Still on the matter: Pre-Jonathan administrations need to be investigated for corruption too

Earlier this week, an exclusive report by Premium Times accused at least two of Nigeria’s past presidents, including Goodluck Jonathan of mis-appropriation of government funds. According to the report, former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and late Umaru Musa Yar-adua, allegedly gave out bleary loans from Nigeria’s reserve accounts to different government agencies and African countries, all off the record. Countries like Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe were beneficiaries of Nigeria’s generosity as the two nations received $40 million and $5 million respectively from  Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004.

There were also loans granted for subscription to the Islamic Development Bank, several loans to the Ministry of Power and others to the Nigerian Army. Some of these government departments have not justified receiving these large sums of money and can’t even pay back the loans, forcing the Ministry of Finance to write off some of these debts and ultimately resulting in a loss to the government and the country.

This report also brings up the question of just how much past administrations need to be held responsible for the present economic state of the country, as well as the need to extend the current anti-corruption war past the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Upon his resumption in office, President Muhammadu Buhari started a war on corruption in Nigeria’s public sector, using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). However, the immediate past administration is clearly the major focus of this war, with quite a number of high ranking government officials being arrested and investigated by the anti-graft body.

Many have claimed that Buhari is not obliged to investigate corruption in pre-Jonathan administrations since Jonathan passed the baton to him. However, this seems to be a flawed notion, especially as it has become apparent that pre-Jonathan administrations had shirked their responsibilities of investigating corruption. How would the country hold top officials in those administrations accountable, especially as they may feel that they have gotten away with acts of corruption? Is the executive wary of opening up a can of worms?

According to reports, when President Buhari began his war on corruption last year, he was requested to open investigations into the Haliburton bribery scandal. He was also asked to probe the allocation of oil wells to private citizens. But these cases will indict past Nigerian leaders, even as far back as the military era. This reason is, perhaps, why Buhari has been reluctant to start investigations into these cases, especially as he might be roped in as well, being a former petroleum minister and former military Head of State.

If President Buhari wants his fight against corruption to stand the test of time, he clearly needs to extend the fight to pre-Jonathan administrations, or at least create groundwork that will enable subsequent presidents investigate corruption cases in these administrations. Nigeria needs to move past sentiments and be pragmatic.

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