Nigeria’s Buhari launches anticipated anti-graft war

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari is expanding his anti-graft to cover the civil service, prompting directives to ministries and departments to provide answers to audit queries within 30 days.
The development has created anxiety in the ministries, and particularly in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which features negatively in the auditor-general’s report.
The oil sector industry, where President Buhari held the position of oil minister in the past, has been under scrutiny since his inauguration on May 29.The president further directed that henceforth, all audit queries must be answered within 24 hours.
Malam Garba Shehu, a special assistant to Buhari, said unanswered audit queries will pique the president.
“The orders followed the president’s displeasure on hearing that audit queries remained unanswered for long periods, sometimes running into years, under previous administrations,” he said in a statement in Abuja.
“The era of impunity is gone. The president is taking the war on corruption to the civil service,’’ he added.
The focus on the civil service has been prompted by the lavish lifestyles of high and middle-level civil servants.
Although salaries are generally poor, many civil servants in the federal government service live large, owning spurious funds and choice property.
The highest paid civil servants, the permanent secretaries, who are not more than 32 at the federal level, earn just a little more than $3,000 a month and their immediate subordinates, the directors, take home less than $1,600.
But the lifestyle in the highly expensive capital Abuja has posed a big problem to the new administration and President Buhari believes that the war against graft must not be on paper but has to start with civil servants.
The president had earlier mandated the anti-graft agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), to investigate ownership of choice properties in Abuja and beyond.
More than six ex-governors and their cronies have been arraigned before courts on various corruption charges.
Also, the wife of the Senate president, Mrs Toyin Saraki, has been summoned by the EFCC to answer graft allegations touching on when her husband served as governor of Kwara State.
The EFCC says that state funds were funnelled into accounts she controlled through a non-governmental organisation she headed.
Oil thieves, including suspect former ministers and some prominent individuals, have been put on notice.
President Buhari did not name them, but he spoke of how they plundered Nigeria’s economy by stealing one million barrels of crude oil daily, selling the products overseas and lodging the proceeds into their personal accounts.