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Monday, 16 October 2017

Buhari’s integrity at stake, says Page, US intelligence expert

FormerUnited States of America intelligence community expert on Nigeria, Matthew Page, has said President Muhammadu Buhari's integrity is at stake.

Page said this in reaction to alleged $25 billion contracts rocking the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC).

He said Buhari came with the promise to fight corruption and appoint incorruptible people in his government; however, 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 would argue it is over with many Nigerians as well.

"That honeymoon period lapsed for (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo and, believe it or not, there was quite a lot of honeymoon period for (former President Goodluck) 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. Buhari's approach, when he came into government, was to say the system was poorly 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 NNPC is 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 and the United Kingdom's 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 and UK financial systems 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. Until those loopholes are closed, the other promises on anti-corruption are kind of hollow.

"But, there are a lot of people in the ruling party, in government and 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 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 they were before because the system  has always been in place."

Page said the notion that the US is just out to exploit Nigeria is false. He said, rather, his country is working towards helping Nigeria achieve its potentials.

Page was, until recently, the US intelligence community's top Nigeria expert.

For more than a decade, senior policymakers at the White House, State Department, Defence Department and in Congress, have sought out his analysis on Africa's most populous country and largest economy. Matthew is the co-author of Nigeria: What everyone needs to know, forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2017.
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