Dear Mr. President,
Before the Election: An Open Letter
A recent publication of the federal allocation of projects by political zones in Nigeria was an eye opener. According to the Daily Trust Newspaper, published December 31, 2014, the Niger Delta received a lion’s share of the ₦1.6 trillion Federal Government contracts for 2014.
The Newspaper based its report on the analysis of all the 2014 federal contracts as presented by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its weekly meetings chaired by you, Mr. President. The report continued by providing the zone-by-zone allocations as follows:
“South-South: N639.306 billion; South-West: N256 billion; FCT: N193 billion; South-East: N111.3 billion; North-Central: N101 billion; North-West: N62.151 billion and North-East: N23.767 billion. The total amount shared among the zones as shown above is N1.387 trillion. This excludes N262 billion of the total amount spent on other programmes but not pinned down to any particular zone.”
Mr. President, below is a response in your own words as reported by the Vanguard Newspaper of January 8, 2015:
“I saw a publication in the Daily Trust showing projects that have been awarded by the Federal Government, the ones for the north-east very small, south-south very many. I had to make photocopies and distributed to all the ministers and I asked if it is true that projects are skewed by this government? Because I am a president from the south, I have taken all the projects to the south? And I said all the ministers must come up and tell me how the projects are being distributed across the country and if it is skewed you must tell me why it is so. One of the ministers incidentally is from the north, she is in charge of water resources. She said the publication cannot be true because Kashimbila Dam alone, the value is more than the amount quoted in that paper.”
Mr. President, your account above exposed two fundamental problems:
1) It is obvious you were misinformed by the Hon. Minister of Water Resources. The Daily Trust report was based on funding for projects in 2014 only—not the value of projects in the various zones. In fact, an investigative inquiry conducted by our team has revealed that the amount of money disbursed in 2014 for the Kashimbila Dam (referenced in your response) is more in tune with the Daily Trust story. More importantly, our on-site contacts admitted that even though the dam is said to be over 95% completion, the value of work on the ground is a far cry from the whopping $1 billion already sunk into the project. It is also worthy of note that we have identified a good number of other projects in different parts of the country listed in official government gazette as funded but are either poorly executed, abandoned entirely by the contractors or do not exist at all.
2) Your response to the Daily Trust publication suggests an apparent lack of accountability in the administration. We believe, and rightfully so, that a national government should have a ready list of its state-by-state projects, including names of the projects, locations and costs of projects, expected time of completion, amount so far disbursed, and names of the contractors.
Dear Mr. President, an objective fact that has consistently escaped the minds of many pundits is that the root cause of our endemic corruption has never been lack of leaders with original intentions or hard work. Indeed, most of our leaders, including your humble self, have initiated policies capable of solving the country’s myriad of crises. The true problem is that the contractors collude with the politicians to loot funds budgeted for the projects. And given that there are no serious consequences for bad behaviors in Nigeria, the bad behaviors have continued with reckless abandon.
Accordingly, Mr. President, in line with the Freedom of Information Act of 2011, please find ways to provide us a comprehensive list of all the projects initiated since you assumed power in 2010—before the election. The list should include but not limited to the names of the projects, locations, costs of the specific projects, expected time of completion, amount so far disbursed, and names of the contractors. The goal is to make it available to the Press for public knowledge and awareness. This move can serve two critical purposes before the election:
1) Providing the full list of projects (including the specifics requested above) can demonstrate that you are truly committed to the much-desired transparency and accountability in government. Besides, if as equitable as necessary, the list can boost public trust and potentially assuage the feelings of the different zones that have been restless because of what they perceive as abject neglect or sheer nepotism by your administration.
2) More essentially, the list will be helpful to checkmate corrupt politicians during this electoral season by exposing to the voters those senators or representatives seeking votes in the various federal constituencies and zones where your projects have woefully failed. This has become very necessary, especially in view of the fact that political corruption is worsening day-by-day in Nigeria while the masses continue to wait for the details of your unique proposal to eradicate corruption without a jail system—a seemingly impossible task, which when finally implemented would become the first of its kind in modern history of humankind.
Perhaps some of your advisers may think that our concern and request do not fall within the realm of your responsibility. They would cling on to the cliché that you are neither the minister, project inspector, nor the contractor. But ignore them this time, Mr. President. Presidential leadership is far from the ordinary idea of initiating public policies, assigning responsibilities, and then expecting action. Ensuring that the policies are fully implemented for the greater good of the people is where effective leadership begins and ends.
Dr. SKC Ogbonnia
Patriots United for Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria (PUTAN)*