Era of complementary cards for MDAs contracts over - Attah (Interview)
Era of complementary cards for MDAs contracts over - Attah
Mr. Muhammed Attah is a renowned anti-corruption activist and the African Regional Coordinator of the World Association of Non-governmental Organizations based in New York. He is also the coordinator of Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative. In this exclusive interview with our correspondent, Ismaila JIMOH, he speaks on the anti-cooruption drive of the Buhari regime amongst other sundry national issues. Excerpts:
Can you tell us your journey as a social crusader?
Well, it is not easy. One thing many people fail to realize is that one cannot remain in one place. The more you go into it, the more you discover new opportunities, and the world is changing, so you have to blend. One thing I have experienced is that, when one truly wants to serve, one needs to prepare for work; one needs to be very resilient and determined, one needs to be focused.
Some of us have put close to twenty years in this field, whether it was rosy or not, of course, there is no time that is even rosy at all, it is just about being focused. When people see that you are consistent, they will definitely come to you for one thing or the other.
For now, I do a lot of consultancy. I do trainings in the area of procurement which is the area I majored. I have taken a lot of MDA’s up, particularly, Bureau of Public Procurement. I have even challenged the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. I have taken virtually all government institutions up before the procurement law was passed.
The most recent one is the one that I challenged NNPC, NEITI and the Bureau Public Procurement over their collaboration in the issue of sale of 101 crude oil blocks.
As anti-corruption crusader, what do you think is the remarkable achievement of civil society these past years in this regard?
As I said earlier, I said we have been involved in a lot of MDAs. I single-handedly stopped the contract that was awarded on the second Abuja airport runway awarded at the sum of $72 million.
Most times a lot of politicians and those in the public sector make efforts to turn the law upside down. However, we make sure that every MDA follows the Procurement Act by involving civil society in their operations.
I just took on the Energy Commission of Nigeria concerning an advert that is running into N500million asking contractors to come and pay N50,000 for them to participate in a bid opening. We just wrote them to let them know that they are cheating Nigerians.
Some of these contractors are coming from Maiduguri, Port-Harcourt or Lagos to bid for these contracts. Let us assume they have five hundred contractors to pay N50, 000 they would have made a lot of money without even talking about the budget provision for the projects. The money will now go back to the federal government? We have stopped them on that. There are many other examples.
Nigeria recently joined the rest of the world to mark the Anti-corruption Day. As an anti-corruption activist, how will you access President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade in the last 6 months?
First and foremost, I will say it is too early to assess Buhari’s government. But to be sincere, they have even done what one did not expect them to do within a short period. The government is doing faster than Nigerians even expected. The rot this government met on assumption of office was huge.
In fact, most Nigerians are expecting the Buhari’s led government to start jailing corrupt public officers the following day he was sworn-in forgetting that there is difference between the military government and the civilian government. Now, what are we saying, we talk about body language, it is the leadership that change things to negative or positive. Once there is a sign that a leader is not corrupt, I can tell you that followers will not corrupt. Immediately Buhari came on board, they quickly blocked all the loopholes through which corruption thrives. All the looters cannot run away with their loots again as a result of new initiative of this present administration.
The MDAs can no longer siphon money again because of the single treasury account policy. The government also introduced what the zero budgeting system. These are means of correcting the anomalies. As a procurement practitioner, the way I see it may not be the way a lay man will see it, but the truth is that as things stand now MDAs cannot just give contract any how like before. The era of someone just writing on the back of complementary cards for MDAs contracts is over.
If a leader takes an action that touches virtually every citizen, it should be commended; it should not be until a leader brings food or money to everybody in the house before we know that the leader is working.
So another assessment of this government is that within the short time in the office, we have seen different kind of persons arrested for corruption related offences. During Jonathan’s administration, how many people were arrested for corruption issues? Of course, that is best known to all of us, no single person was apprehended despite the looting.
So, president Buhari has done well.
Some citizens are of the view that the issue of senate president will be the yardstick to measure Buhari’s administration seriousness in fighting corruption. Do you share this view?
It just depends on the interpretation according to those who understand the law and its interpretations. People tend to forget that there is rule of law which needs to be followed and another thing is that the executive and the legislature are two different arms of government.
Everybody is independent, it is only the judiciary that can settle the issue, and they are already doing that. The executive is a party; the legislature is another party while the judiciary is a non-party. For you to know that this government is serious in ensuring that the rule of law comes to play, you suddenly see that all the anti-corruption agencies began to work. The Code of Conduct suddenly woke up to its responsibilities.
You see, we in the civil society don’t look at body language, we look at the facts. If the crime has been committed, then let the court decide and that cannot stop President Buhari and Saraki from meeting especially on official matters. They are also people of the same political party, besides it is not Buhari that took him to court and Saraki has never said it is Buhari that took him to court. I think we need to educate the public about this.
President Buhari recently lamented that the bar and bench were hampering his effort towards the corruption fight. What do you proffer as going forward?
We in the civil Society have come to know that for corruption war to succeed there is need to reform the judiciary. So I think the president has just re-echoed issues that have been on ground before he came to office.