For the umpteenth time, government announced that further tens of thousands of ghost workers had been eliminated from the federal pay roll. In effect, government engaged in some self-glorification for saving Nigeria billions of naira every month, which, hitherto, was being stolen by criminals in service. But for the introduction of bank verification number for all bank customers, the looting by civil servants through ghost workers would have continued.
Therefore, should the government have stopped at mere detection and elimination of ghost workers on its pay roll? By the way, there is nothing new or duly commendable in ending the criminal activities of those behind the ghost workers. They have been detected and purportedly eliminated since the last eighteen months or two years of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Clearly, the criminal activities of those behind ghost workers, losing Nigeria billions of naira every month only abated and resumed in full swing because those involved were not prosecuted.
That same incomplete job is likely to be repeated despite the current self-glory for eliminating ghost workers. It is difficult to understand the posture of both Jonathan and Buhari administrations of being unable or unwilling to pursue culprits of ghost workers scandal to a logical conclusion, mainly because of who the criminals are or to what part of the country they belong. Jonathan was accused of marginalising northerners. Buhari is under blackmail of victimising Niger Deltans and, of course, south-westerners joined forces to get Buhari elected. Must such circumstantial prospects inhibit or handicap prosecution of these criminals?
The banks, which operated the bogus accounts into which proceeds of ghost workers were paid over the years must not be allowed to wash their hands off the looting of our national treasury. It is inconceivable that bank managers and account officers would not know the identities of customers with billions or even hundreds of thousands of naira in their accounts. The bank managers involved must, therefore, be compelled to disclose the identifies of the criminals, who operated the ghost workers’ accounts. It should not be an excuse that the bank verification number system scared the criminals to disappear or to abandon their loot lodged in the banks. Or must these criminals be allowed to get away with various assets they must have acquired while undetected?
There are other fall-outs of their crimes, and for which they must be pursued for their identities. Did they declare whatever assets they might have acquired while in office or even after? If they did not, why? If they did, was there any difference? How was that difference accounted for? From whatever source was their means of acquiring their assets, the Federal Inland Revenue must move in to demand appropriate tax. How much did the criminals pay in tax throughout their acquisition of the assets? If found to have underpaid the stipulated tax(es), that is a separate case of false declaration not only of assets but also for tax purposes. Therefore, in the pursuit of the criminals, who operated and abandoned the ghost workers’ accounts in banks, both EFCC and Inland Revenue Service must be saddled with that task.
Meanwhile, Nigerians must wake up and not allow themselves to be led asleep in the matter of the fuel subsidy criminals. For the past one year, we have been fed with allegations of criminal diversion of money meant for purchase of arms for Nigerian security forces. Before then was the scandal of fuel subsidy fraud, which was larger in scale and revulsive in impunity. Various courts in the country were littered with cases trying the criminals. With the complicity of lawyers smiling to banks after collecting tens of millions of naira legal fees and acting more like agents of dishonourable judges, most prosecutions on the fuel subsidy scandal were dragged under slightest excuses, warranting in some cases, bails granted to the accused, who have since absconded abroad.
These cases are still meant to be tried. But what today is the position? The accused – mainly politicians, businessmen and their families – are moving freely all over the world, including Nigeria. Virtually since the commencement of the prosecution of all matters, arising from the diversion of funds meant for purchase of arms, about a year ago, nothing, repeat nothing has been mentioned or resumed on the fuel subsidy scandal trial. As usual, Nigerians are being made to forget those who defrauded the country under the guise of fuel subsidy.
It is no excuse that the offences were committed under the Jonathan administration. Or is it the law that crimes can only be prosecuted under the particular administration the offences were committed? What is more, before Jonathan’s administration, crimes were committed by ex-federal ministers and former state governors.
By the way, allegation has been raging since about a year ago that trials of looters of treasury have been one-sided. Whatever is meant by such desperation. There is, of course, the consolation that for once, those making the allegations have not been bold enough to claim that only northerners or only southerners or only Muslims or only Christians are being targeted, the convenient blackmail of the past. The so-called one-sidedness in the trial is ever indefinite except the nuances of politics. Disturbingly, even the clergy joined in making the allegation. These men have no shame. In an atmosphere where billions of naira from the diverted funds meant for arms purchase were discovered to have been allotted to prayers and paid to self-proclaimed prayer gurus? Their allegation could only be aimed at serving their purpose. That is, to stop the government from disclosing the identity of those who collected money for prayers and may have to refund such, if not already forced to refund.
Must Nigeria necessarily employ quota system in prosecuting corrupt public figures? So far, only Federal Government is exposing those who looted state funds meant for arms purchase, at government or parastatal levels. So doing, only those involved can be indicted or prosecuted.
To be continued
Fuel deregulation or not, so be it
Continued from last week
On top of that, everybody in the country, even motor park touts, will take to oil importation. Then bank managers will join the business on the sideline by allocating dollars to their bogus companies. Worse still, these economic saboteurs will commence round tripping of allocated foreign exchange, with the aim of joining the billionaires club. The aim of these crooks is to become trillionaires in the years ahead. Put correctly, the trillionaires are coming.
Another fall-out of government’s new oil import policy, resulting in fuel pump price hike is the criticism that Nigerians and Buhari should apologise to former President Goodluck Jonathan, for resisting the fuel price rise in 2012. The difference was and is still clear. The proposed rise in the price of petrol four years ago was not in the interest of Nigerians. In fact, it was a planned extortion of oil consumers to provide bogus petrol subsidy for crooks, parading as oil importers comprising mainly politicians in the (then) ruling party and their businessmen patrons.
The list of those charged for the fuel subsidy fraud fully told the story. On the other hand, there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the current budget of Buhari’s administration. At least, Nigerians have been saved the agony caused by fraud subsidy crooks. Jonathan even expressed surprise at the magnitude of the fraud of up to two trillion naira over the less than three billion naira approved for the budget. The subsidy was paid without the knowledge of the then Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, or the appropriation of the National Assembly.
One damage Buhari may thereby cause himself is to allow the fuel subsidy crooks to escape. He must demand from the EFCC full explanation for the lull in the prosecution of the thieves. Whatever prosecution going on, on other matters must not be a replacement of the trial of earlier oil crooks.
So monumental is the change in the oil importation policy that as yet, there is no agreement, even in government circles on the appropriate label. Whatever name it is called – withdrawal of fuel subsidy or deregulation or fuel pump price hike – as long as the product will be readily available as in civilised societies, so be it.
Should Buhari concede anything on the new fuel pump price in the way of subsidy, he will regret it, as he would have once again rearmed enemies of society, parading as oil importers and oil marketers.