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Days After CFN's Letter, Yar'Adua Declares Assets

by CFN

Four days after President Umaru Yar'Adua received a letter from the Citizens for Nigeria, widely publicized by The Guardian and Punch newspapers, he has ceded to the request to declare his assets publicly for the first time in Nigeria's history. For four weeks, the President had hesitated the move, a fact attested to during the declaration announcement by one of his aides.

The CFN had specifically requested in a letter delivered by DHL to Aso Rock: “For Nigerians to appreciate your seriousness to deal with endemic corruption, we ask that you, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, declare your personal worth, release your tax returns for the past three years and ask all your officials to do the same. This, Mr. President, will give you the moral authority to tackle corruption.” In an apparent response, Yar'Adua released to the public photocopies of his completed assets declaration form.

The PUNCH: Group seeks public declaration of Yar’Adua’s assets

Many of the issues raised by the CFN became the highlights of his declaration, including self-empowerment for Yar'Adua against corruption, and being the first to President to take the dive. Read the historic letter which spurred President Yar'Adua into action after four full weeks of indecision:

   

Dear President Umar Yar’Adua,

 TAKE THE PATH TO GREATNESS 

We are an international group of professionals and business people consisting of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.  We have been working very hard quietly to promote democracy and the rule of law in Nigeria.

 

Although the recent elections in Nigeria that resulted in your declaration as the president had serious irregularities as documented by both local and international observers, those who indicated their interest in pursuing their grievances about the electoral process have been urged to use the courts and election tribunals in a lawful manner. We stand for peace and justice and, therefore, agree with this directive.

 

We are also encouraged by your statements during and after the campaign regarding the need to resolve the Niger Delta crisis peacefully by including all the stake holders.  The Niger Delta crisis has been long and coming.  A permanent and sustained solution is long overdue.  Although as a nation, Nigeria has no business being as underdeveloped as she is, it is even more scandalous and we regard it a national shame that the Niger Delta is in the deplorable shape it is after all these years of oil exploration in the region. 

Without a doubt, there is enough blame to go around, starting from the community and traditional rulers, tiers of governments, to the oil companies. 

 

Your presidency comes at a very critical time in the history of our country.  You indeed have a golden opportunity to set a tone for real change – once and for all pushing the pedal of real progress, peace and security of our country.  We believe that the peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis is achievable within a matter of a few months.  Releasing those in custody as a result of this crisis will be a good start and a basis for total reconciliation, and it is encouraging to note you are already thinking in this direction with the release on bail of the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Mr. Mujahadeen Asari-Dokubo.We strongly recommend that you will be personally involved in all negotiations aimed at ensuring the tension in the Niger Delta is defused.  Your direct involvement will demonstrate to the stake holders that you mean business and will significantly reduce the amount of time needed to bring about a permanent and sustained solution.

 

The government’s inability to provide citizens with basic public utilities is, perhaps, one of the great failings of Nigeria. The provision of clean water, electricity, good roads, affordable housing, telecommunications and other infrastructures that many nations’ citizens take for granted, has not been achieved by any administration before yours. Our progress as a nation will be measured more along these lines, rather than beautiful skyscrapers, aircrafts, and other expensive acquisitions. Will your administration give the ordinary citizen an uninterruptible power supply? Will portable, clean water go to the homes of those whom you have promised to serve? These are the questions we place on your presidential desk to honestly and carefully

    

consider as you figure out how best to allocate the resources at your disposal to lift up the standard of living in our potentially great nation.

 

In addition, we must suggest the building of new, modern refineries that take environmental concerns into cognizance and provide a clean break from obsolete technologies in existing refineries.  It is time to take our strategic reliance on oil importation from the hands of profiteers and corrupt officials and establish a process of self-reliance in our gas industry. After all, what is the point in striving for space technology when we cannot even manage resources as simple as oil which we have right on the ground. You must eliminate the insane importation of gasoline when we are about the 7th largest exporter of crude oil in the world.

 

If we address all issues but leave out corruption, we would not have covered the ground adequately. It is our grave concern.  It is hardly contentious to assert that corruption has been the single most contributing factor to the slow pace of development across our land, and the most significant variable for the Niger Delta crisis.  The deadly consequence of corruption is palpable across Nigeria.  We wish to point out that as a rule of thumb, countries around the world that severely punish corrupt individuals, whether in politics or business, are generally regarded as advanced countries. Those that are politically unstable, dependent on limited or single income, and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy and corrupt clique are termed ‘Banana Republic.’ A banana republic pretends to tackle corruption. Nigeria, right now, seems to be one, but we do not have to be. We strongly urge you to tackle decadent corruption openly and without pretension.

 

Nigeria must join the growing list of developing nations now known as emergent economies, such as India, China, Singapore, Brazil and many others. You pointed out on a recent trip to Germany we must surpass the records of the Asian Tigers. We totally agree with you, but cautiously, because that goal is only attainable through hard work, transparency, honesty and focus. It is therefore imperative that corruption be dealt from the inner halls of the presidency to the streets of Nigeria.

 

For Nigerians to appreciate your seriousness to deal with endemic corruption, we ask that you, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, declare your personal worth, release your tax returns for the past three years and ask all your officials to do the same. This, Mr. President, will give you the moral authority to tackle corruption. 

 

In addition, government agencies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), headed by respected personalities, need to be encouraged and strengthened.  We are fortunate to have the bravery and leadership demonstrated by Nuhu Ribadu and Professor Dora Akuyili.  We strongly recommend that that these two distinguished individuals are allowed to continue the necessary restoration of sanity that our country so badly needs. 

 

There is a staggering discrepancy between federal allocation and the level of development at the states and local governments. It is increasingly becoming obvious that many political leaders at these levels are diverting public funds to private pockets. In fact, most, if not all, previous state governors have a lot of explaining to do.  The first major test for your administration regarding your seriousness about tackling corruption is how you handle the prosecution of governors being investigated for corruption.  Some of them who initially chose self-exile for fear of being investigated are returning to Nigeria to face the EFCC.

 

Is their boldness encouraged by any positive signals to them? Will the EFCC just work out secret deals and let looters go free or prosecute them to the limits of the law? Will your Excellency forcefully prosecute looters of public treasury, or make it business as usual?

 

Another point of interest is the growing scandal involving the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, for alleged involvement in corrupt practice while in office. From the angle of the ordinary citizen, it will be difficult for your administration to probe this case because Mr. Ehindero facilitated the disputed election that saw you to power. We hold the view that as the President, you take the oath of your office seriously, and will not use the circumstances to act on the matter. Nigerians must see justice served in the corruption case against the former Inspector General.

 

Along with the issue of corrupt governors, we submit to you that the charges against Mr. Ehindero have already provided the test for your presidency – and we wait to see whether these former officials will be released in “arrangee” deals or prosecuted to the fullest extent permissible by law.  The honest prosecution of former governors - your former colleagues - and other public officials under the radar of the police and the EFCC is already a litmus test for your administration. The whole world is watching with interest!

 

The Nigerian judiciary has largely shown a high level of courage and forthrightness in the last eight years, in spite of attempts by politicians to stifle the rule of law through the overnight replacement of judges, threats and flagrant disregard for court judgments. The reinstatement of state governors in Plateau, Anambra and Oyo States are particularly noteworthy.  While we understand that democratic governance in Nigeria cannot be fully realized in just a few years from our history of military dictatorship, as a civilian president, your administration must set a standard that all men are equal before the law. The courts must remain free and impartial. They are the last hope for both the rich and the poor. The preservation of the rule of law is the anchor for the corporate existence of Nigeria.

 

How you handle the Niger Delta crisis, the provision of basic infrastructure, corruption and respect for the rule of law, will form the basis for Nigeria’s development and survival. We are filled with hope and prayer that you will do the right thing for the Nigerian people. As you take charge of the nation, we congratulate you.  If you do the right thing, our country will rise quickly to greatness and you will leave an indelible mark on the sands of time. We urge you to follow the path of greatness. 

 

Chris Tunde Odediran  (New Jersey)    |    Henry Ayo Abimbola (Texas)

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