Government to save N80b from probe of armed forces’ wage bill
The Federal Government is taking the anti-corruption fight to the armed forces where it hopes to save over N80 billion yearly from leakages.Besides, all governors who were investigated from 2003 to 2011 and were not charged to court will soon be arraigned.
Briefing reporters in Ugep, Cross River State at the weekend on the government’s anti-corruption fight, the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, Mr. Okoi Obono Obla disclosed that a special committee had been set up to look into the wage bill of the armed forces in the country.
He said: “Right now, a committee has been set up to look into the wage bill of the armed forces because we had an air force general who pleaded: ‘don’t court-martial me, if you give me a soft landing, I will tell you that the air force is a small force, but in the army it is massive, in the navy it is massive; if we can have an excess salary of N5 billion a month in the air force, what of the army?’
“The air force general told us he will assist us to block the leakages. He said he could help us save up to N80 billion every year from leakages in the salaries of armed forces. Because of that, a memo was made to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and a committee was set up by the minister of Finance to be able to block the leakages.
“We have saved billions of naira from ghost workers. There is fear in Abuja, nobody behaves anyhow, and all the massive estates that were built with slush funds are there unoccupied. So corruption fight is not just about prosecution but about blocking the leakages through which monies are being siphoned out of the system.”
According to the presidential aide, the anti-corruption fight has been very successful. He said: “You do not take a view from the stand point of secured conviction to judge the fight against corruption. Even in America, it takes a long time to secure conviction. Here, we have put in place a machinery to ensure that there are convictions.
“Since we came in, we have developed a strategic plan on prosecution from 2016 to 2019. It is unprecedented. We have come out with four documents: National Guidelines on Prosecution; Code of Conduct for Prosecution; National Policy on Prosecution; and a Bill now before the National Assembly for a Special Criminal Court that will address squarely the issue of delay in criminal trial. We are going to establish an administration of justice monitoring committee, which is in pursuant to Section 407 of the Administration of Justice Act 2015. The aim is to check congestion and ensure that criminal cases are speedily dealt with.”
Obla said the government had also developed a manual for plea bargaining. “There are lots of policies to ensure that convictions are secured, it’s not easy but I have told you that the Nigerian big man must change his mentality and subject himself to the rule of law. When he is being asked to render account of his stewardship, he should surrender. He should not bring lawyers who will come and stall processes and progress. And the judges pander to these lawyers because money has passed under the table. We need fearless judges, knowledgeable judges, incorruptible judges and God-fearing judges. We also need the cooperation of all the institutions involved in the administration of criminal justice.”
On the investigated former governors, he said: “Everybody who has broken the law will be charged. Before there was no will to prosecute, but we now have the will to prosecute.”
On the recent withdrawal of charges against Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, Obla said: “We withdraw charges any day when we see that it is a waste of resources to put somebody on trial. We withdraw because we don’t investigate; the police investigate, so at the end of the day we now have to look at it, if we see that it may end in none- conviction, the lawyer has to act in good faith by withdrawing. That is why Section 174 sub 3 gives the attorney general the power to withdraw any matter pending in any court in Nigeria against any person.”