“Apart from shrouding the remunerations of the National Assembly in opaqueness and without transparency, they (members) indulge in extorting money from (government) departments, contractors, and ministries in two ways.
“They do so during visits to their (ministries, departments and agencies) projects and programs, and in the process of budget approvals when they hike the budgets for ministries and departments, which agree to give it back to them in contracts that they do not execute. They do similar things during their inquiries.”
“Corruption in the National Assembly also includes what they call constituency projects which they give to their agents to execute but invariably full payment is made with little or no job done.
“In all this, if the executive is not absolutely above board, the offending members of the National Assembly resort to subtle or open threats, intimidation and blackmail. When the Executive pays the huge money, normally in millions of dollars, all is quiet in the form of whitewashed reports that fail to deal effectively with the issues investigated.”
“National Assembly members are indifferent to corruption and over the years there had never been a single case where the assembly unmasked a member except where the executive (branch) pressed such charges, as in the cases of Speaker Salisu Buhari (certificate forgery and age falsification) and Senate President Adolpus Wabara (bribery and corruption).
“A majority of the members live above the law in both misconduct and corruption and cannot in good conscience carry out oversight duties on any government ministry or department.”
Above is ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s assessment of the National Assembly. It is dispiriting, yet it is an approximate reflection of the true image of the National Assembly among a preponderance of Nigerian citizens. It was, therefore, shocking to many Nigerians to learn during the week that the House of Representatives has inserted itself into the $43.3 million cash find from the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. Nigerians are nervous because each time the House wades into an issue as contentious, it makes matters worse. It is for that reason most Nigerians tend to agree with Obasanjo that the National Assembly cannot in good conscience carry out oversight duties. After 17 years, the House has no record of success in any issue requiring fact-finding or investigation. The venality of its members lists them as extremely susceptible to temptation, especially to bribery and corruption.
Members have never hidden their disdain for the fight against corruption. They constitute the harshest critic of the Buhari administration’s advertised fight against corruption. They neither declared their assets publicly nor encouraged in any way the campaign against corruption. Indeed the overwhelming majority of Nigerians fear that the fight will fail because the National Assembly is determined to sabotage it or, at least, remain non-committal to it.
Now the $43.3 million cash haul from a private apartment in Ikoyi is perhaps the largest cash recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission through a tip from a whistle-blower. Unlike several other huge cash recoveries in various parts of the country, of which no one asserted ownership, the Osborne Towers cash had a claimant in the person of Ambassador Ayodele Oke, Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which is said to be Nigeria’s equivalent of the American Central Intelligence Agency.
The controversy surrounding the cash was two-fold. Why would the NIA keep such a stupendous amount of money in cash and in a private apartment with no security, not in a bank, and not in its head office. What is the money meant for? The answers by the agency were unconvincing. Even the Federal Government which appeared disposed to listen, even sympathetic, given its initial tepid reaction, eventually felt that something was not right, and sent Director-General Oke on suspension. The courts have ordered forfeiture, ignoring the initial claims of the NIA, a timid claim which was not asserted at the initial court hearings nor reiterated at the final court hearing.
The Chairman of the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Sani Jaji, says its committee has been under intense pressure and that the pressures “had no monetary inducement,” and had come in the form of text messages and physical contacts. Dissimulation is second nature to members of the National Assembly. That is precisely why most Nigerians are apprehensive. The House has never conducted any inquiry that did not end in bribery and corruption in one form or another. Secondly, a high-powered three-man panel, which includes the Acting President YemiOsinbajo, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice AbubakarMalami, and the National Security Adviser Major-General BabaganaMonguno, has not reported the results of the efforts of those trusted and high officials of state. Thus the House Committee appeared not only superfluous but seemed to have been set up for a kind of mischief or fishing expedition.
The greatest fear at first was the pressure from the mandarins of the bureaucracy who wanted the scandal and everything about it to be done in the dark because the NIA D-G had said the money was for a covert operation. Covert operations so holy they can only be discussed in hushed tones. The near hysteria over keeping ‘our secrets’ secret would have been amusing if not that $43.3 million of public funds was at stake. As if there was a Manhattan Project, or some super-secret nuclear bomb programme, Nigeria was trying to execute to surprise the world. It was ridiculous. But these are the usual tactics through which millions were stolen in the name of covert operations and national security. But as it happened, the covert operation caper fell apart when two of the directors of the NIA, the Deputy Direcrtor-General (Administration), who is now the Acting Director-General, Ambassador Arab Yadam, denied knowing anything about his agency’s $43.3 million covert operation. He was corroborated by the Deputy Director-General (Operations) Ambassador Emmanuel Okafor, who also denied any knowledge of any such covert operation planned in his agency, the NIA.
Above all, the most frightful part of this huge corruption scandal is the acceptance of abnormal conduct and the refusal to follow due process by our law enforcement. When the Central Bank was about to hand over the $289 million approved by President Goodluck Jonathan in March 2015, the directors of the CBN appropriately wanted the money to be in the bank. The mandarins of the civil and security services preferred the money to be in cash. That’s how we got where we are today. We have $43.3 million cash for a phantom covert operation. A great covert operation no one else in the agency knew about except Ayo Oke. Just as no one else in this world knew about the $43.3 million cash except Mrs. Folasade Oke, the D-G’s wonderful wife, who quietly rented the Osborne Towers apartment to warehouse what was for all practical purposes her husband’s ‘golden handshake’ from NIA on the day of his retirement in November 2017. Fate only intervened to upset some well-laid plans.