By Soni Daniel, Clifford Ndujihe and Dapo Akinrefon
Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has lampooned the ongoing anti-graft war being waged by President Muhammadu Buhari as a mere media show, saying there is more corruption in Nigeria now than under his administration.
He claimed that he handed over a $500 billion, vibrant economy to President Buhari and lamented that his successor plunged the economy into recession through de-marketing of the country and turned round to blame it on alleged mindless looting of the country by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, administration he succeeded.
However in an email to Vanguard last night, Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, dismissed the former president’s claims as untenable because it “was not backed by any trace of evidence.” He further asserted that the Buhari administration has driven corruption aground.
Convinced that “he served Nigeria well’, Dr. Jonathan said there was an attempt by President Buhari’s administration to erase his achievements through misrepresentations, adding that his administration was neither clueless nor inept as claimed by critics.
These are part of excerpts from Dr Jonathan’s new book: “My Transition Hours,” which was launched in Abuja, on Tuesday.
Some government officials could not react to Jonathan’s assertions yesterday. A minister, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he had better things to do than to respond to Jonathan’s claims, which he said were meant to confuse Nigerians. He directed Vanguard to talk to another senior minister on the issue.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said he was yet to read the book and could not make any comment.
“I have not read the book and so, I cannot make any comment. When I have gone through the book, I will make an official comment,” he said.
Also, National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu, declined comments, saying “when Jonathan talks, it is government to government. I have not read the book and even if I have read the book, it is not talking about APC as a party.”
However, the PDP concurred with Jonathan, saying that the former president’s views reflected what was happening now.
Jonathan’s claims untenable — Malami
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, dismissed Jonathan’s claims of Nigeria being more corrupt under President Buhari as untenable because the claim was not backed by any trace of evidence.
According to him, available facts on the ground had proved that corruption was seriously decreasing in the country because of the robust policies and actions taken by the Buhari administration.
Malami, in a mail to Vanguard, last night, said that even corrupt persons in Nigeria are feeling the heat of the anti-corruption drive by the Buhari administration and are very uncomfortable to continue with graft.
The minister said there was no way corruption could be growing under Buhari, given the stringent measures put in place.
His words: “The anti-corruption war in many countries in the world is not restricted to prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators, but importantly also deals with repatriation and recovery of stolen assets for the benefit of the populace as victims of corruption. Hence legislation in this regard should naturally not be restricted to criminal prosecution.
“This administration had realized the importance of using civil methods of assets forfeiture and recovery especially as it imposes a lesser burden of proof on the part of government and makes it easier to recover stolen assets.”
The minister boasted that as proof of the effectiveness of the anti-corruption war being waged by the Buhari administration, N279 billion and huge assets had been recovered from corrupt elements in the country within a period of three years.
“Apart from these efforts made locally to improve its successes in the fight against corruption through the enactment of enhanced legislation, the Federal Government had taken the anti-graft war to other jurisdictions.
“The Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation has recovered the sums of N59 billion and $385.4 million locally. The total sums recovered by the Ministry during the reporting period are $779,495,900.00 and N59,163,029,949.46respectively. It may interest you to know that as at 29th May, 2015, the balance in the recovery account of the FGN stood at N19,524,490,207.
“This balance has increased (due to the recovery efforts of this administration) from N19.5 billion to N279 billion as at 22nd November, 2017. This represents an increase of 1,329%,” Malami boasted.
Jonathan right on graft in Buhari’s govt- PDP
Reacting to Jonathan’s comments yesterday, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the former president stated the obvious and urged the National Assembly to open the books of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, to “unravel the shady practices going on in the Buhari-led administration.”
He said: “Every Nigerian knows that the APC-led government of Buhari is the most corrupt in the history of our nation. It is an open secret that despite their claims, a lot of stealing is going on in this government.
“So, we are calling on the National Assembly to do a forensic audit of the books of the MDAs to unearth the corruption they have been perpetrating in the past three and a half years.
“This government is not only clueless but also has man insatiable appetite for corruption. We thank our amiable leader, statesman and global icon, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for stating the obvious.”
I never said stealing is not corruption
He also responded to the infamous claim that he tended to downplay raging corruption in his administration by boldly claiming that ‘stealing is not corruption.’
He wrote: “It is important to note that despite the many sensational stories, dramatic arrests, seizures and accusations, many of them false, since I left office, the fact remains that Nigeria has not made any improvement on the TI Corruption Perception Index since 2014.
“In fact, the 2017 CPI released in 2018 by TI places Nigeria as number 148, a retrogression in which the nation went 12 places backward. In other words, Nigeria is more corrupt in 2017 than it was when I handed over to Buhari administration in 2015.
“Some people may be misled with smoke and mirrors but the TI Corruption Perception Index relies on unsentimental facts and figures.”
Scores his administration high on anti-corruption fight
Jonathan hailed the policies and measures his administration conceived and implemented to check corruption and financial leakages and raised government revenue during his time.
He pointed to the introduction of the Electronic Wallet Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, which effectively checkmated fertilizer scam and saved the country up to $192 million in the first year of its application in 2012.
He also praised his administration for the development and implementation of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, which enabled the government to flush out 50,000 ghost federal workers and saved the country N15 billion monthly.
Jonathan claimed that it was through the effective implementation of the anti-corruption measures by his administration that brought positive results to Nigeria in 2014 and made it to receive the best ever ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, which ranked Nigeria 136th out of the 144 countries ranked.
“This was an improvement from the nation’s previous position of 144th in 2013, 139th in 2012 and 143rd in 2011,” Jonathan noted.
Jonathan clarified that he never said that stealing was not corruption, adding that what he actually said and meant was twisted out of context by his enemies just to score political mileage and bring down his administration.
“They claim that I once said that ‘stealing is not corruption’. This is not true. Following the constant stigmatisation of Nigeria as corrupt, I invited the leadership of the legislature and the judiciary to a meeting.
“In attendance were the Senate President and his deputy, Speaker of the House of Representatives, his deputy, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and six states’ Chief Judges from the six geopolitical zones.
“Also invited were heads of the two anti-corruption agencies, viz: the chairman of the EFCC and the ICPC and I presided over the meeting.
“My thinking was that the head of the executive arm of government alone could not effectively eradicate the scourge of corruption, hence the need for that meeting. I personally appealed to them and argued that an all-inclusive approach could bring about tangible successes in the anti-corruption fight.
“The judiciary, the legislature and the executive arms of government needed to join forces if we were to end the theft of public resources and stop corruption.”
Jonathan said it was on the strength of his presentation that the former CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, acknowledged that he was of the same opinion.
According to Jonathan, the CJN told him that he had also discovered, after going through case files in the Supreme Court ,nearly all cases, which should have been properly labelled as ‘crimes of stealing’ and the individuals involved charged as such, were simply tagged by the prosecutors as ‘corruption.’
He continued: “It was on the strength of the CJN’s submission that I expounded to say that we should stop calling a spade an agricultural implement. Corruption does not fully capture the act of stealing. A person can indeed be corrupt without stealing a dime.
“Those who are incapable of comprehending this elevated thought and the mischievous crowd, go about till date, that I said ‘stealing is not corruption’. They never bothered to even check the context in which I spoke. If you ask many of those clinging to that falsehood and mouthing the malicious misrepresentation, to quote where I said it, they will tell you ‘they only heard.’
“Let me say categorically that I have never said that stealing is good and that people should steal; neither did the CJN. Stealing is stealing ad instead of calling it corruption, let us call the thief by his proper name and not use a blanket word like corruption.
He argues: “Corruption encompasses many things.” Quoting Transparency International, Jonathan said: “Corruption is defined as the ‘abuse of entrusted power for private gain. We must not lump everything together and say stealing is corruption. We must isolate stealing and make it as plain as day because Nigerians hate thieves. I abhor jungle justice, but we have witnessed Nigerians show their hatred for suspected thieves by burning them alive.”
I handed over $500 billion GDP, vibrant economy to Buhari in 2015
Still on his achievements, Jonathan boasted that he still holds his head high, having governed the country very well and left indelible marks, especially a buoyant economy with an unprecedented Gross Domestic Product, GDP of $500 billion.
Jonathan said he was particularly proud that he achieved the milestones despite inheriting a country that buffeted by militancy in the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East coupled with a weak economic base.
In spite of the drawbacks, the former president said he assembled the best crop of Nigerians from all parts of the world to run the government and succeeded in making Nigeria the world’s fourth fastest-growing economy and the largest in Africa.
His words: “I fought insurgency, the worst security challenge in the history of the nation except the civil war. Even with that, we professionally managed and grew our economy to become the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of over $500 billion. All my cabinet ministers, government officials and the private sector worked in synergy to build an economy with well-established strong fundamentals. Nigerians were not under threat by their government. We became the fourth fastest growing economy in the world with an average growth rate of over 6%.
“That was the economy we handed over to the Buhari administration. We had something good to offer to Nigerians. We knew what to do to keep our country afloat even in difficult circumstances. In tough and in good times, it was our duty to keep hopes of citizens of Nigeria alive and we were always conscious not to send negative signals against Nigeria and Nigerians to the rest of the world.”
Jonathan lamented that shortly after leaving office, the Buhari government allowed the economy to go into recession by scaring away investors through uncouth pronouncements by the president at home and abroad.
Buhari’s govt de-markets Nigeria at home and abroad
He said: “As leaders of Nigeria, we traveled far and wide. We marketed our abundant natural and human capacity to foreign investors. We wanted them to invest in the most populous nation in Africa that had within its borders, immense talents, resources and investment opportunities. It paid off because in no time, Nigeria then became number one investment destination in Africa, earning the highest in foreign direct investment.”
Although he did not mention Buhari by name, Jonathan accused his administration of de-marketing Nigeria and causing the economy to slip into recession and creating hardship for Nigerians, thereby erasing the gains made by his government.
He said: “Rather than forge a coalition and build on the momentum we had gathered when they eventually took office, they went on a persecution spree and vengeance mission. That the country slipped into recession soon after we left office was a self-inflicted injury caused by misplaced priorities. The narrative of inheriting empty treasury is a blatant lie.
“Also, the excuse of the collapse of world crude prices does not hold water. This is because the Fourth Republic took off in 1999 with crude oil selling for less than $20 per barrel and a GDP growth at 0.58%, according to National Bureau of Statistics figures. Yet the economy maintained a steady growth from that year, peaking at 15.33% in 2002 when the average crude oil price was about $25. It is also instructive that the oil and gas sector constitute about 11% of our GDP. There had to be a wider causative factor than just the fall in world crude prices.
Recession caused by Buhari’s govt, not mindless looting by PDP
“It also amounts to standing facts on their heads to continuously claim that recession was caused by so-called mindless looting. The truth is that the opposition, in a bid to undo our government, became its own undoing when it got to power, because of the burden of justifying deliberate misrepresentations.
“There is wisdom in the saying that if you win a prize and get the crown, don’t go around destroying the person who previously held that prize; it will lose its value. Even after winning the election and forming the government at the centre, the blame game continued.
“When two brothers fight to death, it is the neighbour that inherits their father’s wealth. And we have seen neighbouring nations like the Republic of Benin and Ghana reaping from the capital flight out of Nigeria.
“You should never try to slander your political opponents by destroying your country’s economy. Capital flight intensified and companies started laying off staff. In all these, I hope a lesson would be learnt. 1f you embark on digging a hole for your enemy; you better make it shallow, because you might end up in the hole yourself. How do you attract investors you already repelled through your utterances? Investors are an ultra-sensitive lot. Money runs away from unstable societies.
Attacks on my ministers, aides and family members
“Most painful have been the attacks on my ministers, aides and associates and even members of my family. There is an attempt to erase our legacy from history. The good thing is that the unending barrage of attacks, deliberate misinformation and programmed media smear campaigns have failed to sway the opinion of those with a clear view of our beliefs, efforts and achievements.
“There are millions of Nigerians and others around the world who are still impressed with our modest achievements in consolidating democracy and growing the nation’s economy. They will continue to serve as my strength and encouragement.
“Sometimes I laugh when certain propagandists attempt to stand logic on its head by maligning my administration as one bereft of ideas and ‘clueless’. In assessing my administration, it is best to focus on facts. I cannot assess myself. I leave that to history.
“But I can assess my cabinet and I make bold to say that never in the history of Nigeria, till date, has the nation had such a star-studded cabinet full of achievers and people who got to the top of their chosen fields by merit.
“Just consider that my Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammed Ali Pate, is now a professor at America’s Duke University, as well as a Senior Adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation based in Washington DC. My Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, is now the President of the African Development Bank.
“My Co-ordinating Minister, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, is the chairperson of the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the African Risk Capacity (ARC). She also sits on the board of Twitter and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, just as she is a Senior Adviser at Lazard and a Director at Standard Chartered Plc in the United Kingdom, amongst others.
“My Minister of Communication Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, is currently Chairperson of Custodian and Allied Insurance Limited as well as the Global Alliance for Affordable Internet. And it is not just members of my cabinet. Others who served with me in different capacities are also soaring on the world stage.
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“A good example is Ms Arunma Oteh, who I appointed the Director-General of the Securities andExchange Commission. Under her steady and skillful direction, Nigeria’s equity market grew in geometric proportions, and by the time I left office in 2015 the market had tripled in size to $150 billion in value. Two months after I left office, Ms. Oteh was appointed a Vice President and Treasurer at the World Bank.
“These are reputable individuals who served their country meritoriously and who, on the strength of their performance as ministers in my government, are now waxing stronger and valiantly on the world stage with only the sky as their limit.
“With such personalities on my cabinet, no one can factually say we were ‘clueless’ or inept. The evidence of performance is simply overwhelming. We gave Nigeria an impressive and steady Gross Domestic Product growth rate at 6.7% per annum. We were officially cited as the third fastest growing economy in the world by CNN Money in 2014.”
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