It is worrisome that at a time that many Nigerians are living in penury and unable to afford the basic necessities of life, humongous amounts of money are being discovered in the unlikeliest of places: $43.3 million, £27, 800 and N23.2 million in a private apartment at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos; N448 million at a Bureau de Change in Victoria Island, Lagos: N250 million in a shop at Balogun Street, Lagos; and N49 million abandoned at the Kaduna Airport.
Beyond these, so many officials of the nation’s electoral agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have been charged with receiving millions of naira each out of the N23 billion largesse allegedly shared out by the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Just last Monday, one of the accused persons, Mrs. Fidelia Omoile, was reportedly ordered to be remanded in prison custody by a Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State, for allegedly collecting N112.4 million bribe, out of the billions shared to electoral officials few weeks to the 2015 presidential election. She was charged with conspiracy and money laundering. Yet another INEC staff, who was described as a Director and Administrative Secretary of INEC office in Kwara State, admitted to a High Court in Lagos that he collected N30 million out of the money and pleaded for bail through his counsel. He was reported to have entered a plea bargain arrangement with INEC.
Before the multi-billion naira Diezani funds allegedly splashed on over 200 INEC officials in different parts of the country who have now been suspended, with some answering charges in various court, the earlier days of the current administration had been replete with reports on the Dasuki billions, allegedly splashed on chieftains of the then ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to facilitate their campaigns for the 2015 elections. Billions on naira were also recovered from some military chiefs.
One thing that is clear from these scenarios is the bastardization of money by the nation’s thieving political class. With such brazen looting of public funds by both politicians and bureaucrats, is it any wonder at all that Nigeria and its ordinary citizens are certified orphans, who have been brazenly and serially raped into an economic coma by the country’s leadership class?
How do we save the country from these thieving cabals who have made, and wish to continue to make, the country their personal farmland, into which they march to reap both ripened and un-ripened harvests?
The immediate cases of the funds recovered in different places need to be resolved to the satisfaction of the people. Of the lot, the recovery of money amounting to N15 billion in the Ikoyi apartment has taken the mishandling of public funds to greater heights. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which is the country’s lesser known external security agency, has said it received the money during the Goodluck Jonathan regime, and it was approved by the then president for a covert operation.
He is now facing a three-man panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which President Muhammadu Buhari has charged with the task of unearthing the mystery of the recovered billions. The whole nation is waiting with baited breath for the outcome of this probe.
But for Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who alleged that the recovered money and the Ikoyi apartment belong to the state’s former governor and current Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, and that the money is the balance of the funds illegally taken by the minister from the state’s coffers, anything other than an indictment of Amaechi, can only bring embarrassment. Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State has also alleged that the government is trying to cover up the owner of the recovered money. The ongoing probe and its findings may rubbish the tendentious positions of the two governors. The Ekiti State governor, in particular, is always quick to jump into the fray and castigate the Buhari government at any half-opportunity. The nation is waiting to see if he is right, or wrong, on this matter.
For me, the flagrant trifling with public funds by the nation’s political leaders at a time that huge sums are required to repair the country’s dilapidated infrastructure is an act of wickedness. The economy is in recession that is not unrelated to the failure of our leaders to develop other sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing and agriculture, which could have helped the nation to weather the devastating effects of the crash in the price of crude oil in the international market. Yet, what concerns many of our past leaders and some of the current ones is how to feather their own nests and siphon huge sums of money that their unborn generations cannot finish spending.
When shall we have leaders in the mould of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who committed themselves to the building of their countries, and made a huge success of it?
No matter what some people may say, the whistle blowing policy of this government is commendable in that it is opening new vistas in the battle against public corruption. It is important for all well meaning Nigerians to ensure that it is not derailed by those who have ulterior motives for wanting to discredit it.
Let the VP Osinbajo probe pull the veil off the mystery of the recovered Ikoyi billions while efforts are intensified to determine the persons behind the other recovered funds. The ultimate objective should be to bring all those who participate in the looting of public funds to justice, to teach other like-minded persons that it is no longer business as usual in the Nigerian public funds looting industry. Let this be the beginning of change in the attitude of Nigeria’s political class to the looting of public funds.
There should be no sacred cows in the battle against this menace that has brought Nigeria to its knees.