As stealing gets difficult… By Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa

President Muhammadu Buhari
The recent revelation by President Muhammadu Buhari that more than two trillion naira were saved in just three months, thanks to his administration’s commitment to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), is greatly encouraging, considering the sheer amount of the funds saved, which is equal to about one-third of Nigeria’s total budget, and which would have otherwise ended up in the personal bank accounts of some corrupt civil servants and politicians.
Likewise, the recent detection of more than two hundred thousand ghost workers on the federal government payroll, which, by implication, means saving billions of naira that some unscrupulous civil servants have been systematically stealing over the years as purported salaries, allowances and other entitlements of such ghost workers, proves the efficiency of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) technology, which greatly facilitates President Buhari’s anti-corruption drive.
In the same vein, billions more will certainly be saved once the 2016 budget is purged of the more than six thousand items fraudulently inserted in it by some crooked high- ranking civil servants, with a view to stealing the billions of naira allocated for the items. By the way, this particular scandal has confirmed that, budget padding has been perpetrated for long in the country, and that there are still many top government officials who are not prepared to comply with the change that President Buhari’s presidency represents.
Anyway, these three instances, among many other instances, highlight how corrupt civil servants and politicians are nowadays finding it increasingly difficult to commit massive thefts with impunity. After all, even before the inauguration of the then President-elect Muhammadu Buhari following his election victory, many corrupt civil servants and politicians had begun to cut down on their extravagant spending particularly on landed properties and other tangible valuable assets, for fear of probe, knowing that he would definitely not condone, let alone partake in the theft of public funds.
Incidentally, contrary to the general assumption about Nigerians’ particular tendency to indulge in profligate spending, the reality is that, it’s the corrupt civil servants, politicians and their accomplices in the private sector who actually indulge in such recklessly spending, having taken stolen funds and indeed the continuation of the status quo of impunity, for granted.
They are, for instance, actually the owners of most of the luxury properties, exclusive neighbourhoods, mansions, and other landmark buildings in Abuja, Lagos and many other state capitals in the country.
Also, in addition to their acquisition of properties and huge investments in the United Kingdom, the United States or the United Arab Emirates etc, for instance, their extravagant spending on other things and services is particularly reckless, for obvious reason.
However, as the ongoing anti-corruption measures and economic reforms continue to gather momentum, such beneficiaries of the status quo are increasingly growing worried over their fate and indeed the fate of their illegally accumulated wealth. They are also worried that, without stolen public funds, and even if they manage to escape justice, they will no longer be able to maintain their habits of extravagant spending and lifestyle in the long run. This is despite the fact that most of them maintain various businesses also, which they have set up in the names of their respective fronts, and through which they seek to launder their illicit wealth, because, obviously, most of such businesses aren’t viable enough to sustain themselves without the stolen public funds they are basically intended to launder.
The discontinuation of the supply of foreign exchange by the Central to Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to bureau de change (BDC) operators, for instance, has not only affected the Nigerian importers of foreign-made merchandize, but has also affected the spending attitude and purchasing power of many corrupt Nigerian civil servants and politicians travelling aboard. By the way, many, if not most, of such foreign exchange licenses are actually owned by civil servants, including the CBN officials, and politicians.
Interestingly enough, many wholesalers, retailers and different service providers in Dubai, for instance, are currently missing their Nigerian customers quite terribly. Some small and medium wholesalers of merchandise in particular, are particularly worried for fear that their businesses may not be able to survive in the absence of Nigerian customers who usually place orders for large quantities of goods to export to Nigeria. Many suppliers have therefore gone desperate contacting many Nigerian residents in Dubai and practically begging them to bring Nigerian customers to them in return for an attractive commission.
Anyway, now that the era of blatant plundering of the treasury with impunity is gradually coming to an end, the frustration of the unrepentantly corrupt and kleptomaniac civil servants and politicians is certainly getting worse, they are not likely to come to terms with the unfolding reality. They would certainly continue to undermine the ongoing anti-corruption drive with a view to frustrating the President.
In fact, being obviously hell-bent on maintaining the status-quo, they are prepared to go to any extent in this regard, considering their influence and sheer number, being unfortunately the majority in the civil service, the military and, of course, the political establishments.
This, therefore, underscores the need for President Buhari to remain particularly alert, identify and maintain trustworthy loyalists in the civil service, the military, other security agencies and among the political office holders also, on whom he can count to neutralize any attempt to undermine his anti-corruption drive and indeed his endeavour to turn things around in the country.

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