

He said: “The next issue is how do we define the corrupt? Who is corrupt? When power is used to shield those at the top, it is one of the worst forms of corruption. Often, those in power can subordinate the apparatus of state to hide their own corruption and leave the poor and ordinary people vulnerable. We create all kinds of fireballs of protections around those who govern us and we call it Immunity. When the politician controls the security agencies and the judiciary, when all these are made to serve the people in power, then we must find another word for defining corruption.

“A man of integrity and piety and we can call him incorruptible. However, what happens if the thief pays his rent, sponsors his political career, or donates proceeds from his or her theft indirectly to the friends, family and cronies of those in power? Is the canvass of their piety or integrity and honour wide enough to cover the stench of corruption or do we only see the agent of corruption?

“On a final note, let me ask two or three questions that I have heard being asked. First, is it in the Law that the Chairman of EFCC must be from the Police Force and a Muslim from Northern Nigeria? Two, people have asked, how is it that the President used Justice Onnoghen’s Asset Declaration form to prove his corruption and proceed to sack him, yet the President himself has not publicly declared his own assets as he promised   during his campaigns? Thirdly, why has Mr. Magu not been confirmed as EFCC Chairman and what is the state of the trial of those who attempted to kill him in December, 2017?   Thank you for your kind attention.”

Kukah’s questions, however, drew the ire of the Presidency who vehemently refuted claims that President Buhari had at any point in time during his electioneering campaigns in 2015 and 2019 promised to make public declaration of his personal assets.

The Presidency rather stated that the President has assured Nigerians of doing what the constitution required.

The rebuttal emanated from the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina who reviewed the book.

Taking the podium after Kukah, Adesina before discharging his assignment opted to correct the impression generated by the submissions.

He said President Buhari never promised to make public declaration of his assets but to follow the constitution, challenging Kukah to come up with his evidence.

The Presidential spokesman recalled that on his first day on the job after his appointment, he posed the same question to the president and other officials of government in a private meeting but got an answer that there was never a promise to make a public declaration of the president’s assets.

He said: “In a private meeting with the President, one of the first questions I asked him was, this promise about public declaration of assets, when are you doing it and then he asked me, can you please show me where that promise was ever made and lo and behold, we searched everywhere, there was no place where the president ever said he will do a public declaration. And he told me what does the law require? The law requires you to declare your assets and that is what I will do. And yet since that year (2015), they keep repeating it that he promised a public declaration.

“So, sir, can you tell Bishop Kukah that I challenge him to produce that promise by the President because the President stands on it till tomorrow that he never promised public declaration. In 2015, he made his assets public. In 2019, he has declared that he has chosen not to make public. He has not broken any law. So, let’s not continue to repeat what is untrue, what is an inexactitude. That’s my message to Bishop Kukah.”

In her welcome address, the author and former chairman of EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri revealed that assassination attempts were made on her life in the course of her assignment as an anti-graft Czar.

She said she also had face-off and courted enemies from local and foreign shores.

She noted that she lost her husband, Senator Waziri and her daughter within one year after leaving office with no condolences from her traducers.

According to her, the reason for writing the book was not principally to respond to distortions and half truths peddled against her person while in office but to properly situate facts and issues.

“I had been so grossly maligned not many people knew who the real Farida Waziri is. Fabrications from malicious quarters had created a distorted perception of my persona. When you read One Step Ahead, it will be easy to see the lies of the past for what they are. I have no doubt that after reading the book, you will be able to separate facts from fiction and let go of those mythologies.

“From my officialdom, I have had vantage views of history, first-person experience of events as they happened. My experiences might be personal and subjective, they are nonetheless and inevitably parts of the larger history of Nigeria. Hence, those accounts of my life are part and parcel of the Nigerian narrative.

“So, here today, we are going to unveil the true picture of Farida Waziri. It is the story of a young girl’s journey through life, from being a Catholic girl to a Muslim; from being born of a Tiv family in Benue to becoming a matriarch in Tangale family from Gombe; from a police officer who was the best recruit in 1967 to becoming Assistant Inspector General of Police, who also became a lawyer. Along the way, there were assassination attempts, face-off with cranks and officials in foreign lands, thrust and parry with criminals and personal tragedies of losing loved ones, particularly having lost my beloved husband and daughter within a period of one year, yet my traducers did not think they should sympathize. Some of them mocked me. I thought they wanted to add to my pain but I refused to be broken down because I know that it is only a jerk that can make fun of the inevitability of life such as old age, illness, death, tragedies, no sensible person can deal with it. I kept my head high and today I am standing before you.

“I have written this book, not as a rejoinder to past polemics or false accusations and fabrications against my personality by individuals, groups or institutions. I have simply put the story of my life together to fill some gaps in the history of the country.”

Chairman of the occasion and former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd) in his remarks described Waziri as a courageous anti-graft czar who became famous with her battle against advanced fee fraud, known as ‘419.’

“I had wondered why and how Farida thought of me as Chairman for her book launch. May be, she recalled the memory of her attachment to us, as my wife’s police ADC/Security aide. We toured the country/regions and states together and sometimes along with her colleague, Miss. Kemi Olagbegi. I recall they were very punctual, hardworking and dutiful. We saw signs that they will go far in their profession.

“And so, when our term ended, from all accounts, she continued to grow and mature in her work and received commendation and recognition. She rose through the rank to the enviable rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and Head Chair of EFCC before retiring from the police force. Apart from her “spying” job, that is what the CID, special branch do in addition to security intelligence duties and assignments, she was renowned for her fight against Fraud-419 and other crimes”, he said.

First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari who was represented by the wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo said the book will be an inspiration to many especially the girl child.

According to her, it takes discipline to write a book and pass on to generations to read.

Speaking to journalists, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu said more books will be opened against suspects and fraudsters in the country.

“Everybody should be able to put down memories. It helps the younger ones. When you read such books, it gives you values, helps you to move forward.

“We will open fire on corruption. Whether Acting or no, the fight against corruption must go on. We just came back from “Silencing the guns” from the African Union”, we will open fire against corruption and illicit financial frauds.”

The book launch was attended by former First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua, a host of former and serving ministers among other dignitaries.

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