By Sam Amadi
There is nothing better than due process and the rule of law for the stability of society. They are better than charism and even spartan lifestyle. Buhari’s administration is now officially the most corrupt in the history of modern Nigeria. This is the administration of a man who built all his reputation on anti-corruption. What happened? You will get the answer if you consider the story of the current Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.
At the early months of the Buhari administration, I was still the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). Ahmed Idris was newly appointed the Accountant General of the Federation. One day I got a summon for an urgent and important meeting of some Chief Executives with the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. I made inquiry about the meeting and understood that it was about mortgage funds placed with Aso Saving Limited. The owner of the company then, Tunde Ayeni, was a well known supporter and friend of President Jonathan and the PDP. The hostile takeover of government by APC meant onslaught against anyone who had anything to do with PDP. Those of us who were appointed by PDP government were viewed as thieves. The new administration so much politicized corruption that it spent over a year not fully taking over the federal bureaucracy and not robustly governing because of resentment against PDP appointees.
I prepared for the meeting and took all necessary documents to prove that every decision I took as NERC Chairman was strictly in compliance with the law and in the most transparent and honest manner. NERC had won awards for transparency in procurement and regulation, so I wanted to prove these were not flukes. So, I got ready for the showdown.
At the meeting were the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele; the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and other heads of accountability institutions and government agencies. The meeting was chaired by the Vice President, who accused the Chief Executives of misconduct by placing public funds in Aso Saving, a distressing company, and thereby imperiling those funds.
Before the meeting, the CBN had issued some kind of instruction for funds not to be placed in the bank and firm implementation of the Single Treasury Account policy. The fact is that partly because of the aggression of the new government against Ayeni, there was some kind of run against the mortgage company.
As part of the indictment, the Accountant General was vehement that it is contrary to the law for anyone to open any account in a mortgage bank, and anyone who did so must be prosecuted for opening an account without the approval of the AGF. He vowed that his agency did not give approval to any agency to open accounts in such entities. The Governor of the Central Bank added to the indictment, by arguing that mortgage funds ought to go to the commercial banks and that the CBN does not recommend such mortgage institutions like Aso Savings, because they are not stable. Everyone of these officials pandered to the bloodletting of the Buhari administration.
I had to respond. First I showed with documents that the decision to engage Aso Saving as a mortgage firm had nothing to do with politics or corruption. We advertised and four mortgage companies applied and were shortlisted. To keep to the highest standard of workplace democracy and comply with procurement laws, I asked all staff to vote for the best firm. Aso Savings won. I later wrote to the Governor of CBN to determine the liquidity and prudential qualities of Aso Saving. The CBN wrote back to say Aso Savings have 40% of the market and is number one in the industry. We later wrote for the Accountant General of the Federation for approval to open an account, and it gave the approval. I reprimanded the Governor of CBN and the AGF for encouraging the bloodletting and not being courageous to say that these decisions were right decisions. I challenged the Governor of CBN on the argument that mortgage institutions should not hold mortgage funds of public agency. I showed him that it is mortgage institutions and not commercial banks that understand the mortgage market better and that all over the world they are used for mortgage transactions. Why should we vilify appointees of previous government who showed sound judgement. At that point the Vice President calmed me down and said I should not bother much since NERC followed all the necessary due processes and obtained all necessary approvals.
After the meeting, no other action was taken on the matter. Or at least, no one invited NERC again. But, what surprised me most was that high ranking public officers could play dead-brain because of the politics of corruption. When I showed the AGF the approval by his office, all he could say is that it was not him who did that and he would review whether the letter was original. Of course he knew it was original and the previous AGF issued it properly. But everyone had to key into the mood of pretending to be holy. The point is that these corrupt officials hid themselves in praise-singing and the Buhari cult-following to pretend they were committed to fighting corruption. All that mattered to them was the political bloodletting, not reorganizing government to reduce graft. It is not a surprise to me to learn that the man who was an inquisitor against us that day is arrested and detained for massive corruption. It was evident to me that day that his holiness posture was just a pretense.
It is the greatest irony that under a regime that clamped many PDP politicians into jail for corruption, its ultimate underwriter of probity and accountability is being held for massive corruption beyond what the administration has accused officials of the previous government. It betrays deep seated lack of understanding of the pathology and dynamics of corruption in Nigeria that the Buhari administration has not just failed in its anti corruption war, but has complicated and compounded corruption in Nigeria.
Sitting that day listening to the top officials of this administration goof about, looking for who to entrap in their bloody political war, I knew that a day like this will come when the hunter becomes the hunted.
Amadi is a former Chairman/Chief Executive, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).