Ahmed Joda ‘We found corruption everywhere,’ Buhari transition committee Chairman says

Joda disclosed that the committee found corruption in every sector and that the Goodluck Jonathan administration left a deficit of N7 trillion before handing over.

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Chairman of President Muhammadu Buhari's transition committee, Ahmed Joda play

Chairman of President Muhammadu Buhari's transition committee, Ahmed Joda

(Sahara Reporters)
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The Chairman of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Transition Committee, Ahmed Joda has revealed intricate details of the state of Nigeria.

Joda disclosed that the committee found corruption in every sector and that the Goodluck Jonathan administration left a deficit of N7 trillion before handing over.

The committee Chairman made the revelations during an interview with Daily Trust which was published on Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Excerpts below:

You said it was barely four days to May 29 when you received communication from the past government’s transition committee. How did that delay impact on your assignment?

Of course, it delayed our work because we were mainly to receive the handover notes from ministries, departments and agencies of government. But we could not receive them for five or nearly six weeks after our appointment and, to that extent, our work was delayed. But as soon as we realized that this was going to happen we devised methods of getting our information because so much of this information is in the public domain. The problem was that you couldn’t define the true situation in the government.

What would you consider to be the greatest challenges you face in carrying out this assignment?

Nigeria should be ready to face a lot of challenges. The biggest in my view is corruption; it is everywhere. There is no department, no ministry that can be said to be free of corruption. There is nowhere that fraud does not take place on a daily basis. It has become embedded in the minds of the people because the rule books have been thrown away and everybody is doing what they like. Nobody follows the rules anymore.

You employ people anyhow and pay them anyhow and I think you in the media have a fairly idea of what is going on and are surprised how bad things are. I often wondered, since the beginning of this exercise, if the PDP and president Jonathan had won the election what would have been the fate of Nigeria. It would have been more difficult for them to face the challenge because they had been telling people that everything was good; the roads are good. They were not talking about the absence of light in the house, but they were talking about the capacity to produce electricity is 12,000 megawatts out of which only 5,000 could be released. But even out of this 5,000 at the time they were doing the handing over notes only 1,300 megawatts were being generated, but they were talking about 35,000 kilometers of distribution lines and so on, but nobody told us the real problem - that there is no gas, or there is no capacity to transmit the electricity that could be generated; that even when it is delivered at the point of distribution the distribution system is so weak that it can’t take it.

 I personally didn’t know that until I got into this exercise. Now, if they came back, they couldn’t wake up in the morning and say we can’t pay salaries, we couldn’t do this or even pay contractors and might even not be able to pay pensions and gratuities or finance any of our operations. We were told at the beginning of the exercise that the government was in deficit of at least N1.3 trillion and by the end people were talking about N7 trillion; everything is in a state of collapse.

 The civil service is bloated and the military and police, if you are a Nigerian, you know what they have been facing for a long time; everywhere is in a mess and these things have to be fixed.

 Now back to your question about the delay of appointment of ministers and other key officials. These are large numbers of people; in my experience as a civil servant one of the most difficult tasks is to get a list of names to appoint to existing appointments.

Buhari, as a politician, knows a large number of people but not intimately. They have come and joined the political party in which there is Buhari and his knowledge of them can only be superficial. The only people he will know intimately are his friends, his relations and colleagues at work. But when you are forming a cabinet the Constitution says the entire country must be represented.

If you want to know the integrity of a person, his performance at his workplace, his relations with his workplace or even with his community and other weaknesses he has, you have to have all these and analyze them. If Buhari came  to be president in Nigeria on his claim that he is a man of very high principles, a man of integrity and courage, then you can’t go to him as a leader of your community and say ‘Joda is a good man, appoint him minister because he has his paper qualifications.’ You have to investigate these things so that they meet, not only the criteria you laid down, but your own expectation of the man; it needs some time.

Given the picture you have painted how challenging is the task before the new administration?

I think the new administration has a pretty good idea but the situation we are going to meet is going to be difficult. They should have prepared themselves to face these challenges adequately. That is why it is necessary for the government of Buhari to select those who would work for him to be extremely careful of how they select the people who will be doing the work for them; people who are willing and able to do the job and who are capable of delivering the goods.

These are people who must devote themselves absolutely to the people of Nigeria and it is possible

Talking about the cost of governance, the new administration is inheriting a battered economy with over bloated system of governance; what do you think is the way out?

A lot of work needs to be done. I don’t know exactly how the budgeting system operates now but up to the time I left you had a budget which captured every item of expenditure.

But now you have a situation where you have only ten vacancies but twenty people are employed; all the ten extra people are illegal and are not covered by the budget and under what we used to call the finance management Act it is a criminal offence to do that because you are breaching the approved budget.

So why government is bloated is because it is from the presidency, from the ministers, from the senators, from the House of Representatives and all these are because of this impunity from high places where everybody feels that they would have their way.

So how can we come out of this?

The government has to come out and tell the people of Nigeria this is the situation we are in; in this sector this is what is happening and they should put it in a way that people would see and understand it and appreciate any decision they want to take.

If they take the decision to remove fuel subsidy this is the reason and they should so explain it not just for a few but to the ordinary man to also know why he or she must pay more and what are the benefits. There are a lot of tangible benefits that can occur if the government can get out of this racket and apply the money to do other things.

Given the enormous task ahead, what would you advise the president, Buhari?

Well, I am not an adviser to the president. I was a chairman of his transition committee and I have finished my work. He has the sole responsibility of assembling his advisers to advise him on every aspect and he can call on anybody in Nigeria to help him do this task.

 I am thinking of writing-if you people will agree to publish-some of my thoughts of what should happen. But I don’t think I am entitled to be writing to the president every day to say this is what he should do or not do. He is receiving too much of that kind of advice.

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