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Opinions of Sunday, 6 September 2015

Columnist: Abdulai, Alhaji Alhasan

African leaders must follow Buhari’s example

General Mohammadu Buhari President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has shown determination to fight corruption by first declaring his assets not only to Nigerians but to the world at large. By this, he is seen as having fulfilled one of his campaign promises. From this moral high ground he is better placed to pursue his ambition to get rid of or control corrupt practices in Nigeria’s officialdom.

The 72 year old who once served in the Nigerian army becoming a head of state in the process has declared that he has five homes, two mud houses as well as a farm, an orchard and a ranch with 270 head of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses and a variety of birds, shares in three firms, two undeveloped plots of lands, bought two cars from his savings and 150,000 dollars (100,000pouns) in his bank account among other assets.

His vice president has also declared his assets and will be followed by his ministers all governors and other appointees.

The feat chalked by President Buhari is quite remarkable and good example by an African leader in this 21st century. At least he has not paid lip service to assets declaration as other leaders have done by declaring their assets secretly.

General Buhari has joined the ranks of some European and American leaders like president Barrack Obama whose assets have been declared and known throughout the world. Mr. Obama’s savings account shows only 1,800 dollars, apart from his retirement benefits and proceeds from books known to all around the world. Isn’t this great example to all leaders and government appointees?

The initiative taken by Buhari is a departure from the corrupt practices of many office holders in Nigeria that include some governors and late General Abacha former president of Nigeria who were found to have embezzled state funds emanating largely from proceeds from the nation’s oil wealth. Apart from Nigeria many heads of states of Africa like late Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire were found to have embezzled funds from their state coffers.

This happened because they did not declare their assets and did not live within their means and went on to steal state funds. The international banking communities are aware of this rot and are preparing to repatriate the stolen cash by some former corrupt heads of states to Nigeria and other nations of Africa. Abacha, who ruled Nigeria for five years after a 1993 coup, is believed to have stolen $4.3bn while in office, placing him among the ranks of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko as one of Africa’s most avaricious kleptocrats.

Following his death from a sudden heart attack in 1998, the Nigerian government asked Switzerland to help it recover $2.2bn that he was said to have stashed in European bank accounts. The tax haven was forced to relax banking secrecy regulations after some landmark rulings. Switzerland has agreed to give Nigeria $380m (£260m) that was allegedly looted by the former military dictator Sani Abacha and stored in European bank accounts,
The transfer will be carried out under the supervision of the World Bank, ending 16 years of court wrangling. Late Sani Abatcha is not alone in this act. Many governors and government officials’ in Nigeria were also found to be involved in embezzlement of state funds.

From now on General Buhari will be seen as an honest leader, a role model and a mentor to many Nigerians and people around Africa and the world. Since no known African leaders and some leaders in Asia are yet to declare their assets publicly, the move by General Buhari is enough to ginger them to do so.

A study has shown that on paper many African leaders and their ministers have promised to follow a laid down legislations to declare their assets. However these leaders and their appointees are yet to do so. This has led to suspicions that those leaders are not sincere and therefore likely to dip their hands to steal cash from state coffers.

The Africa Union , the Economic Commission for Africa and other regional groupings in Africa must take a cue from what General Buhari has done to advise all African leaders to declare their assets and force their appointees to do so. When this is done the people in each African country will extend honor and respect their leaders as people who would guide their state assets. Not only that the honesty shown by African leaders would enable the workers and the general public to be honest and eschew corruption in all they do as workers.

The writer is the Executive Director of EANFOWORLD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, P.O.BOX 17070AN
Telephone: 233244370345/23326370345/ 233208844791
Email: abdulai.alhasan@gmail.com /eanfoworld@yahoo.com