by Jamilah Nasir
Matthew Page, former US intelligence community expert on Nigeria, says President Muhammadu Buhari’s integrity is at stake.
Page said this in reaction to the $25 billion alleged fraud scandal rocking the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC).
He said Buhari came with the promise to fight corruption and appoint incorruptible people in his government but that the anti-graft war “has been significant but selective”.
Page said the honeymoon period between Buhari and the international community has ended.
He spoke in an interview on The Osasu Show, hosted by Osasu Igbinedion.
“The honeymoon period for Buhari with the international community is over, I’d argue it is over with many Nigerians as well,” Page said.
“That honeymoon period lapsed for Obasanjo and believe it or not, there was quite a lot of honeymoon period for Jonathan in the international community that again ended at some point.
“People are not ignorant or blind to things they see going on despite excuses that are being made. Buhari’s approach when he came into government was to say the system was poorly led, led by corrupt people. ‘I am not corrupt and I am going to come in and transform the system through my leadership and through appointing people I think are trustworthy’.
“But the problem is not a matter of leadership, the problem is that the system is flawed and needs reform. I am not saying revolutionary reforms that can happen at a breakneck speed but definite reforms and the NNPCis a fantastic example.
“The NNPC as a company meets no reasonable standards of how a national oil company or a corporate entity should function. It is not a perfect organisation but I would say they have made some significant progress.”
When asked what the US was doing to help Nigeria recover its stolen funds stashed in foreign accounts, Page said the US, UK financial systems were designed to facilitate money laundering and corruption by foreign officials.
“One of the things I think is the dirtiest little secret about the US, UK financial system is that they are designed to facilitate this kind of money laundering and corruption by foreign officials in their financial system and it doesn’t just affect Nigeria,” he said.
“Until those loopholes are closed, the other promises on anti-corruption is kind of hollow.
“But there are a lot of people in the ruling party, in government, sitting governors, there are plenty of people in the previous dispensation who reinvented themselves and are now in government and I feel like by joining the government, the winning team, they have inoculated themselves against that type of scrutiny.
“What I am disappointed about in this government is that they didn’t come with a slate of reforms that they could have passed through the national assembly and sort of written in stone for the most part during that honeymoon period.
“They should have had an agenda that they passed almost immediately but the national assembly was never given a legislative agenda by the presidency.
“If you don’t institutionalise the Buhari effect, then someday when Buhari is no longer in office, things will roll over to the way there were before because the system is the system that has always been in place.”
Page said the notion that the US is just out to exploit Nigeria is false, adding that rather, the country is working towards helping Nigeria achieve its potentials.