Presidency: Anti-corruption War at Historic Crossroads

Garba Shehu

•Says attacks on Buhari unwarranted

By Omololu Ogunmade

The presidency yesterday pushed back criticisms that the anti-corruption war was flagging due to the recent allegations of graft against some top government officials.

It said contrary to the belief of critics, the anti-graft war was at historic crossroads and called on all Nigerians to join hands together to collectively remedy the trend.

Reacting to a range of editorial comments at the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari was not in charge of his government in view of recent events involving allegations and counter allegations of corruption by some government officials without any seeming decisive expression or action by the president, the presidency said Buhari would not be distracted by unfounded attacks.

“The war against corruption is today at historic crossroads. This is the time all Nigerians should stand together to roll it back. President Buhari is determined not to be diverted by unfounded attacks, neither would he compromise the sacred mandate of Nigerians. He is determined to get justice for Nigerians on all these corruption cases being pursued,” it stated.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said the Buhari government did not deserve the criticisms against it in the media over issues of corruption because the president’s sense of probity remained intact.

Shehu who said Nigerians’ perception about the president remained the same, described the criticisms as disinformation.

He added that the decision of the government to first investigate the allegations against individuals in affected institutions was not a sign of weakness or an expression of vacuum in leadership but only complying with procedure on how allegations should be handled.

Shehu said: “President Buhari’s integrity, uprightness and probity are intact and well known. Let us remind these so-called editorial writers that ECOWAS, Africa Union and the international community at large recognised President Buhari as Champion of the Anti-Corruption fight in Africa.

“Nigerians are convinced that he is honest. They voted for him as president against the background of corruption, public policy paralysis and growing menace of terrorists threatening to take over a sizable portion of the nation’s territory. In his five years in office, there is not a single charge of corruption against his person.

“As the leader of the country, President Buhari fully understands and bears the full weight of the solemn oaths he swore to defend the nation’s constitution, its citizens and territory. Disinformation is not a viable option for opposition.

“The Buhari government has done nothing to warrant these criticisms. Under our laws, you are innocent until proven guilty: Investigation, trial then conviction. Not the other way round. To carry out investigations before condemnation or conviction should not be misconstrued as a weakness or a vacuum in leadership.

“The fact that these baseless and appallingly mischievous attacks can freely be aired is itself evidence of the right to freedom of expression prevailing in the country today.

“Whether it is Ibrahim Magu, Godswill Akpabio, NDDC, NSITF and the others, Nigerians are bound to hold differing opinions, write letters, opinion columns, editorials and even stage lawful protests.

“What is sometimes worrisome is that several of these comments, disguised as objective criticisms, are merely speaking the language of the opposition-the people who ruined the country during their 16 years of corruption on an industrial scale.”

“These detractors pick up isolated issues like the ones in the EFCC, NDDC, and incidents of crime and corruption, which have been with the country for years, and without any serious effort to uncover them, paint them a phenomena orchestrated and happening because President Buhari’s administration has decided to pursue cases of suspected wrongdoing in the anti-corruption agency, pension funds, NDDC and other government agencies.

“But the government was the first to point out the obvious embarrassment that potential acts of wrongdoing by the EFCC leadership would cause the administration. The question to ask is: did they expect the president to draw a curtain over these suspected scandals by not ordering audits and investigations? And for them to turn around to accuse him of a cover up?

“To do a cover up and not order audits and investigations as the president did would amount to a historic betrayal of the mandate and the faith placed in him by the Nigerian people,” the statement added.