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Dear PMB, Fighting Corruption is Not a Fiscal Responsibility
January 18, 2016

Dear PMB, Fighting Corruption is Not a Fiscal Responsibility



One of the most annoying responses we get from the handlers of President Buhari in recent time is that the president is taking his time to fight corruption, so therefore the economy should wait. Ridiculous as this may sound, it is the new line of defense in Nigeria’s political discourse. Eight months in and the only thing our President has done is fight corruption!
First, in his bid to recruit incorruptible saints as technocrats, we spent three months without a cabinet, only for the technocrats to become the same people we knew; all in the bid of avoiding corruption. As if that is not enough, President Buhari has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to carry out certain embarrassing and ridiculous directives, all in the name of fighting corruption. The President has vowed to disregard unfavorable court orders; all in the name of fighting corruption. Despite all the cacophony of ‘anti-corruption’ propaganda, eight months after, not even a single case has been won against corruption. One would begin to wonder, since when has it become the fiscal responsibility of Mr. President to fight corruption when there are agencies specifically designed to do just that?
By the way, where in our constitution can we find ‘Fighting Corruption’ as a fiscal responsibility either on the exclusive, concurrent or residual list? Why should fighting corruption be an achievement by a government when it is in fact supposed to be a responsibility of a specific arm of government?  
The duties of the Federal Government of Nigeria are clearly spelt out in the federal system; policy making, defence, foreign policy, banking, immigration, general economic planning, infrastructural development, etc. Today we have a government that has abysmally abandoned its true fiscal responsibility and is craftily using the slogan of ‘anti-corruption’ as a justification for its failure in carrying out its true economic responsibilities. The Naira has broken a three decade record, the 2016 budget is threatened by sources of funding, Boko Haram still attacks, the Chibok girls are yet to be found, federal contractors are abandoning sites, the stocks keep dropping, foreign investors remain uncertain, salaries are being owed, Nigeria’s name has disappeared from the list of world emerging economies, etc. Yet when you ask Mr. President about what he has done, what you hear is ‘we are fighting corruption’. This is becoming unbearable.
There are professional ways to fight corruption without making a breaking news out of it. This was exemplified by the previous government. The Goodluck Jonathan government fought corruption using technology and professionalism in several cases. First, Jonathan supported and funded the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) to check identity fraud corruption, unlike the governments before him. Jonathan supported the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) to checkmate ‘ghost workers’ corruption, launched the Treasury Single Account (TSA) to checkmate government bureaucratic corruption, launched the Bank Verification Number (BVN) to checkmate money laundering corruption, supported card readers to checkmate electoral fraud corruption, presided over the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) activities to checkmate procurement fraud corruption, etc. Although, due to personal selfish political reasons, he later chose to deliberately slow down the implementation processes of these innovations as a way of maintaining political stability; an action which became one of his greatest political weaknesses. Despite the adjudgment of his government as being grossly corrupt, Jonathan provided anti-corruption solutions using technology and professionalism and without creating political enmity through the process. He also got Nigeria’s name on the list of the fastest growing economy in the world.
Today we have President Buhari and we are asking, what has President Buhari really done in genuinely fighting corruption other than create political division, ruin the economy, raise ethnic tensions and launch media propaganda, all in a primitive and confrontational manner capable of heating up the fragile state of the country.
Again, I ask, what has President Buhari really done differently in tackling systematic corruption in Nigeria that previous governments before him did not do? The EFCC as it is presently constituted is a defective reactive institution incapable of reducing corruption. What the EFCC and Mr. President can do is to go after those who have already stolen public funds. What Nigeria needs is a proactive administrative mechanism that actually stops people from stealing, and not an institution that goes after them when they have already stolen. Unfortunately, the present structure of Nigeria’s federalism is incapable of providing such proactive solutions because Nigeria itself is built on a corrupt, skewed and irreconcilable foundation that only thrives on corruption.
Today, we have a President Buhari and his team of saintly technocrats who have neither proffered any ingenious new idea but are simply leveraging on the existing efforts. Yet, the rhetoric is deafening. Nigeria now so celebrate mediocrity to the extent that they see the arrest, detention and unfair prosecution of suspects in corruption cases as an achievement worth accrediting to President Buhari. How did we get here?
One thing all Nigerians must come to understand is that corruption as it has become in Nigeria is an inevitable byproduct of our defective present system of federalism. Just the way it is natural for goats to eat yam, so is it normal and even legal for Nigerian politicians to steal money under our present skewed ‘feeding bottle’ structure of government. The present style of Nigeria’s federalism is corruption legalized. Nigeria itself is corruption and if you must fight corruption, you must first discard this  skewed, flawed, corrupt, unitary ‘feeding bottle’ federalism that we currently practice and agree to restructure Nigeria into a competitive, efficient, productive, competitive, and locally driven True Fiscal Federalism. Only when President Buhari does this can we then know that he genuinely wishes to fight corruption and put Nigeria on the path to greatness. By the way, what can President Buhari do in the states and local governments where over 70% of the real corruption takes place? Obviously nothing. As long as we continue with the monthly ritual of sharing oil money at Abuja to lazy, redundant, inefficient and unproductive politicians and their states, we cannot fight corruption in Nigeria! We cannot even reduce it, we can only decide whose turn is it to benefit from corruption. This is simply how we roll in Nigeria under our present defective system.
In Nigeria, the manner in which politicians (including President Buhari) win election is corrupt. How the federal government awards contracts, how they decide on who and which contract should be paid for, how to manipulate revenue allocations to shortchange certain states, how they use revenues generated in the beer (alcohol) industry to fund development in Sharia states, how they chose to be selective in probing, lopsided political appointments, how the money hardworking Lagosians and Lagos state generate is shared to people in the another state, etc. All these issues are inevitable corruptions arising  from our skewed system of federalism and of which President Buhari is a major beneficiary, just like the leaders before him.
How do we really change things in Nigeria and put an end to systematic corruption?
First, in a country like Nigeria, you cannot fight corruption by relying on the self-restraint of the leaders. We cannot rely alone on the personal integrity of President Buhari to fight corruption. We must establish some sort of administrative constraints on the Nigerian officials to the extent that even if we mistakenly elect a crafty thief to become our leader, he will be unable to manifest his ‘skill’ due to the administrative constraints we have built in our institutions. In order for us to do this and like I have said before, we must first, discard this skewed, flawed, corrupt, unitary ‘feeding bottle’ federalism that we currently practice in Nigeria and agree to restructure Nigeria into a competitive, efficient, productive, competitive, and locally driven True Fiscal Federalism.
What Nigeria truly needs right now is True Fiscal Federalism and not EFCC, APC, PDP, INEC or even a national Budget. Restructure Nigeria and you might have used one stone to kill twenty birds! True Fiscal Federalism will eliminate corruption, promote regional integration, reduce ethnic tension and secession demands, unite Nigerians, promote development and put Nigeria on the path to greatness once again.
If the funds recovered from the eight month ‘Fighting Corruption’ Project can be used to fund at least 10% of the 2016 budget, then President Buhari should continue with the project, but if not, then he should pay more attention to sourcing for revenues to fund the 2016 budget and fixing the entire economy.  
The EFCC is only doing its job and it is expected that President Buhari should do his own job by focusing on supervising and saving the Nigerian economy from possible collapse. Nigeria urgently needs diversification and fighting corruption on a daily basis through the media does not diversify the economy.
Tony Osborg (@TonyOsborgwww.tonyosborg.com ) writes from Kano City, Nigeria.

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