ANY meaningful probe of corruption in Nigeria must begin with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu has said.
Kalu, who alleged instances of corruption against the former Nigerian leader, said the former President fertilized official corruption in the country during his tenure, stressing that it was on the strength of the festering sleaze around Obasanjo that he was moved to draw the former President’s attention to the monumental corruption circulating around his office in 2005.
In the official letter dated September 25, 2005 and addressed to His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, copy of which was made available to The Guardian yesterday, Kalu accused Obasanjo of not only handling major oil deals through his cronies but also preventing the proper auditing of the accounts of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Explaining why he insists Obasanjo should be probed for corruption, Kalu recalled how in a media appearance on the Voice of America, (VOA) in August 2005, he challenged the then President to openly declare his assets, remarking that “an exemplary leader genuinely committed to taking up arms against the invading monster of corruption would have had no hesitation in rising to the call.”
While accusing the former President of owning a foreign account and a platinum credit card, Orji Uzor Kalu added: “The most pressing question I wish to put to you, sir, revolves around your long tenure as Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources since 1999. Why has there not been a properly audited account of the Ministry of Petroleum resources since then, despite outcry by the people for this to be done?
“There is indisputable evidence that all the deals in the nation’s oil sector are being handled by you, through your cronies and agents. What about the leakages and the fraud at the NNPC with particular reference to crude oil sales and the accrued commissions? What have you done to check the malfeasance?”
The former Abia governor noted that four years after Obasanjo’s administration embarked upon its anti-corruption crusade, it threatened fire and brimstone with pretentious swagger of a national revolution against corruption, regretting, however, that “the campaigns have not yielded desired results because the entire effort lacks focus and a strong foundation right from the outset.”
Furthermore, Kalu informed Obasanjo: “The most preposterous and incredulous aspect of your anti-corruption campaign” was that while the media was awash with stories connected with the EFCC and ICPC, “corruption is taking root and multiplying daily in many federal establishments, including Aso Villa, the very seat of power, where you reside.”
“I have repeatedly made the observation that corruption is rife among senior officials of government, especially those at the federal level, and among your friends, your business associates and cronies. Around you and in your name have coalesced a few powerful brokers of corrupt practices who peddle your influence and extract billions of naira in the form of oil and gas and defence contract commissions.
“The budget is manipulated at the National Assembly with the active connivance of your surrogates and a few Senators, thereby carting away billions of naira through contract padding or inflation. The felonious activities of this cabal, including the foreign accounts of some of your aides and serving and former ministers are well known to the international community. I would be surprised if you feign ignorance of this unfortunate situation,” Kalu wrote.
Kalu went ahead in the six-page letter to accuse Obasanjo on specific corrupt practices saying: “A few examples are necessary to buttress my case: The Abuja National Stadium, why was the original design for the stadium, which had a five star hotel and which contract was won by a Chinese firm discarded and re-awarded to another foreign construction company based in Nigeria without the component of a five star hotel but at five times the price originally quoted by the Chinese firm? There is unquestionable evidence at my disposal pointing to the fact that mega corruption lies at the base of this dramatic turnabout.
“Why have the operations of Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) remained so murky? Who collected the commissions for the sale of Ajaokuta Steel Company and Delta Steel Rolling Mill, Aladja? To what degree would you, Mr. President, defend those transactions as transparent? Who owns Bells University and Bells Secondary School? Who paid for the construction of hostels and gigantic sports complex at the Bells Secondary School? I put it to you sir, that both projects were financed with Nigerian taxpayers’ money through the construction giant, STRABAG, five years ago (2000). What role did a former Minister of Sports play in the whole deal?”