Time to prosecute Hon. Gudaji Kazaure

It is no longer news that Hon. Muhammed Gudaji Kazaure, a House of Representatives member representing the Kazaure, Roni, Gwiwa and Yankwashi constituency of Jigawa state, has been trending over some papers he made public and a story that sounded like a tale by moonlight.

The lawmaker is claiming that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him and some other distinguished Nigerians into a secret committee with the mandate to investigate, reconcile and recover all stamp duties, which he said amounted to N89.09 trillion, realised from deductions by banks but was misappropriated.

Neither the Central Bank, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the National Bureau of Statistics nor the president’s economic adviser has put a lie to Hon. Gudaji’s allegation. Not even the vice president who heads the federal government’s economic team said anything about it. No federal government institution has, especially those whose work relates to finance, economy or monetary matters. Only Malam Garba Shehu, who is not CBN’s mouthpiece, an economist or a financial expert, defended Emefiele.

Hon. Gudaji, who Professor Khalifa Dikwa said he “cherished very much because of his patriotism and love for the common good of ordinary Nigerians, brave and honest to a fault, who doesn’t pretend to please any graduate speaker of Queen’s language,” is seen as a comedian. But is he? And should we throw away the baby and the birth water because of our prejudices?

But I am sure such should not be the case because the governed lose confidence in and respect for the government once a public officer is accused of corruption and does nothing about it. They distrust the government in whatever it does and the tendency for them to believe non-state actors more than the government cannot be ruled out. Some of them may believe a brigand more than the government if he tells them their president died a long time ago, and it is a foreigner that is acting like him.

But then, many Nigerians do not believe President Muhammadu Buhari would let such serious accusations just go like that. I am sure he knows about such accusations and how they ought to be handled because he has tasted virulent but false allegations concocted in the past.

In 1977, during his tenure as Federal Commissioner of Petroleum and Natural Resources, he was accused of making away with ₦2.8 billion from the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Midland Bank in the United Kingdom.

Some have been talking about dollars, but it cannot be because then ₦100 was $160. Our revenue was ₦7.7 billion (or $12.2 billion) and the total budget announced by the then Head of State, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, was $13.8 billion (or ₦8.625 billion).

In an interview he granted Premium Times that was published on December 24, 2012, the president said he had no regrets over some of his actions as military head of state. One of them was the media law which was against “embarrassing civil servants”.

He said, “What we did was that you must not embarrass those civil servants. If you have got evidence that somebody was corrupt, the courts were there. Take the evidence to court; the court will not spare whoever it was. But you don’t just go and write embarrassing articles… Those who did it, the editors, the reporters, we jailed them. But we never closed a whole institution, as others did,” he said.

But in 1980, the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari did not tell the duo of pre-eminent social critic, Dr Tai Solarin, and a mechanical engineer of repute, Professor Ayodele Awojobi, “go to court” when they refused to let “the sleeping dogs to lie”, like Hon. Gudaji is today doing by insisting that Buhari, in charge of the NNPC, had soiled his fingers.

He instead set up the Crude Oil Sales Tribunal of Inquiry, headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe, a judge of the Supreme Court who later became the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The tribunal, amongst other things, was to determine if ₦2.8 billion or any other sum of money was missing from the accounts of the NNPC. The Irikefe Tribunal concluded that no proceeds of crude oil sales were missing, or not properly accounted for, even though it noticed some lapses in the NNPC accounts.

That same year, the Senate, presided over by Joseph Wayas, also set up an investigative committee under Dr Olusola Saraki, the Senate Leader, to investigate the issue. Dr Tai Solarin and Professor Ayodele Awojobi came and testified.

While Awojobi went into a long accounting explanation why ₦2.8 billion ought to be missing, Solarin told the Senate that he heard about the missing money in a molue bus! The Senate summoned Obasanjo to come and throw light on the matter, but he declined the invitation.

However, Dr Olusola Saraki led other senators to Obasanjo Farms in Otta, Ogun State, to take his evidence. Obasanjo told them the story of the triumvirate in charge of Nigeria’s money when he was head of government. One was Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Petroleum and chairman of the NNPC Board, Chief R. A. Marinho, the managing director of the corporation and Malam Adamu Ciroma, the governor of the Central Bank. All three, he told the investigators, were competent, patriotic and incorruptible public officers. They were stubborn men of modest taste who guarded the nation’s resources with eagle eyes, and none of them was associated with great wealth or expensive taste. For Malam Adamu Ciroma, it was said that a worried subordinate had written to higher authorities asking that the three-year-old official car of the CBN governor, a Peugeot 504, should be replaced. Ciroma was said to have angrily rejected such a suggestion outright.

“How can you suggest that anyone would dare steal Nigeria’s money under the watch of these three men?” he asked the senators.

But we are now in 2022, over forty years down the line and the question now is, can Buhari lay down, not his name, but life, for his CBN governor that he is beyond reproach and will never be found wanting the way Obasanjo vouchsafed for his? It is on record that he has accused Emefiele of giving out billions of dollars based on notes written on “ordinary paper” or “bread papers”, yet he retained him on the job.

Will Nigerians see a commission of inquiry to ascertain the veracity of Gudaji Kazaure’s claims and, if found to be false, just embarrassing a public officer, recommend for his speedy trial to serve as a deterrent to other tale bearers? And if the man is telling the truth, can we see actions taken against the culprit(s)? Or will he just leave the matter for the next government to unravel?

Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.