If many Nigerians did not know Andrew Yakubu when he held the position of group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for about two years, he is now very well known. Not a few are still shocked that this former public officer could hide N3 billion worth of foreign currency in fireproof safes in a neighbourhood where the majority of the residents live in penury. Yakubu thought he had kept away his ‘gifts’ from prying eyes, but the hiding place turned out not to be hidden. Looking at the picture of the room where the money was found, you might be tempted to ask if the one who kept billions of naira in there should not be taken in for a psychiatric test. Many Nigerians are even wondering if Yakubu and the others who have been found to keep huge stolen funds either in their bank accounts or at home are just mad or greedy.
Well, people steal for different reasons. Some because they lack; some have compulsive urge to; some do so to fund gambling or drug addiction; and some because they are in a position to.
I think most public officers who stole or are stealing public funds do so because they are in position to. In fact, the way our system runs, anyone who is in such position to steal and chooses not to do so is often times regarded as mad. In some cases, those close to such public figures would usually say something like, ‘the mad man, he won’t steal and won’t let others steal.’
Really, if Andrew Yakubu or former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke who was made to forfeit N34 billion to government by the court last week had chosen not to steal or take the multimillion dollar gifts from favour seekers, they might leave the public office they occupied with life threatening ailments. They would simply run mad or fall sick when they can no longer fund with their legitimate entitlements the kind of lifestyle and luxury that the office had exposed them to.
Who would ever believe that with what happened to the late head of state, General Sani Abacha, whose loots the nation is yet to fully recover from abroad almost two decades after his demise; the disgrace of former inspector general of police, Tafa Balogun; the experience of the former governors Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Lucky Igbinedion and other public office holders, public officers would still be involved in massive looting of government funds?
Even right now that President Muhammadu Buhari is battling with the monster, aren’t we still being inundated with allegations of stealing, budget padding and misappropriation of funds by serving public office holders?
I’m not excited that the whistleblower policy will make us see the end of looters of public funds notwithstanding the revelation by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed that $151 million and N8 billion was recovered through that effort in just two months.
It may be working right, but there is something about the policy that makes me uncomfortable. Somebody steals, another person squeals and the money is recovered. The thief goes to jail and the whistleblower gets a share of the stolen fund.
You become rich just for squealing on another person. Looting isn’t morally right. Neither is enriching another with stolen money. It would make more sense to me to give national honours to whistleblowers.
Also, I just feel the whistleblower policy would work well until public officers who loot public funds find better ways to keep their tracks safe. What about making sure that all who know about the deal get good enough shares that would make no one blow any whistle?
Because the people who have been caught stealing did so because they were in charge of a flawed system, won’t the theft continue with improved secrecy and sophistication as long as the faulty system remains? I would rather we have a system that makes occupiers of public and even private offices feel secure that after their tour of duty, they and their families won’t suffer.
Anyone who occupies any office and after serving cannot draw pension easily or what is offered cannot make him survive, he doesn’t have a personal home, can’t pay bills, such a person will risk amassing enough illegal funds at his disposal to take care of the future and beyond.
Our cultural system also encourages stealing because only those who have money have the say. When Yakubu returned to his community, he got a chieftaincy title that enables him to sit in the traditional council. He might not have been given such honours if he had gone back home broke and wretched. This system too must change.
We may not also succeed in curbing looting until we reduce the pervasive poverty across the country. A system that makes the Federal Government get the lion’s share of mineral revenue and taxes, while the states go cap in hand for handouts monthly encourages corruption.
A system that ensures that someone gets control of the national pot of soup by virtue of his public office and decides to steal for himself and family and sometimes for his kinsmen because another person from his area may not be able to occupy the same position for many years after him is not serving us right. I’m for fiscal federalism. Let the geo-political regions control their resources and pay whatever is due to the national purse. This will ensure better security and welfare for citizens and rapid development at the local level. Those in regions without oil will get more creative in sourcing for funds. There will be healthy competition among the regions and states. It’s up to us whether we want to continue to breastfeed corruption.
Re: I don’t believe we need more guns
The problem with Nigeria is that we pretend a lot. We don’t need guns. Yes! But if we have licensed gun to protect ourselves would anybody (including herdsmen that invade our communities in wee hours of the night) not think twice? Talking about our Customs men and women, hmmm, can any service man (woman inclusive) grow fat tummy and rotund face, own SUV, a duplex and Rolex watch on salary alone? These days, wealth isn’t hidden. We make catches and display when ‘deals’ don’t go round. As l write, officers are building mansions, buying exotic jeeps despite recession. Abegi!
–Tony Enyinta, Isuikwuato, Abia State.
True, we don’t need those guns into our country but people oriented products. l believe our security agencies at the borders, seaports and airports were not living up to expectation to check things Nigerian importers bring in because of bribes they would collect from the importers to allow those guns enter our domain. It is time we overhauled the security agencies specially those in borders, seaports and airports for effective performance. Those who import illegal arms into the country to destroy lives should be jailed to serve as deterrent to others.
–Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia.
Sir, your piece on more guns is apt.
–Odogwu Emeka Odogwu.
Abdulfatah, your suspicion that the seizure of illegal weapons by the “magical customs officials” must have been prompted by a squeal of a cheated member of the syndicate, is too potent to doubt or disprove. Discovery of such imports at our ports is hindered by the calibre of Nigerians behind such illegal practices on banned goods. Apart from that, bribe in millions of naira, which an honest custom officer would not earn all his years in service when offered, could be senseless to reject; for a mere release of a container with illegal materials. Many would take a chance since survival takes a great heart at risk-taking. For the smuggled firearms to pass the ports, undiscovered by custom officials, says it all about the clout of Nigerians behind the illegal importation of firearms. With reference to failure of government to purchase weapons to combat Boko Haram insurgents, it was an international politics, which was reported by the media and some local and international bodies then. Security is an all-inclusive project in all countries. But are Nigerians getting what they rightly deserve from government to make them give required assistance to security agencies? The answer is no. Proliferation of firearms cannot stop until a reasonable percentage of youths are gainfully employed. Right now, they are ready hands for criminal engagements that would provide them with stipends to live by. The current government, from the look of things, I doubt, has no positive plan or capacity for such a deal. It is too parochial with bigotry for laudable achievements. The three tiers constitutional provision has been captured by the presidency, rendering the NASS and judiciary incapacitated. How does one expect progress in a country where abuse of the constitution by an arm is ignored by other arms? God save Nigeria.
Abdulfatah my brother, your suggestions regarding how government agencies charged with manning the entry points into Nigeria should prevent the massive smuggling of firearms illegally as we witness currently are good, but only work in sane climes. In Anioma where I come from, there is an adage, which says that when an ancestral spirit sets a house on fire, no mortal can put it off. In our own case, those whose duty it is to prevent smuggling will allow themselves to be compromised at the borders only to go to the shops and highways inside the country to harass and intimidate innocent people who bought the goods. Our major problems are lack of patriotism, poor attitude to work, greed and selfishness. And this cuts across, from top to bottom. People in authority boldly tell us that foreign herdsmen come into our borders, kill and maim our people, burn houses and walk away freely. And they expect us to believe that there is no clandestine official approval. God sees all hearts and at the appropriate time, He will mete out His judgment. Thanks.