By Benedict Aguele
We have observed the way and manner corrupt is practiced at the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) with impunity. Contrary to the vision and original motive for setting up NIRSAL, it has become an effective conduit pipe for siphoning public funds. It is mind-boggling!
There are allegations of mismanagement of funds running into billions of naira, discrimination, and favoritism by NIRSAL management under the leadership of Aliyu Abdulhameed.
It is a shame to see some self-acclaimed civil rights activists now defending corruption with what is left of their integrity for a pot of porridge. After being paid to serve as attack dogs for NIRSAL, these shameless characters are now holding brief for the corruption-ridden agency to dismiss the weighty allegations as wishy-washy.
Malam Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice have noted that there are several agencies investigating the fraud allegations leveled against the managing director of NIRSAL. We total agree with the AGF, it is an exercise in futility and a waste of public funds on a matter that can effectively be handled, for instance, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alones.
How can the Nigeria Police Force, the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Department of State Service (DSS), and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) be investigating one agency, the NIRSAL? It is not only an unhealthy competition among federal government agencies but a sheer waste of public resources.
But Malami has argued that the matter is exclusively that of the police to handle. He has thus directed that other agencies conducting parallel investigations into the allegations stay action to allow the police to continue and conclude their investigation.
He noted that after all, only one charge can be competently filed against the NIRSAL in respect of the allegations under investigations. The minister pointed that the police, which was directed to take control of the investigation is a body legally recognised and empowered under Section 214(1) and Section 29 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Police Act, respectively.
We are calling on the Nigeria Police Force to expedite action and conclude the investigation in record time so that the accused and those indicated by the investigation can be brought to justice. We hope that the current investigation by the police will not go the way of the several past investigations that never saw the light of the day.
The Buhari-led administration must have the courage and political will to remove or suspend the embattled NIRSAL MD, Aliyu Abdulhameed, in order to avoid any interference with the investigation. This is another opportunity for the administration to demonstrate to Nigerians its commitment to the anti-corruption fight.
And if indeed, NIRSAL has become a conduit pipe for corrupt practices, it should be scrapped and its functions and responsibilities transferred to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture or Bank of Agriculture. The agency has failed Nigerians, especially farmers. It has instead enriched a few greedy individuals who are bent on sustaining the channel of illicit wealth and corruption proceeds.